Tue, Nov 09, 2010 - Page 9 News List

Increasing number of Chinese embracing Western education

By Dan Levin  /  NY Times News Service

A bespectacled whiz kid, Ding was granted early admission to Hamilton College in upstate New York following a yearlong exchange program at a North Carolina public high school. Now a junior, he is on a full scholarship, No. 1 in his class and spending this year at Dartmouth on a dual-degree engineering program. He also founded the bridge club at Hamilton, ran the table tennis team, wrote for the student newspaper and tutored in chemistry, physics and economics for US$8.50 an hour.

At Hamilton, he is surrounded by wealth — some students, he says, fly to Manhattan on weekends in helicopters, party with Champagne instead of beer and smoke US$100 cigars. It’s a new experience for a man who gets his hair cut a few times a year because the US$15 is a lot of money for his parents, who fret that they cannot afford to provide him with health insurance in the US. Sending their child to live across the world is a worthy sacrifice, his father Ding Dapeng says.

“In China 25 years ago it was rare to even go to university, so for Yinghan to study in the US is a real miracle,” he says.

“Today the world is so small. Only by broadening his knowledge with an international background can Yinghan really become a global citizen,” he says.

To help students make the cultural leap — as well as to internationalize their institutions — colleges and universities are building programs that begin in China and end, hopefully, on an US campus.

Teachers College of Columbia University has started a program for high school seniors (in China, much of the last year is spent reviewing for a college entrance exam, though the curriculum varies). This year, the program’s first, 28 students spent six months at the University of International Relations in Beijing; 19 were found qualified to finish off the year at Columbia. The program prepares students to apply as freshmen, with a focus on English instruction, cultural immersion and counseling, including study for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and SAT, and a tour of campuses in the Northeast (total cost: about US$45,000, including room and board).

Another new program, US-Sino Pathway, aims to transition high school students into one of six participating colleges. Northeastern University devised the curriculum, a year of for-credit courses taken at Kaplan Inc branches in China and at a summer bridge session at Northeastern’s Boston campus or the University of Vermont. Kaplan handles administration, English-language instruction in China and recruitment of students (total cost: between US$26,000 and US$28,000, including room and board in the US).

Yuan Xiecheng, who grew up amid the neon-lit skyscrapers and karaoke emporiums of Shanghai, was eager to study abroad. He had planned to go to a Canadian university until he attended a presentation by the chief executive officer of Kaplan China, Zhou Yong. When Zhou announced that students would not have to take the SAT or TOEFL or attend the final year of high school, Yuan leaped at the opportunity. He attended an international high school and says he was 20 course credits short of graduation. Instead, he took the final exam given to secure a Chinese diploma and enrolled in the pathway program. He is now a sophomore at Vermont.

Zhao Siwei took the same route.

“This program is super easy to enter, and it was really easy to come here to the US,” says Zhao, who hopes to major in film and TV at Vermont.

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