The Ministry of Education will take steps to improve the efficiency of intermediary agencies that help self-supporting students go abroad to study.
It will set up an official center to evaluate the quality of overseas educational institutions -- whether those institutions are legally established and what kind of academic degrees they can issue. The evaluation results will be published, an official with the ministry's Department for International Cooperation and Exchanges told China Daily.
Department official Cen Jianjun said the website www.jsj.edu.cn will regularly publish information on qualified overseas schools, Chinese intermediary agencies and their good or substandard services, as well as letters and the views of the public.
Service standards will be established to further discipline intermediary agencies and get them to improve their work.
Managers of intermediary agencies will be given special training. This will include law experts discussing cases of illegal activities by some poor-quality intermediary agencies.
Cen said: "This move aims to enhance managers' awareness of law enforcement and offer better services to the public."
The ministry's measures are designed to help self-supporting students rationally choose overseas schools. An increasing number of self-funding Chinese students go abroad, with nearly 70 percent of them using intermediary agencies.
China now has 270 authorized intermediary agencies, which employ nearly 10,000 staff. Most of these agencies provide a good service but some, driven by profits, have violated the rules, such as by issuing misleading advertisements and forging documents.
Some authorized agencies even entrust their services to illegal institutions and then collect commission, according to Cen.
The Tiancheng Culture and Education Development Co in northeast China's Liaoning Province, for example, issued an exaggerated advertisement and cheated 41 students who went to a school in Greece in July last year.
The students found out later that the school was located on the top of a remote mountain, with only a poor blackboard, and a few desks and chairs. The howls of wolves scared them every night.
The education administration in Liaoning has suspended the company's operations.
China has sent 580,000 self-supporting and government-funded students to study abroad since the country started to implement its reform and opening-up policies in 1979. More than 160,000 of them have returned and the remaining 420,000 are still studying or working abroad.
The number of self-supporting students has increased in the last few years. In 2001, 91 percent of students going abroad were self-supporting and this rose to 93 percent in 2002.
Cen said it is hard to predict how many students would go abroad this year because this spring's SARS outbreak discouraged foreign countries from receiving Chinese students.
However, the number of self-supporting students is expected to rise over the next few years as Chinese people's incomes rise, said Cen.
Some rich families now send their children to study abroad before they are even 18.
No total figure for these young students is available because they all go abroad through regional intermediary agencies, Cen said.
Some pupils do not study hard after going abroad. Instead, they concentrate on entertainment, travel and fashion.
Cen said his ministry does not meddle in the affairs of parents sending their children abroad. But he suggested that parents be careful about sending their children abroad at an early age because living and studying abroad might be tough for pupils who are so young.
Xia Guoshun, an official with the Chinese Embassy in New Zealand, said it is not very wise to send younger students to study abroad. The local teaching resources can scarcely meet the demands of the students arriving, so the teaching was be less efficient as a result, the official said.
(China Daily July 4, 2003)