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Spreading their wings early

By Yu Wei ( China Daily ) Updated: 2012-12-24 09:32:29

Spreading their wings early

A Beijing educational event held by US boarding schools draws a crowd of teenagers and parents. Zhou Min / For China Daily

More and more Chinese students are getting a head start on study abroad by enrolling in private US high schools, Yu Wei reports in New York.

Dozens of teenage boys and girls wearing the business-casual uniform of an elite Manhattan prep school rush into the cafeteria on a recent afternoon, boisterously chatting. It's an unremarkable scene that could play out at any private institution charged with educating the children of well-to-do Americans.

But these students are Chinese, which becomes evident even from a distance since their conversation is exclusively in Mandarin.

They're enrolled at Leman Manhattan Preparatory School, in New York's financial district.

Among the group is Sun Yihao, a 17-year-old from Shanghai who is a junior in Leman's high school (there also are primary- and middle-school programs).

Leman is good preparation for studying at a US university, says Sun, who dreams of being admitted to Princeton.

"I don't like China's grueling education system, which involves tons of homework and exams. I like the US style of education," he says.

Sun and his classmates are part of a rapidly growing trend. According to the US Department of Homeland Security, only 65 Chinese students were enrolled in private US high schools during the 2005-2006 academic year. By 2010-2011, the number reached 6,725.

"The location is great; I think it will be good for my future," Sun says in a classroom just blocks from Wall Street itself and landmarks such as the New York Stock Exchange and the bronze Charging Bull sculpture.

He hopes to major in finance at Princeton.

Most of the other Chinese at Leman also plan to go to US colleges and universities, Sun says.

Those institutions have seen enrollment from China rise 23 percent this year, to 190,000, or a quarter of all of their international students, according to Open Doors, published annually by the Institute of International Education and the US State Department.

Leman's 40 international boarders live in a school-run dormitory at 37, Wall St, a luxury building anchored by jeweler Tiffany & Co on the ground floor.

Their education experience isn't cheap. The cost for an international student who boards at Leman is $68,000 a year including tuition.

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