Chinese Christian schooling

A report from Foreign Policy argues that Chinese students are attending US Christian high schools, “It is no secret that Chinese students are pouring into the United States; over 300,000 of them attended U.S. colleges and universities in 2015 alone, and Chinese are filling up spots in U.S secondary schools in search of a better education and an easier route into U.S. universities. Less widely known is that at the secondary level, most Chinese attend Christian schools — even though they come from the world’s largest atheist state. Because of restrictions on foreign student enrollment in U.S. public high schools, Chinese secondary students headed Stateside overwhelmingly attend private institutions. And Chinese parents don’t seem to care if that institution has a Christian underpinning”.

The piece goes on, “According to data obtained by Foreign Policy from the Department of Homeland Security via the Freedom of Information Act, 58 percent of the F-1 visas issued for Chinese high school students in 2014 and the first three months of 2015 were for Catholic or Christian schools. Just under 28 percent of Chinese students obtained these visas to attend Catholic schools, while 30 percent were for schools with nondenominational or Protestant Christian affiliations, including schools affiliated with Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Mennonite, Baptist, Church of Christ, and Quaker traditions. (F-1 visas are the most common visas sought by foreign students at U.S. secondary schools.)The number of Chinese students at U.S. high schools has ballooned in recent years. In 2005, fewer than 1,000 Chinese students were enrolled at U.S. secondary schools; by 2013, that number had surpassed 23,000,according to the non-profit Institute for International Education (IIE)”.

The article adds that “The upsurge is not terribly surprising — China’s swift economic development has created a burgeoning middle class determined to provide its children with the world’s best education, a trend that has brought increasing numbers of Chinese college students to U.S. shores. Some Chinese view high school abroad as a desirable alternative to secondary schools at home, which focus largely on test preparation in advance of the extremely competitive gaokao, the Chinese college entrance examination. But U.S. public schools impose tight restrictions on foreign student enrollment, limiting it in most cases to a one-year exchange; that means most Chinese parents looking to enroll their children in a U.S. high school must look to private institutions”.

The report goes on to mention that “Chinese students enrolled at religious institutions often have little to no knowledge of Christianity; Christians comprise only about five percent of China’s population, though estimates vary, and the state-mandated school curriculum there emphasizes atheism, Marxism, and a scientific worldview. “They come with no religious background,” said Schales. “We do require religion classes. We’re very upfront about it ahead of time.” All MVA students must attend religion classes and a short chapel service each day. “We’ve had students who come and personally they’re atheists, and they’ll tell the religion teacher that. But that’s ok. We respect their beliefs too. But they’re going to learn our curriculum and then go off and do whatever they want with it.” There have been “maybe five” Chinese students at the school who have chosen to be baptized, Schales told FP, though, she added, “That’s not our goal.” John May, the director of international student programs at St. John’s Jesuit High School and Academy, an all-boys school in Toledo, Ohio, told FP that the growth in the number of Chinese students at St. John’s began about three years ago. Two Chinese students at a Catholic school where May previously worked also chose to undergo initiation rites and receive the sacraments. But like Schales, May has observed that religion is something of a mystery to most Chinese students”.

Interestingly the piece notes that “As to how so many Chinese students end up at Christian schools despite their lack of religious affiliation, it’s often “word of mouth,” said Schales, the MVA registrar. “We have a few agents who send students to us. We don’t pay agents and we don’t work through any one particular agent,” Schales said. St. John’s, on the other hand, partners with Ivy International Group, a recruitment firm for Chinese high school students, who typically pay full tuition. Christine A. Farrugia, senior research officer at IIE’s Center for Academic Mobility Research and Impact, told FP that many religious schools seek out international students to increase their diversity or bolster enrollment, which has fallen across the nation in the past decade”.

The piece ends “To be sure, the percentage of Chinese high school students attending religious U.S. institutions is not unique. IIE finding show virtually the same split of religious versus nonsectarian private school attendance among all international secondary students. And a smaller proportion of Chinese private high schools students attend religious schools than do their U.S. counterparts: about 37 percent of visas issued to Chinese students in 2014 and early 2015 were for nonsectarian private schools, while only 11.7 percent of U.S. secondary students at private schools were enrolled at nonsectarian private schools in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available. But it’s nonetheless remarkable that in an officially atheist country, where children are taught to abjure Western religion, so many parents seem willing to send their child to schools founded in religious principles ranging from Christianity, to Judaism, to Scientology”.

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