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International Students Find Beijing 'Home'

In the No 2 Middle School affiliated to Beijing Normal University, international students say they enjoy their school life very much.


"I live and eat with a Chinese family near the school. My Chinese parents treat me very well - as well as my own parents in the United States," said American girl Carey Hynes.


Like Hynes, 42 American high school students are studying here. Here, they study the Chinese language and history for a year, living with Chinese families, then go back to their own country for further studies.


"Everything is interesting, you know. We often are on the streets during our free time, buying delicious foods. Sometimes we go out to communicate with people and speak Chinese," said Max Davis.


The students have come to China under a US program known as School Year Abroad, which was initiated in 1994.


According to Jeff Bissell, director for the School Year Abroad at the school, about 50 American teenagers attend the school each year.


"We also arrange for students to take part in field projects, such as studies on the floating population in Beijing, and China's system of entrance examinations to colleges," said Bissell.


American students live with host Chinese families, do housework, eat meals together with the families. When they feel ill, their Chinese parents take them to hospitals, said Bissell.


Chinese families are paid a token 2,200 yuan (US$265) each month for accommodations.


Some students often travel to the schools set up for children of migrant workers in Beijing, helping teach Chinese pupils English.


When such US students go back and finish college studies in the United States, most of them will likely travel to Beijing again to visit their Chinese parents or friends, according to Bissell.


"Students' experiences here will probably add color to their college careers," said Bissell.


He said each college in the United States has its own criteria. It is important that a student is different. Students with experience in China will perhaps make them stand out from the crowd.


Most Chinese families are deeply impressed with American students, according to Shi Lili, a teacher at the school.


Li Ziying, a woman in a host family which has received eight American students since 1997, feels happy and lucky to accommodate such students.


"We feel happy, because the American students are lovely. They are confident, polite and kind," Li said. "They help us washing dishes after dinners, they offer their seats to senior citizens on buses. When they go out, they always remember to keep the leftover or empty drink bottles, instead of randomly throwing them away in the streets."


Sources from the Ministry of Education said the school is the first one to receive foreign teenagers for study in China.


The sources say 500 such primary and middle schools have opened up to foreign teenagers, with more than 10,000 attending schools.


To help foreign students adapt to their study careers in China, the schools have offered courses in Chinese language and culture, according to Liu Baoli, deputy-director of the ministry's Department for International Cooperation and Exchanges.


Liu said the Chinese Government will further improve relevant policies to help upgrade teaching efficiency and services for foreign teenagers.


According to Chen Yinghui, an official of the Ministry of Education, China's primary and middle school education has left a good impression on foreign countries, especially those in Southeast Asia.


At a Career Fair held early in March in Singapore, 20 Chinese universities, three secondary schools from Beijing and Shanghai, and a primary school from Beijing, took part for the first time.


China participated in the fair because it sees a growing interest among Singaporeans in studying in China, the Straits Times of Singapore quoted Chen as saying.


While it is not known how many Singapore students are studying in Chinese primary and secondary schools, Chen sees potential demand from the children of many Singaporeans working or running businesses in Shanghai and Beijing.


At the fair, Singapore's Minister of State for Education Chan Soo Sen encouraged Singaporean families in China to send their children to Chinese schools, according to the newspaper.


China's rapid economic development and the implementation of opening-up policies have attracted more and more foreigners to come here for diplomatic, trade, and economic jobs, together with their children, according to Liu Baoli, a Ministry of Education official.


"Chinese Government regards study conditions for the children of foreigners in China with great importance," said Liu.


Since 1987, the country has stipulated several regulations for schools that receive foreign children so as to provide legal guarantees for them.


Foreign teenagers can study in China using three options:


First, special schools opened for the children of the staff at foreign embassies in China. These schools are sponsored by foreign embassies and consulates. The number of such schools are limited and the number of attending students are small.


Second, schools set up by foreign institutions, companies and branches of international organizations, that are officially approved in China. A total of 71 such schools have been approved by the Ministry of Education. They are open to the children of foreigners in the above organizations.


Third, primary and middle schools, like the No 2 Middle School, open to ordinary foreigners.


(China Daily May 24, 2005)

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Chinese-Language Student Numbers Soaring
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