Musings

A Chinese friend and school leader says:

1. Regulation of schools is tightening. Only the pure international schools, serving Brits and other foreigners in China, are left alone.

We have an expression: “one eye open, one eye closed.”

At our bilingual school, we were just inspected. We had to lay out all our Chinese textbooks; the Western texts are only allowed for English class.

2. Here in Beijing, I’d estimate 20 new “international” high schools have opened in last 2 years. Many start-ups. Some are established schools that had the younger grades already, and just adding high school grades.

I’ve been told: only 2 of 20 had solid recruitment.

And even a strong brand like Harrow: because so many students leave during high school to study abroad, only 30-40 kids per year stay at Harrow in Beijing to graduate.

3. I’m noticing trend is to send kids abroad to school at younger and younger ages.

4. There’s an issue of cheating/lying when it comes to admissions counseling to USA schools. Unfortunately, I see so much of it in our sector. It happens at 2 levels.

One is – the agent doesn’t just advise, he or she actually writes the student essay, the parent statement, and forges reference letters from teachers. Obviously blatantly wrong.

Second is – parents think the agent is somehow working their relationships to earn admission, but in reality the kid is getting in (or not) on his own merits, like SAT scores.

Third is – parents so desperately want to hear us (advisors, educators) discuss “Path to Harvard.” If you say “Harvard is unrealistic for your kid, try Ohio State” up front in the conversation, they’ll find a different counselor who will encourage the Harvard fantasy. You need a lot of relationship capital before you can have the more realistic conversation.

Meanwhile, it works the other way, too. The counselors are portraying unrealistic pictures of certain American colleges and boarding schools, so when the Chinese student moves there, he or she is disappointed and possibly isolated.

The Chinese kids are being treated by American schools as “easy money” – pay full price, don’t use many expensive services or ask for much, show up diligently for class. It doesn’t always feel like an embrace of the student for the right reasons, they just want the revenue.

But again, the counselor is stuck in the middle – if they try to extract more multicultural support for “their” Chinese client, the American school or university will think of them as trouble-makers, and just admit a different full-pay Chinese student.

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This last point: I’ve heard the same stories.

Related:

In USA, until about 2001, there was a systematic misrepresentation in USA graduation rates. School districts would report dropout rate in a weird way. So let’s say New York City had a true dropout rate of 40%. That was proportion of kids who would never finish high school. But they’d report 10%, which was the annual lost for one cohort. This would happen 4 times, each about 10%, in Grade 9, again in Grade 10, and so forth. The total would be ~40% lost as dropouts.

An honest leader of the NYC school district couldn’t easily fix this misleading statistic, because every city reported graduation rates the same way.

Eventually this study was published, and over time, things got fixed.

Back to the Chinese admissions problems. I do think many in the advice sector want to clean things up. But if they do it unilaterally, they’re likely to go out of business.

Just as the College Board has worked on cleaning up SAT cheating in China, I wonder if NAIS and AACU could work on this for prep schools and universities that serve Chinese students. It would be good for everyone involved: Chinese kids and parents, counselors and advisors, American schools.

But Step 1 is probably some sort of data-driven paper that lays out the problems.

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