A few months ago America tossed itself into panic mode again, like it does every year when it realizes how low our students are ranked on standardized tests. So it may surprise some of you to learn that despite China’s number 1 ranking on the tests this year, the best Chinese students all want to go somewhere else for college.
I had a number of students over the years talk about their aspirations to go study in the US or England, but none of them eve had the money to make that a possibility. It turns out there are very few scholarships for international students; schools expect them to be able to pay.
So it’s only now that I’m living in a city where people have far more money than their rural counterparts that I am realizing just how much people are willing to pay to send their kids abroad.
It usually starts with an agency that claims to have a special relationship with several top schools. They say their special influence will help your child get into the school of their choice, or you don’t have to pay. However if they do get in, you owe the company around 25,000rmb (~$3,500). Now I have no idea whether or not these companies actually have any connections, but the fee is so high they would be able to survive quite comfortably with even a very low success rate.
Now after the agency has helped you narrow it down to a few Ivy League schools (Chinese parents only care about the name of the school, not the programs), you need to hire another company to help you write your personal statement.
One of my foreign colleagues mentioned that a student asked her to review a personal statement that a company had written for her. She said it looked so outstanding (far beyond what she knew the student was capable of) that it was almost laughable. She insisted that the student would be better off using her own words. Amazingly the student believed her, and was able to get in based on her own work. Her parents though still had to pay for the letter, which cost them roughly 40,000rmb (~$5,500).
Unfortunately many students are not performing well enough in high school to even imagine attending the Ivy League school of their parents’ dreams. So the parents are forced to make a tough choice, leave the student in the Chinese high school where they are failing, or ship them off to another country to try to improve their chances. This second option isn’t cheap (as you’ve probably gathered by now). My co-worker’s son is in this position and they are considering sending him to the US for his final two years. The program costs more than $40,000 per year!
It seems Chinese parents understand what American teachers have been saying for decades, standardized test scores don’t really measure education.