Skip to comments.Why there’s a boom in Chinese students attending US universities
Posted on 11/13/2012 4:55:43 PM PST by SeekAndFind
Almost 200,000 Chinese students joined North American universities in the last academic year, an increase of 23% from the previous year according to the Institute of International Education, a US nonprofit.
The Chinese call them "sea turtles," the lucky few who go abroadthe US often being their first choicefor education, and then return home with better English and a broader cultural perspective to get good jobs with Western companies. (The nickname applies because sea turtles return home to lay eggs for the next generation.)
China's education system emphasizes rote learning at the expense of creativity. While Americans are more often taught to think and speak independently from kindergarten, Chinese students do well in math and science at the expense of independent thinking. Many companies value mathematical ability. But focusing on this alone doesn't prepare young people for winning clients, giving presentations or closing deals.
In China, students push themselves incredibly hard to get into local universities by studying for the rote learning and memorization heavy "Gao Kao" (higher entrance exam). They have been known to attach intravenous drips to themselves while preparing so they do not have to take meal breaks. But this exam system is “holding China back,” says Helen Gao in The Atlantic:
“If the country wants to keep growing, its state economists know they need to encourage entrepreneurship and creativity, neither of which is tested for on this life-determining exam.”
As this Wharton paper outlines, it may be better for Chinese students to get their degrees from a second- or third-tier foreign university than an elite Chinese school. Multinationals in China say “it is difficult to find acceptable hires despite having so many college-educated applicants,” the paper adds.
Multinationals tend to prefer hiring sea turtles because they come with better inter-cultural skills.
The head of Human Resources for Greater China at an American real estate consultancy told me earlier this year: “We look for US-educated Chinese staff to take senior positions or join the management track. They tend to be better at adjusting to our working culture, presumably as they have lived abroad. Mostly, our locally educated hires cannot think laterally and lack the confidence to make bold decisions. They are uncomfortable expressing opinions, so as managers we never know what they are thinking.”
He said communication between Western managers and locally educated Chinese staff was such a problem his company had resorted to psychometric testing to try and find out exactly how the locals expressed doubt, anger, confidence and other emotions. He added “the tests did not work because they were designed by Westerners for Westerners.”
The head of sales training for East Asia at a British recruitment consultancy shares a different but no less worrying view. “It is very, very hard to train locally educated Chinese people how to call potential clients and persuade them to hire us,” she said. “They believe it is very wrong to approach someone you do not know, and who is above you in the social hierarchy. They tell me my sales training is un-Chinese.”
The IIE data show that the most popular subject for Chinese students to take in America is business/management, at 29% of the total. That may be because American MBAs teach skills such as group work, working in teams with a flat hierarchical structure, and solving real life strategic problems.
The first year of the MBA program at Yale University, for example teaches students “to draw on a broad range of information, tools, and skills to develop creative solutions and make strategic decisions,” its website says.
The second and third most popular subjects for Chinese students at US universities, according to the IIE, are engineering and math/computer science. On its website, the school of engineering and applied sciences at Harvard features an interview with an undergraduate about how her studies there unleashed her creativity.
China’s problem extends to other countries in East Asia. One American lecturer who teaches English at a privately funded Central Taiwanese university told me a few months back:
“My college just held a cartoon drawing competition for undergraduates, who are obviously aged at least 18. Why this was thought suitable for young adults, I cannot say. Anyway, most of their cartoons were carbon copies of images of Spongebob Squarepants or Bugs Bunny.”
Singapore has similar problems. As does South Korea. In this article, a former Korean education minister says the country’s students ”devote themselves to a style of examination preparation centered around memorization.”
Regurgitating chunks of textbook is not a skill multinational companies look for. On the careers section of its website, Goldman Sachs says it prioritizes “quick thinking, passion and communication skills above specific qualifications.” Nestle says on its careers site to potential new recruits: “If youre keen to take on new and bigger responsibilities, you have to show that youre able to do so.” Even the insurance sector provides no refuge for the linear thinker. “This is an environment where your creativity matters,” Axa says on its jobs website (italics Axa’s own).
But “sea turtles” do not always do well in China. While away, they lose the ability to build the personal connections that are very important for getting deals done in China’s system known as “guanxi,” This recent University of California, Santa Barbara paper (pdf) outlines how, in the connections-focused venture capital industry, sea turtles are unproductive compared to locally educated staff. And this article illustrates the problems sea turtle academics have assimilating socially and getting promoted when they go home to teach in Chinese universities.
The sea turtles are an immensely important source of business for US institutions. While their numbers are rising, enrollments from the rest of Asia have been falling. According to the IIE, enrollments at US universities by students from India, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea all declined last year. That is likely because the economies of these export-driven countries are slowing down (enrollments from India have also fallen at Australian universities.)
But China’s rich just get richer (paywall). And as China’s income inequality rises, the government still shows no sign of wanting to give its young people the independent thinking skills that may make them more appealing to Western companies but also lead them to question the Communist Party. So sea turtles should help to keep US universities afloat for a while longer.
They got the money.
For all this yada-yada about “rote learning,” I’d like to see a survey on the occurrence of Chinese and Indians on scientific / engineering papers. It seems like you’d be hard-pressed to find a paper in the practical sciences without a Chinese or Indian author mentioned in it.
Maybe they send the son’s over here to find a girl. They aborted all the females in China.
Now, a Chinese or Indian name in a paper from anywhere else pretty much guarantees a quality manuscript with new results.
My own daughter was in a Japanese junior high and took their equivalent of the Iowa basics tests in February of that year. She scored in the 46th percentile, meaning she was more or less average for the Japanese.
We went back to the U.S.A. in time for her to take the test in her freshman year of high school a mere 7 months later. She scored in the 92nd percentile. In other words, kids with average math ability in Japan would be in the top 10% in the U.S.A. I imagine you would find similar stories with most of the countries in East Asia.
why not educate our kids first
Ah, our diabolical scheme to infect Chinese culture with our failed “education” system quackery is coming to fruition.
RE: She scored in the 92nd percentile.
Yes but 92nd percentile compared to WHAT OTHER KIDS? What ethnic backgrounds?
Japan is a homogeneous society in terms of ethnicity. America is DIVERSE.
I’d imagine the bad ones will drag the average down.
So much information/technology to steal from America, so little time.
RE: Ah, our diabolical scheme to infect Chinese culture with our failed education system quackery is coming to fruition.
The Chinese aren’t coming here to major in LGBT studies or ethnic studies or any other grievance studies out there. They are here for the HARD SCIENCES and TECHNOLOGY degrees.
You can BS a lot with the programs that end in the word “studies”. You can’t BS Science, Math and Engineering. When your calculations are wrong, it just won’t work.
RE: So much information/technology to steal from America, so little time.
Well, these are the sort of people we’d like to give LEGAL IMMIGRATION to. Why not encourage them to be Americans instead?
It is also called “infiltration”.
Go there, learn the culture/language, learn a skill at their universities, and then either return home to work against them, or stay there and infiltrate your way up society to the point that you are trusted.
Then start the espionage.
It happened in the 1950’s and that is how Red China got their nuclear bombs, via US education.
The communists never change their tactics. Even if it is only a small percentage of the 200,000 students here, that is one helluva lot of agents for future use.
Besides being very hard working, the Japanese have ( at least they used to) the highest average IQ in the world.
I suspect they are here at their government’s allowance, not because they’re mommy and daddy are rich, or they want to become u.s. citizens. If they did, they’re remaining families at home would be held hostage. Remember, the communist dictatorship still remains intact in China, and they are still the enemy of freedom. That part hasn’t changed.
Michael Mann and other warm-mongers have done a pretty good job of it.
China is swimming in US dollars. It makes sense to exchange some of them for a bunch of trained specialists.
That’s the mentality in a nut shell. Copy it down to the most minute detail. They are very good at this and have been before they even went communist. They take great pride in copying something perfectly. While that skill does have its uses, it doesn’t produce very much in the way of new ideas, solutions, or things. It produces a very stale and stagnant culture with very little room to grow. Welcome the world of lords and subjects.
Given the technological level that now exists and the copy mentality, their growth is phenomenal and unprecedented in human history in terms of a society playing catch up. But then what? Where is all the innovation? Where are all the new ideas? Who will find solutions to implement these to make them reality? Right now despite the problems in the West, it is there or at least is rooted from there where those ideas and solutions come from for the most part. But darkness is descending over the Western world as well since it has embarrassed a culture that is similar to the lords and subjects. Things will not end well for anyone at this rate.
I have a number of Chinese and other Asian students in my engineering classes. Other than with the Koreans I'm not particularly impressed.
As others have noted they are good at rote subjects or memorization, but in applying that math knowledge creatively to solve a problem they get beat by blonde haired North Dakota tractor mechanics.
Another point - they are uniformly humorless.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.