China is all but pulling the plug on international programs designed to prepare students for overseas study, recently ordering some such high school programs to vacate their respective public campuses.
One of these is Beijing No. 4 High School, which is complying with government requests to divorce its international program from the public school in a move that is believed to dissuade potential students.
Principal Shi Guopeng admitted that students moving abroad is a growing concern for the government but also defended the plan insofar as the typically shared location of international programs and public schools is believed to creates a divide between students.
The Shanghai government has also ordered its international programs to lower fees which will cause difficulties with their operation. “International education isn’t being encouraged now,” complained the head of one such Shanghai program. “The government may not require you to shut down, but it is a nice way to say, please stop.”
In 2014 the number of Chinese students who studied abroad was 459 800, rising 11% from the previous year. However, experts believe that the government is growing anxious about Western values spreading among Chinese youth.
Here’s how education consultant Jiang Xueqin described the situation:
Politically, there is a question of soft power. Xi Jinping’s China Dream has really been about a strong China that can project itself overseas. China sees itself as a natural competitor to the U.S., and it can’t have its elite creating all these alternative pathways to education.
Vice-president Wang Xiong of the Beijing-based 21st Century Education Research Institute concurred:
They’re definitely worried about the phenomenon. Students need to learn Chinese history, they need to learn to be patriotic, these are national requirements. The fear is that these goals are being lost.
Indeed, the Shanghai municipal education commission has advised that its schools’ international programs should be sure to teach Chinese history and “moral education.”
Humanities coordinator Jesse Field from the Affiliated High School of Peking University revealed that his school were recently warned to practice discretion with sensitive subjects like ethnic policies and human rights. “The atmosphere has changed and it is just going to be more cloistered and colder and we’re going to have to be more careful,” he said.
If it’s any consolation to the government, some in Europe are also apparently terrified of Chinese kids studying abroad.