China thinking of ways to prevent minors from studying abroad: Report

Parents are increasingly sending their children abroad for education to avoid fierce competition for school places in China.

As increasing number of Chinese parents are now sending their children away to other countries to study, the Chinese government is trying to build a “mechanism to discourage minors from studying abroad”.

According to the latest data from the country’s Ministry of Education, over 700,000 Chinese residents moved abroad to study in 2019. It was a rise of more than 6 per cent from the previous year.

In 2020, despite the global pandemic, there was still an increase in the number of secondary-school students who took courses and exams in preparation for studying abroad.

Parents are increasingly sending their children abroad for education to avoid fierce competition for school places in China.

In a report issued last month by Koolearn, an online education platform used by China’s largest private educational service provider, New Oriental, about 20 percent of all those who took part in exams for overseas study last year were students at or below grade 12 level, the final year of senior secondary school from which they can go on to higher education.

In January, the Ministry of Education told a national education conference that it would build “a mechanism to discourage minors from studying abroad”.

However, the ministry did not elaborate on what this would entail.

It’s not the first time the ministry has expressed concern about the trend of Chinese students moving abroad.

In 2016, spokeswoman Xu Mei told a press conference that the ministry didn’t encourage the sending of minors abroad, believing the children were too young to live and study on their own.

Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the Shanghai-based 21st Century Education Research Institute, said that there is no immediate way to prevent families from sending their children out of the country. However, he said, China should consider reform of its education system.

To discourage parents from sending their children overseas to study, “the government needs to promote a more individualized education and change the way students are evaluated”, said Xiong.

He flagged another reason for children being sent away to school – China’s notorious hukou, or permanent residence registration system.

“Some kids don’t have a local hukou in the city they live and study, so they are not allowed to take part in the city’s senior high school entrance exam or national college entrance exam, and hence they choose to go abroad,” he said.

“Since the government forbids them from studying in their city, why wouldn’t they go to another country?”, he added.