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China's economy has developed tremendously over the last two decades. Development has resulted in social improvements, prospects, incentives, and difficulties for the Chinese (Austin & Shen, 2016). The prosperity that has resulted from economic growth has prompted rural agriculturists to pursue higher-paying manufacturing employment in cities. The middle class has awoken in search of resources to increase their wealth and quality of living. Similarly, educational opportunities for Chinese students have expanded. In contrast to the past, where parents might choose food and clothes over a decent education, middle-class parents will now invest in their children's education. As such, the increased demand is putting pressure on educational resources in China. Some parents opt to send their children outside China. English language schools have attracted a good percentage of the students with the parents’ notion that their children will be advantaged in future career pursuits (Austin & Shen, 2016). New Zealand is one among the favorite destinations. This essay, therefore, looks at the reasons why Chinese students come to New Zealand to study.
According to a study carried out by ICEF Monitor in 2012, it was established that a large number of international students in overseas countries originate from China. In 2012, it was reported that 4% of Chinese families were sending their sons and daughters to New Zealand. The same case applied to some families sending their children to other foreign countries to study. The US was the leading with 27% followed by the UK at 22% and Canada at 15%. Similarly, other parents opted to send theirs to Singapore, Germany, Switzerland, France, Hong Kong, Australia, and Japan among others (ICEF, 2012). Education counts (2016) also reported that New Zealand private institutions Chinese students’ visas rose from 10 179 to 10,581. In the whole education sector, the Immigration Department had approved 33,425 visa applications by June 2016 as compared to the 2015 record which was at 29,880 visas (Education Counts, 2016). In fact, the number of Chinese students studying in New Zealand has increased exponentially from 2008 to 2016 (Education Counts, 2016). There is also a global recording of a high number of international Chinese students studying in overseas countries. There are reasons for such a trend but, first, let us look at the Overview of Education in China.
With the Chinese Communist Party rising in power in the 1940s, the People’s Republic of China was established (Adams, Stivers, & Bin, 2003). Before then, most of the Chinese were illiterate. In 1949, the emphasis was placed on educational equality, but that was distorted by the 1970s Cultural Revolution (Adams, Stivers, & Bin, 2003). Young people revolted against old ideas, customs, habits and old culture reversing the education progress. As a result, all cultural elites and educators were denounced and mistreated leading to their death. The death of Mao Zedong saw the gang behind the Cultural Revolution being imprisoned in turn (Adams, Stivers, & Bin, 2003). It is then that Chinese culture was revived back with emphasis on education. In fact, during the reign of Han Emperor Wu Ti, government positions were occupied by best candidates in national exams. Those who qualified in cognitive tests were eligible regardless of their influence (Adams, Stivers, & Bin, 2003). Over time, the Chinese education has evolved, and currently, it is a system of competitive testing that is geared towards eliminating best from weak performers. The high school finals (Gaokao) limit admission in the country’s universities (Marklein, 2009). The scores play a significant role in determining who gets into which university and who misses out altogether. This form of competitive testing is what has saturated student’s lives in China. Sometimes those who miss out on the local universities entry are forced to look for tertiary education outside China.
One theory that provides the foundation of this trend is Confucianism. The teachings of Confucius regard education as a tool for social advancement (Theodore, 1861). The Confucius doctrine, therefore, helps cement the significance of education into the Chinese peoples’ minds. It is undoubted that the Chinese culture emphasizes the importance of education. Therefore, every effort in a household is directed towards educating the offspring. Based on the teachings of Confucius, education is also considered as a vehicle for personal advancement (Austin & Shen, 2016). From historical times, the Chinese believed that a good education coupled with hard work could give one success and a better life. Fundamentally, Confucianism has a great impact on how the Chinese interact and their general way of life.
Confucianism which forms a large part of Chinese culture is one of the drives for the children to seek education and not just an education, but quality education. It is this culture that influences Chinese parents to put efforts in educating their children. Confucian teachings emphasize the importance of a parent teaching a child to be competent. The doctrine also places the learning responsibility to the children (Lee & Morrish, 2010). As much as parents are struggling to care and empower them, children must be ready to learn. The concept of filial piety which encompasses respect, obedience, and nurturance to one’s parental wishes is what governs a child’s devotion to the parents (Shuang JI & Koblinksy, 2009). The authors also note that the same principle dictates that parents should as well demonstrate devotion and love towards their children. This is expressed through control and discipline. This kind of historical root is what has ingrained such cultural values defining Chinese children as respectful to parents and elders (Shuang JI & Koblinksy, 2009). In fact, studies show that in most cases, seeking education abroad is mostly as a result of parents’ decision and much less of the student. Children have to be receptive to their parents’ arrangements so as to maintain the hierarchical relationship (Lee & Morrish, 2010). As a matter of fact, parents want the best for their sons and daughters. Such submission is what creates harmony in a family.
Moreover, the philosophy calls upon children to express their filial responsibility by taking care of their parents in future. The cultural values demand that children must ensure the wellbeing of their parents in their retirement. For a parent to secure his or her old age, they have to invest in their children for empowerment. This causes them to make sacrifices of seeking the best education for their offspring. New Zealand is nonetheless, one of those prestigious destinations. Parents perceive education as an investment with a safe return. It is also a ticket to bright future. Chinese view academic success as a financial success which can earn a household better living standards and high status in the community (Shuang JI & Koblinksy, 2009). In short, parents not only invest for children but also their selves and the entire family.
A decision for overseas study may also arise due to a student failing the Chinese universities’ entry examinations. In that case, the family may decide to seek tertiary education elsewhere. It is considered a shame in the Chinese culture when a child does not perform well in academics (Lee & Morrish, 2010). Therefore, to limit the guilt and embarrassment, a family can seek an opportunity abroad. Notably, as much as parents are willing to sacrifice financially, the students should also sacrifice certain things in life so as to excel in their studies. An important aspect to sacrifice is lifestyle. Students mus1t not allow pleasure to sidetrack them. With the lenient Western culture, children have the freedom to make decisions and choices of what they love and dislike. Chinese students, on the other hand, having been used to the authoritarian culture, may be carried away by the new culture. However, they ought to overcome the cultural differences and stick to the agenda that brought them in college.
Another aspect that motivates Chinese students to come to New Zealand is its system of education. The university system in New Zealand is research based contrary to the Chinese that is test-oriented. The fact that academic staffs are both researchers and teachers, they produce a quality learning experience (Bedi, 2015). In China, teachers focus on vocabulary and grammar and instruct in Chinese most of the time. The student-teacher interaction in class is that of the teacher instructing on the board as students write. Besides, students, have fewer chances of talking in class. On the contrary, the New Zealand education system allows students to hold discussions frequently coupled with games. The rote memorization that is emphasized in China is replaced by an application in New Zealand (Bedi, 2015). This invokes creativity. While memorization may be fundamental in learning basic facts and concepts, it does not equip critical thinking skills which are crucial for higher learning. Bedi (2015), adds that learning the English language is easier in New Zealand that in China. Evidently, Confucian tradition is still in control of the Chinese education system. The culture of mimicry as influenced by Confucius has set the mindset of the Chinese students to reproduce what has been taught to them. In any case, challenging a teacher on an idea is culturally considered disrespect (Adams, Stivers, & Bin, 2003). So students want to escape such pressures. As Austin and Shen (2016) notes, the students view the system back in their country as one that promotes collective societal goals rather than preparing them for individual accomplishments as all students have to adhere to the strict cultural norms.
Also, the students believe that exposure to foreign business culture coupled with academic certificates from New Zealand and other overseas countries like America will benefit them in the Chinese job market. They believe they would be more desirable when they return to their own country as compared to those who have lived and studied in China their entire lives. They also perceive that New Zealand colleges and universities are better equipped than theirs. As such, learning in the foreign country offers more opportunities for learning about diversity in an open environment (Austin & Shen, 2016). As the population of China increases (1.36 billion), there is an intense market competition. College graduates are experiencing difficulties in securing employment opportunities. Resultantly, youth unemployment is high. For one to survive in such a market, it requires better skills and such can be acquired in overseas higher learning institutions. As much as some of the students will find opportunities to work in New Zealand and other foreign countries where they study, due to filial piety, they have to come back to their country of origin to develop and take care of their family members.
With globalization, China has been exposed to other cultures. As such, youngsters are smitten to study in an environment with modern western values. Perhaps, New Zealand offers such an environment. Contrary to their country where children pursue occupations their parents think are best, the culture of the West gives room to children making their own decisions on what they believe is best for them. Importantly, it is this modern culture that is influencing the rest of the world. Coming to New Zealand actually, allows students to be a bit independent. They escape the influence of their parents (ICEF, 2012). According to Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, (2011), Chinese authoritarian parenting methods are good at raising disciplined children as compared to western permissive parenting. Apparently, in the modern world, expectations of Tiger moms may be unrealistic to children making them to desire to study far away from them. In that case, they can discover their hidden talents, their strengths and gain self-esteem (Chua, 2011). Chiefly, one aspect to laud such parents is that they inflict moral values that the children live with no matter how many years they live away from their ‘tiger’ parents. Also, the desire to travel which is currently restricted in China can only be fulfilled through one moving out of his country to study elsewhere. Up and above, the perspectives and experiences of Chinese students who have studied overseas slowly motivate them to desire to experience the same.
The Chinese culture features heavily as the primary drive for students desire to study abroad. The Confucian traditions form the foundation for education pursuits. Similarly, the philosophy which influences Chinese culture in many aspects is responsible for the weak curriculum in China. With emphasize being placed on the fulfillment of cultural norms in education, creativity and diversity are limited, forcing students to seek learning opportunities elsewhere. Besides, the fundamental Gaokao limits the professional potentiality of many citizens making them to look for tertiary education overseas. These reasons, coupled with advantages and benefits that foreign education systems provide, have caused Chinese students to study in New Zealand.
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