A surge in requests from China for study trips to the United States suggests that parents of K-12 children are willing to pay big bucks for their offspring to have an American school experience during their summer holidays.
Yvonne Shi, director of Offer Education Consulting in El Monte, California, said study tours offer children authentic American lessons, the experience of living with American families or in school dormitories, a variety of extracurricular activities, English lessons and visits to schools where they could enroll full time.
Shi told VOA Mandarin that this year, despite simmering tensions between Beijing and Washington, “the number of requests we received increased exponentially compared to that of the pandemic.”
She added: “We have also noticed that the age of children studying abroad is getting younger and younger. In the past, the main market for study tours was high schools, and in recent years it has expanded to middle schools and even elementary schools. schools.”
Shi and others who help Chinese parents plan overseas study trips said most children are sent to study abroad so they can experience American educational methods and systems and broaden their horizons. Some parents hope this summer experience will be the first step toward future full-time studies in the United States.
For other parents, the consultants said, summer trips focused on athletics appeal more than academics. The sports programs are designed to expose children to different training techniques than they might use in China and improve their skills.
Tours offer the opportunity to play with local sports teams at professional venues. But as is the case with academic tours, sports tours typically include visits to a school where children might enroll full time.
Unless children enroll in credit courses, which would require a student visa, children come to the United States on tourist visas, consultants say, and return from both types of trips with better skills in English.
Faith Li is a mother from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province of China. She decided to send her son, Caleb Lu, to an American high school after attending a summer program at San Gabriel Christian School in San Gabriel, California, in 2016.
Today, the school’s website offers information for international students who are interested in enrolling full-time with tuition of $24,750 plus fees, as well as information on the 2024 summer program.
“I really wasn’t interested in China’s education methods,” Li told VOA Mandarin. “When my son was a child, he attended a reputable primary school. The classroom was overcrowded, with more than 40 students per class, and we had to give teachers red envelopes containing money on various holidays.
“Sometimes during parent-teacher conferences, teachers didn’t express directly what they wanted to say and you had to guess what they really meant. … The school’s educational method was not diversified, nor was the intensive feeding. They only evaluate students with test scores,” she said.
Today, Lu is enrolled at Pacific Union College, a private liberal arts college in Angwin, California. He is pursuing a double major in pharmacology and business at the school, which is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He wants to pursue a doctorate in pharmacology at nearby Loma Linda University, affiliated with the same Christian group.
Li said: “We planned for him to study in the United States in 2016. As only private schools in the United States could issue F1 visas, we applied for a private secondary school. »
After Pacific Union College accepted Lu, Li said she and her husband moved to the United States, where the family attends church every week.
Lu said the educational methods and learning environments in the United States are very different from what he experienced in Hangzhou, where he attended elementary school before coming to the United States to attend high school and the university.
“In China, when teachers teach, there is only one right answer, which is what the teachers tell you,” he told VOA Mandarin.
“In the United States, we can have free discussions,” he said. “Usually, my classmates and I read articles together and discuss in groups, and everyone has the right to express themselves.
“Even when teachers are teaching, we can ask questions, and teachers encourage us to actively participate in class discussions to find answers,” Lu said.