In China, if you go abroad to study you are called an "overseas turtle" — because you swam away to college.
"They call local people who have never been educated overseas 'local turtles,'" says Bei Bei Bao, an analyst with the economic research firm Rhodium Group.
What kind of turtle you are, and where you swim, can have a lot of impact in China. And the Rhodes Trust knows it. For the first time, it's offering students on mainland China the the chance to apply for a prestigious Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford University. Educators, parents and students are taking note.
In China, Bao notes, education is seen as a sign of social status. And a new market has sprung up — offering classes to help students apply for elite education abroad.
"Parents are willing to spend whatever those programs are charging to help their kids get an edge," Bao says.
Tim Katzman, director of summer and extended programs and China outreach for Francis Parker, a private day-school in San Diego that helps prep Chinese students for foreign programs, just returned from China yesterday. He says the Chinese appetite for Western academic training is growing.
"Any leg up or advantage that they feel — or their parents or school administrators feel — they can capture by coming to the U.S. for an abbreviated summer program, a midterm program or for an entire year, is extraordinarily attractive to students and their parents in China,” Katzman says. For Western prep schools, he continues, the interest from China is a gold rush.
Expanding to China may be attractive financially to the Rhodes Trust too, says Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown’s center on education and the workforce.
“If the Rhodes people want to extend, they’re going to have to reach out to other parts of the world and include them — both in funding and in finding the scholars themselves,” he says.
The Rhodes Trust says it is eager to expand. And as it begins that process among China's population of 1.3 billion, it's possible it may find itself in receipt of a few new applications.
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