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Study tours abroad more hype than substance

China Daily | Updated: 2018-06-22 08:05
Ma Xuejing/China Daily

Editor's note: Overseas study tours have become increasingly popular among Chinese students during the summer vacation. Two experts share their views on the issue with China Daily's Yao Yuxin. Excerpts follow:

Parents should reconsider importance of study tours 

Chu Zhaohui, a researcher at the National Institute of Education Sciences

Parents in China believe overseas study tours can help prepare their children for receiving higher education abroad in the future. A decade-long study suggests children who travel overseas are more likely to study abroad when they grow up, as they can experience first hand what the best universities are like even during their short academic trips. The study also shows the United States remains the top destination for Chinese students for overseas studies, followed by the United Kingdom and Australia.

Middle-income families in China consider their children's expensive overseas study tours as a wise investment, because it allows the children to come into contact with foreign cultures and helps broaden their horizon. Even though some study tours provide little opportunity for children to gather any valuable experience except that of traveling abroad, many Chinese parents believe such academic trips could inspire their children to set a higher goal in life and pay more attention to studies after returning to China.

Similar activities within the country are also considered normal as visiting top Chinese universities such as Peking University and Tsinghua University is usually on the list of children touring Beijing.

But parents have to realize that sending their children to study abroad is not always the best choice, as they may not receive quality education, especially if they are admitted to second-rate schools. Besides, they should take their children's educational performance and characters into consideration before deciding to send them abroad for higher education. For example, children who lack self-discipline may not be able to achieve their academic goals and meet their parents' expectations.

Therefore, parents need to adopt a rational approach to short-term overseas study tours, not least because the charges are over-inflated. In addition, the government should encourage fair play in the overseas tour market, so eventually only the quality ones can survive.

Striking a balance vital to kids' future education 

Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute

Thanks to the years of hype by travel agencies, overseas study tours seem to have become a necessary holiday schedule for school children. Some parents even feel guilty if they cannot send their children abroad during the summer vacation.

However, parents should stop such comparative analysis and make decisions based on the family's income and their children's academic development plan, as short-term overseas academic trips play a limited role in their children's academic and character development. In fact, overseas study tours may not be more rewarding than a visit to the countryside for some children.

Moreover, owing to the increasing demand, overseas study tours have become very commercial in recent years, as the thriving market has attracted all kinds of businesses to this sector of tourism. Normal overseas trips to foreign countries, especially to Western countries, would actually provide greater experiences for children and help them in their academic pursuit.

Although it is important for the government to implement rules to ensure travel agencies operate within legal boundaries, it is up to parents to play a key role in deciding which overseas study tour, if any, their children should go on.

But since many parents seem to have accepted such overseas study tours as normal, they fail to ensure their children visit the right universities to gather the necessary experience to study abroad in the future. Which makes it easy for travel agencies to extract more money from parents to pay for the tour expenses of some teachers accompanying the children and the kickbacks some overseas schools demand to allow children to visit them, as well as to make excessive profits.

The need is to set up parent committees at the school level, which would give suggestions on the schedule, expenses and security issues for overseas study tours and monitor the entire process till the end of a trip. This can also help parents decide whether it is necessary for children to take overseas study tours even if they intend to send them abroad for higher studies in the future.

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