How Boarding Schools Are the Gateway for Chinese Student Success

How Boarding Schools Are the Gateway for Chinese Student SuccessBack on November 3rd, The New York Times ran a collaborative article, “The China Conundrum” combining the work of their reporter, Karin Fischer, and Tom Bartlett of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

I call attention to their piece in this forum because the demand and influx of Chinese students into American higher education parallels the demand and increase in Chinese students in American boarding schools.

Fischer and Bartlett take an unvarnished look at the current influx of Chinese students into American colleges and universities beginning with the “how’s” and concluding with the “why’s.” The process is akin to learning, or watching, how the sausage is made. The picture is honest- driven by some blunt economic realities.

I posit that American boarding schools may be able to play a role in providing a cleaner, more honest, path for Chinese students into American higher learning institutions.

The collegiate admission process for Chinese students is fraught with graft and fraud. But, the simple truth is that Chinese students seek American higher education/institutions (and boarding school) for all the right reasons.

China doesn’t have enough university seats for its students and, at the other end of the equation, American higher education (and boarding schools) need full-paying customers. Application and admission issues arise out of unclear, and insecure, admission processes for Chinese students coming to America.

“…what seems at first glance a boon for colleges and students alike is, on closer inspection, a tricky fit for both [Chinese students and American universities].”(NYT)

Bartlett and Fischer cover the issues:

  • Chinese families (sometimes multiple generations) heavily invested in their child’s achievement
  • Cultural and educational fit for each student largely absent from the admission equation
  • Unrealistic expectations shaped by status consciousness (too much Harvard, Yale and Princeton)
  • Chinese education agents- promising to help families- who over promise, fail to deliver, set unrealistic expectations, prey on the status consciousness of client families, or, are just plain thieves; standardized testing fraud; transcript fraud
  • Inflated English proficiency

And, once students arrive, an unfamiliarity with the ways American prep school and collegiate classrooms work presents functional challenges- discussion hallmarked by give and take; premiums placed on creativity; decidedly, un-test centric approaches to learning and achievement; requirements of academic honesty.

American colleges and universities (like Delaware as featured in the article) are choosing an international path to stay viable and offer an international outlook to their students. To be successful in their international growth, the schools must understand the processes and pitfalls of international admission and be ready to adapt and continually work to improve them.

American Boarding Schools Can Have Place in This Equation

Given the economic and geopolitical processes shaping and driving this educational equation, the best question for everyone is how to make it work?

I think American boarding schools have something to contribute to this interconnected world. Boarding schools ofter the opportunity to provide above board admission processes while simultaneously acculturating and preparing Chinese students for the American university experience.

A year or two in an American boarding school can address almost every issue raised by Fisher and Bartlett and their subjects:

  • Honest transcripts
  • Honest test scores
  • Honest English proficiency assessment
  • Classroom acculturation
  • An understanding of academic honesty
  • Cultural acculturation
  • All are available through the boarding school experience.

The trick of course will be the boarding schools’ ability to assert and sell their value while inserting themselves into the equation.

Photo credit: rockinpaddy via Creative Commons

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Brian Fisher

A product of both private and public education, Brian Fisher served as a teacher, coach, dorm parent, and administrator at three different boarding schools. Brian also fills the role of Director of Development at Wolfeboro, The Summer Boarding School, in NH along with being a partner at AdmissionsQuest.

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