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Study overseas: from elite to common people
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New Oriental: encouraging "out" and urging "back"

In the middle 1990s, New Oriental began to encourage overseas students to return to their native land.

"Starting in 1997, we began to give lectures in US universities, encouraging overseas students return to China," said Yu.

Yu said that in 1997, only one third of the overseas students would like to come back to China. However, it is a different scenario now. "Recently I gave a speech in the Harvard Business School and surprisingly found that almost 100 percent of the Chinese overseas students attending the lecture were willing to find a job back in China," Yu said. "The questions facing them are what kinds of companies to work for, how to start their own businesses and what jobs to begin with."

Yu ascribed the change to the improvement of China's entrepreneurial environment. At the same time, returned overseas students have brought back new ideas and thoughts, which in turn helps to advance China's reform and opening up.

More of a spiritual change

More than two decades ago, overseas studies were mostly government-funded and confined to elite people, with no alternative choices. However, nowadays, going abroad has become a popular trend among ordinary people who have more independent choices, summarized New Oriental Vice President Xu Xiaoping.

Generally speaking, most of the early overseas students studied science and engineering, and later on management and economy were added to the list, while the humanities and social sciences were rejected. Until 1995, few studied law abroad.

The imbalance was partly caused by state policy, according to Xu.

Around the year 1986, relevant departments were still encouraging students to study natural sciences and management abroad. These policy tilts have affected many students' choices.

"The consequence has been manifested in today's China. The country now has a very small number of people specializing in external communications and negotiations and there are not enough people with a profound knowledge about western education," said Xu, who is encouraging students to study law, journalism and the humanities.

"Students majoring in humanities will have a better employment environment with stronger economic capabilities, political recognition and the ability to make multiple choices in China," Xu believes. "Seventy percent of China's economy is now foreign-oriented. If China's foreign-oriented human resources also reach that percentage, the country's image and its status in the world will be as influential as made-in-China products."

Apart from gaining competitive strength, Xu also hopes that overseas studies help students to build up their capacities to steer and enlighten Chinese society, which needs a comprehensive understanding of western society.

Xu once invited a young woman, who studied English abroad and is a college teacher, to work in New Oriental. The woman was attracted by the promising future Xu depicted, but she finally turned down his offer, saying, "New Oriental is privately run and therefore it is not an orthodox institution."

Xu felt disappointed by her words. "What did the woman learn overseas? Yes, she learned English. But she did not grasp the essence of modern western culture: independence, freedom and the concept that individual and private powers also play an important role in driving society forward. She completed her overseas studies of English but she did not complete any spiritual studies."

(China.org.cn by Yuan Fang, April 2, 2008)


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