A survey conducted by Horizon Research and published in China Youth Daily on Monday has shown that while the overseas education sector is booming, the proportion of students furthering their education abroad remains low. Moreover, studying abroad remains a privilege reserved for students from high-income families.
The sample survey was conducted in major cities around China including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xi'an and Qingdao. About 2,553 people between the ages of 18 and 60 participated in the survey.
According to survey results, 5.6 percent of respondents intend to further their studies abroad. Upon further analysis, Horizon discovered that most of these people came from well-to-do families, some with parents who have themselves received higher education, whether overseas or not.
The average Chinese family cannot afford the high costs attached to an overseas education.
Other stumbling blocks to an overseas education include visa issues, inexperience in traveling outside of China, speaking the language, and a reticence about adjusting to alien living conditions.
However, a new form of overseas education, known as cooperative or joint education, is offering more Chinese a more affordable option. Similar to external programs offered by established institutions such as the University of London, students in China attend classes at local schools and colleges. They sit for examinations prepared by the foreign institution and graduate with degrees offered by these institutions.
Almost half of the survey respondents support this alternative route to obtaining an overseas degree. 41 percent of them said that in addition to earning foreign degrees, they would improve their English; 25.5 percent believed they would learn more about China's current affairs as well as international technologies; and 23.4 percent indicated that it was a more economical way to further their studies.
However, there were those who had their doubts about the system. About 27.7 percent pointed out that the overseas experience is very important and valuable; 21.3 percent believed that foreign universities are better than local ones and therefore it would make sense to actually be enrolled in a foreign university; 14.9 percent said they sought knowledge other than that to be found in books; and 9.9 percent expressed their concern about the quality of such cooperative or joint courses.
According to UNESCO statistics, Chinese students form the majority of the overseas student population around the world. One in every seven students studying overseas comes from China.
(China.org.cn by Wang Ke, July 13, 2006)