Summer camps in the US are the latest strategy for Chinese parents plotting a better future for their children. This year, more than 60,000 children will fly off for an immersion program that may, or may not, test their suitability for college abroad. Emily Cheng explores the issues.
For around $5,000 or roughly 32,500 yuan, kids are flying across the Pacific for an opportunity to play sports with US students, attend summer classes, and most importantly, speak English. They will be joining American summer camps, a mid-year ritual for many children in the United States, but still something for the privileged few in China. After two consecutive years at China-based summer camps, Lou Yong's 13-year-old son, Tim, will take the experience to the next level by spending four weeks in Baltimore, USA. "I hope to enrich his summer vacation and let him experience different activities which he is interested in, but are not available at the local schools," says Yong.
"American summer camps are a good complement to Chinese-style education. Chinese-style education focuses on academic achievement, while American-style camps allow the students to improve their overall abilities. If the child wants to study abroad in future, an American camp can help them make some adjustments beforehand," she says.
Alex Abraham, the general manager of Blue Sky Study, a Shanghai-based overseas education consultancy, also sees the camps as a way of easing a child into a culture that he or she will most likely be a part of when they join the other Chinese undergraduates in the US.
The number of students going abroad does not appear to be dropping soon so, for those who can afford it, summer camps give them a head-start.