China curbs elite education programs for would-be study abroad students

In the latest sign that Beijing is worried about the spread of Western values in its education system, the Wall Street Journal reports that China is tightening the reins on popular programs that prepare students to study in the U.S. and elsewhere.

In the past decade, such programs flourished as China’s education ministry encouraged them as a way to train globally competitive students with the programs themselves charging higher-than-normal fees so they can hire more teachers, often foreigners. Beijing No. 4, which was profiled in the article, charges 100,000 yuan ($15,700) a year, versus 800 yuan per semester for its ordinary classes.

Now, the thinking has shifted. There are also concerns over growing inequality between public-school students and those who can afford the pricier programs.

In Beijing, the government has stopped approving international programs while in Shanghai, the government ordered some such programs to slash their fees to the level of ordinary schools as part of a process of standardization – making it harder for them to operate.

The change comes as more Chinese students have pursued academic tracks leading them to study abroad. Last year, 459,800 Chinese students studied overseas – up from 114,682 a decade ago.The Wall Street Journal noted that China had 21 universities in the top 100 for Asia in the latest Times Higher Education global rankings, surpassing Japan, which had 19, for the most in Asia. However, many Chinese can’t qualify for elite institutions and remain disenchanted with the rest of the Chinese education system.

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