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Delegate calls for greater govt oversight for overseas study trips

2014-01-23 10:00 Global Times Web Editor: Li Yan

A Shanghai Municipal People's Congress (SMPC) delegate has called for more government oversight over study abroad trips to prevent educational programs from devolving into sightseeing tours, the delegate said Wednesday.

"Overseas study tours during summer and winter breaks have grown in popularity among elementary and middle school students in recent years, but it is questionable whether these trips serve their said purpose," said Yang Fengmin, a delegate from Xuhui district and director of the Institute of European Studies at East China University of Science and Technology.

About 81,000 travelers under the age of 14 departed Shanghai on international flights from June 1 to July 13, 2013, accounting for about 10 percent of travelers leaving the country during that period, according to a report in the Oriental Morning Post, which cited statistics from the local border inspection authority. About 11,000 of the travelers went to the US.

More than 40 study abroad groups departed from local airports each day on average over the period, the report said. Most of the groups were from schools in Shanghai or neighboring Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces.

Yang found that a month-long summer camp at the Oxford University cost each student 60,000 yuan ($9,914). The price covered the round-trip airfare, the hotel stay, food, course fees, visa fees and other expenses.

Travel agencies and schools understand that these trips offer them lucrative business opportunities because many Chinese parents won't hesitate to spend money on their children's educations, Yang said.

However, rather than providing students with learning opportunities in foreign settings, the trips, which were jointly organized by the schools and travel agencies, were essentially sightseeing tours during which students went shopping and spent lavish amounts of money, Yang said.

"When arranging study abroad trips, schools have to keep in mind that the goal isn't to make money," Yang told the Global Times.

Yang said schools should hire qualified travel agencies to organize the trips.

To ensure the quality of study abroad tours, Xuhui district's education bureau has created strict application and approval procedures to weed out trips that don't focus on education, said Zhuang Xiaofeng, director of the Xuhui District Education Bureau. "When we sign off on a school's application for these study abroad programs, we first look at whether the school has long-term exchange and cooperation agreements with the overseas education institutions," Zhuang told the Global Times.

Yang also suggested that parents learn more about overseas trips before letting their children join.

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