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Are private schools selling pipe dreams to students' parents?

By Sava Hassan | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-11-16 16:26

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and don't represent views of China Daily and China Daily website.

During one of my journeys to Montreal, my hometown in Canada, I had the chance to meet a Chinese who was supposed to be studying in Canada, yet he was working at the counter of a Subway outlet in downtown Montreal.

From his appearance, I inferred that he was a student, which prompted my inquisitive nature to have a chat with him. He reminded me of myself when I was working and studying in my youth.

I asked him about his major or field of studies. His response bewildered and confused me. He said that he was supposed to be studying for his master's degree in chemistry.

I asked him to elaborate on his response, to which he obliged. He said that he came to Montreal one year ago to study at one of Montreal's universities for his master's degree but he could not survive the language barrier in an academic setting. He felt isolated due to his lack of sufficient English to interact with other students.

He decided to quit his studies. For fear of losing face in front of his parents and neighbors, he opted to stay in Montreal to save enough money to go back to study English, which would give him a chance to finish what he came for, obtaining his master's degree in chemistry.

I praised his attitude and complimented his English skills before wishing him good luck in his endeavor. By interacting with Canadians on a daily basis, he enhanced his English skills and learned to barely communicate in French.

Caught in the daily struggle of surviving the hardships of today's lifestyles, I forgot about my chat with him until recently.

During the past few weeks, I was going through interviews with some of the private schools in China. During each interview, I usually ask about the objectives of the school pertinent to the future of their students.

I am sad enough to mention that most schools emphasized that they prepare their students to pass an international English exam to be able to attend a school, a college or a university abroad.

When I asked them about ensuring that their students finish their studies abroad successfully, they stated that is not their job. They emphasized that accomplishing that depends upon many factors which will be out of their control, such as the attitude of the student, the field of studies and the grading system of the intended university, among other factors.

I attempted to explain to them in vain the fact that a student who wishes to study abroad must be able to survive inside the academic circle and in the outside environment in which he or she will live during the span of their studies.

They justified their lack of enthusiasm for my point of view by stating that parents bring their kids to their schools for the sole objective of passing the exam that would qualify them to attend a school abroad.

During my teaching assignments, I had the opportunity to meet with few parents who were unhappy when I mentioned that my fundamental objective was building a solid foundation of the English language, which would permit them to complete their studies abroad successfully. They insisted that my job was to prepare them for passing their international English test of choice.

Parents believe that passing an international exam with high scores will enhance their chances of being accepted at a university abroad and subsequently guarantee bright futures for them. That is what the private schools persuade them to believe. No one can blame parents for wishing the best for their children.

Knowing that parents would gladly sacrifice everything to secure the future of their kids, some private school charge exaggerated school fees without any effort to guarantee the success of their future endeavors to study abroad.

With these kinds of fees, private schools must attempt to prepare their students to survive inside and outside the academic circle, which would enhance their chances of completing their studies successfully. Otherwise, they would be selling pipe dreams to the parents of their students.

Sava Hassan is a Canadian Egyptian educator.

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