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25 Jul, 2013

Chinese Commentator Questions Value of English Courses Abroad

By Li Xiang (People's Daily Online)

July 24, 2013 (Source/Jiefang Daily) – The excessive costs of studying overseas have begun to attract public concern. Research into overseas travel and study agencies indicates that a substantial proportion of families who sponsor their children on further education courses abroad are low-income wage earners.

Mr. Zhu works at a state-owned enterprise. Last year, he received an advertising leaflet promoting study courses abroad, and in view of his son’s average level of English, Mr. Zhu decided to allow his son to take a ‘free English test’ which might give him the opportunity to study abroad and gain education credits.

Once he had sat the exam, Mr. Zhu’s son’s average English turned out to be good enough to secure an ‘A’ grade in the test. The person in charge of the agency praised him as ‘promising’. Mr. Zhu therefore took the decision to send his son to study at a ‘college’ in Cambridge for three weeks for 73,000 yuan (almost twelve thousand US Dollars). The parents abandoned a planned trip to Taiwan. His son succeeded in obtaining a certificate of credit from the college, but Mr Zhu still expressed regret: “I’ve since learnt that most reputable universities place no value on such certificates.”

The Zhu family’s annual family income is around 300,000 yuan (49,000 US dollars).

Parents expect overseas courses to be expensive. It seems unreasonable to spend one third of the annual family income on a short study experience abroad. But the fact is that most low-income families consider such expenditure as “acceptable”.

From the perspective of headmasters of primary and middle schools, wage-earners sending their children to study abroad for preschool training or summer lessons at great cost is not a prudent way to spend money.

“We would be more interested in teaching children who can think critically and communicate efficiently”, one headmaster explained to a reporter. They have little interest in children who are equipped with numerous worthless certificates.

Xu Anqi, a researcher from Shanghai academy of social sciences, has conducted a study which suggests that based on the cost of living in recent years, a family is likely to spend 490,000 yuan on raising a child. However, as social and economic factors change, the increasing cost of raising a child merits parental prudence.

“Parents complain about the rising cost of education, but they would be better advised to think things through dispassionately and make sensible long-term plans. Most of their problems arise from the choices they themselves have made,” he said.