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Why 'Bad' U.S. Schools Attract Students

Desperate for funds, underpopulated high schools across the country are solving their problem by enrolling Chinese students who gladly pay $10,000 or more for the chance to get an American public education ("Chinese students a new funding source for U.S. high schools," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 27).   According to the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel, the number of such students has climbed from a few hundred in 2007 to nearly 3,000 last year.

These students study under F-1 visas, which are valid for only one year.  Those who wish to extend their education in this country transfer to private schools because there is no time limit.  The overwhelming majority of Chinese students are in private schools here, where their presence has jumped from about 6,000 five years ago to some 62,000 last year.  In both private and public schools, the arrangement is viewed as mutually beneficial because Chinese and American students learn from each other. 

What is most interesting to note is that Chinese parents, who are known for their reverence for education, have a high regard for American public schools.  If they are as bad as reformers assert, why do these parents send their children here for their education? The facile answer is that they do so because it allows their children to escape the pressure of preparing for China's college entrance exam.  

But I think there's more to the story than that.  Our entire public educational system tries to promote independent thinking and self-expression.  These are the antithesis of the goals of schools in China. Further evidence of the esteem that China has for American education is seen in the number of its educators observing schools here ("Bowie school gives tips to visiting Chinese educators," gazette.net, Oct. 24).  We must be doing something right. Yet don't expect to hear a word about any of this from critics.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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