Jumpy regime bans study overseas;International News;News amp; Opinion

3rd December 1999 at 00:00

A defensive government is standing up for its

education system by banning under-16s from going to foreign schools, reports Katherine Forestier.

CHINA has banned children under 16 from going abroad to study.

All commercial education agencies have been barred from engaging in business aimed at sending children abroad to study, according to a government statement reported by the China News Agency.

"Students in this age group do not have adequate self-discipline," said education vice-minister Wei Yu. "If they studied abroad they would not be able to lead an independent life and that would be detrimental to their physical and mental development."

The ban was necessary as mainland students were leaving for overseas education at an increasingly young age. It does not apply to Hong Kong.

The news agency said: "Countries such as the United States, Canada and Japan have said specifically they would not process visas for Chinese primary and secondary students." But Sophie Yuan, education promotion manager of the British Council in Guangzhou, said the British consulate would process applications if students had valid passports.

Academic Asia China, a commercial agency operating in the southern Special Economic Zone of Zhuhai in April, is now only processing post-16 applications.

Stephen Peplow, its director said: "I think the government wants to conserve foreign exchange and make sure children are educated in the Chinese system." Children would no longer be issued with passports and exit permits for the purposes of studying abroad, he said.

The news agency said that primary and secondary pupils should not go abroad as the local education system provided schooling of comparable quality.

China's new rich are choosing foreign boarding schools because competition is fierce for places in good state schools while local private schools have 40 to 45 pupils in a class and can be as expensive as British boarding schools.

Ms Yuan said that 90 per cent of the several hundred children going to Britain each year went to study A-levels and were over 16.

Foreign embassies and education consultants have seen the number of applicants increase rapidly in the past year. One education consultant said that many families were sending children abroad to study as a stepping-stone to emigration.

The ministry of education said that only one-third of the 320,000 Chinese students who have studied abroad since 1977 have returned to China.

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