Students go overseas in record numbers

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China has the largest number of overseas students in the world, with a record 1.27 million studying abroad at the end of 2010, according to the latest statistics from the Ministry of Education.

About 285,000 of them were new students who began their overseas studies last year, up 24 percent over 2009, said the ministry.

Self-financed students now make up the largest group of those going overseas, and among more than 100 countries they selected, more than 90 percent of the students chose to study in the top 10 destinations - the United States, Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Canada, Singapore, France, Germany and Russia.

Dozens of US colleges and universities are seeing a surge in applications from students in China.

For example, at Grinnell College of Iowa State, nearly one of every 10 applicants being considered for the class of 2011 is from China, according to a New York Times report earlier this year.

Zhao Ziyi, a high school student in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, is preparing for a movie audition even though she has never studied acting.

"It will be a special part of my application for study in the US next year," she said.

"I want to study art in New York, but I have only learned a little painting before. I have to show them more talent," she said.

Her parents used their personal connections to get her the audition.

Zhao is now studying at an international high school and all of her classmates are preparing to study abroad after graduation.

For the universities, assessing these applicants' command of English is a challenge since their parents have usually hired agents to write their application essays, experts said.

"Due to more higher-education opportunities available abroad, an increasing number of young Chinese students go overseas to evade the highly competitive national college entrance exam," Li Jing, an application writer who works for an overseas study agency in Beijing, told China Daily.

"Since China's economy is booming, more middle-class families can afford to send their children abroad for education," Wang Qiang, a Beijing resident who plans to send his son to study in Australia, told China Daily on Sunday.

"Even short-term overseas study experience could win my son better job opportunities here in the future," he said.

Instead of staying abroad after finishing studies, more Chinese students choose to come back after graduation.

The shortage of high-end professionals is also posing a challenge to local governments, and an increasing number of provinces and cities in China in recent years have been designing local benefit packages to lure overseas talent.

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