Chinese students flock to U.S. exams to chase college dreams

Thu Nov 7, 2013 6:34am EST
 
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By Grace Li

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese students form the largest overseas group at U.S. universities and their numbers are rising as families spend a fortune in the quest for an American education to pry open the door to career and social success.

For some parents, overseas education is also seen as a way to avoid China's fiercely competitive national college entrance exam known as the "gaokao", which is taken by millions of teenagers who see it as a make-or-break way to get ahead.

"We don't know if it's right or wrong," said Zhao, a mother from the capital, Beijing, who wanted to be identified only by her surname. "We just feel it's better to get an education in the United States than in China."

The stress to get into university in China is severe but tighter job prospects for hordes of graduates are also causing anxiety as the world's second-largest economy slows.

Nearly 7 million Chinese graduated from university this year - a new record and a jump of 190,000 from last year. This has stepped up employment pressure, education authorities say.

To pursue his dream of going to a U.S. university, Li Shiyuan, 17, quit high school in May.

His parents had given him three options - stay in his home province of Shandong, where the college entrance exams are very competitive, move to Tianjin, which has one of China's highest acceptance rates for key universities, or study abroad.

He began in Beijing, by attending three courses to train for tests required by U.S. universities, including the SAT and the TOEFL English-language test.   Continued...