Chinese crackdown on study abroad preparatory programmes

After fears that Chinese students are absorbing ‘Western values’, city authorities attempt to stymie pathway courses to foreign universities

December 24, 2015
US and China flags against blue sky
Source: iStock

Chinese city governments are cracking down on school programmes that help prepare students to study abroad in what is seen as another example of nervousness about ‘Western values’ in its education system.

In Beijing, authorities have stopped approving international programmes in schools, which are often taught in English and come with a substantial price tag, reports The Wall Street Journal. In Shanghai, the government has ordered some programmes to cut their fees, which makes it more difficult for them to operate.

According to Xueqin Jiang, a researcher and education consultant in China, the government has turned against the programmes because of Communist Party fears that Chinese students are being exposed to Western values and ways of living.

The huge numbers of Chinese students studying abroad – 459,800 last year did so, according to official figures – are also a reminder that Chinese universities are often seen as lacking, the newspaper quoted Mr Jiang as saying.

“Politically, there is a question of soft power,” Mr Jiang said. “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 US, and it can’t have its elite creating all these alternative pathways to education.”

The Wall Street Journal quoted Shi Guopeng, principal of an international programme at Beijing No. 4 High School, as saying “some government officials don’t want to see so many students going abroad”. Officials have forced the school to move the programme to the suburbs and cut it off from the public school.

The newspaper also quoted the head of a Shanghai-based programme as saying “international education isn’t being encouraged now”.

A response from Shanghai’s municipal education commission said that while international programmes could improve the country’s education system, they must teach required courses such as Chinese history and moral education.

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