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Sans School Students Prompt Alerts

A group of Chinese students remain without a language school in Paris after the intended institution was suspended, prompting authorities to alert outgoing students.

About 500 students arrived at the private Comme un Chinois a Paris language school to find they were locked out of their classrooms after the principal was detained by the police following an office raid on March 1.

He had been accused of falsifying legal documents to secure visas for the students, who come from across China, and is still under police investigation.

The future of the school remains to be decided after the investigation.

The Chinese Embassy in Paris intervened and new schools have been found for some students and others are being sought, Dai Tianhua, a diplomat at the embassy, told China Daily yesterday.

Some may need to review or extend their residents permit, but all are expected to stay to resume and complete their studies, Dai said. They are paying for their own accommodation.

It is unclear what financial losses they incurred, but China's Education Ministry has posted alerts on its websites warning overseas students to be cautious.

Bogus language schools are increasing as unscrupulous principles bend or ignore laws to cash in on Chinese students eager to be educated overseas.

The problem affects countries across the world.

Cen Jianjun, deputy director of the International Co-operation and Exchange Department of the Ministry of Education, warned those en route or planning to attend foreign schools about the pitfalls.

"Some overseas institutions with dubious qualifications and China-based agents that will do anything to make a quick buck," he said.

But he said students and their parents should shoulder part of the blame, said Cen. "In their craze for an overseas education, they tend to bypass the necessary verification process, thus leaving the ground fertile for chicanery," he said.

Reports of students being marooned overseas after being fleeced of their money are becoming more common. Some institutions fail to match the description in their recruiting brochures.

In one recent incident, a small school in Berkeley, California, gave the impression in the information it sent out to overseas applicants that studying there was tantamount to attending the world-famous University of California at Berkeley, or somehow affiliated with it.

Students were given a harsh lesson in the art of the cad when they arrived to find a single building tucked in a cul-de-sac and half a dozen part-time teachers making up the whole staff.

In New Zealand, where international students help sustain a US$1.7 billion industry, some 140 language schools do brisk business. But sudden, recent closures have left hundreds of Chinese students out in the cold.

And each time, the Chinese Embassy steps in.

Now a list of qualified and vetted schools from 21 countries is available on the Education Ministry's website. "For those schools not on the list, we suggest that you seek independent information from reputable sources," Cen said.

Most applicants receive information from middle-men agencies, many of whom do not hesitate in hyping the schools they represent.

Cen called on all students planning to study abroad to be vigilant and to report fake ads.

(China Daily March 16, 2005)

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