Illustrations: Peter C. Espina/GT
The summer holiday has already come. To help their children enjoy a long and fulfilling holiday, many Chinese parents are passionate about sending their kids on international study tours. An overseas study tour, by giving participants chances to travel abroad and visit prestigious universities, has become a bandwagon that parents and children are jumping on.
According to English First, a Swedish-English education company in China, the number of students going abroad for study tours has increased by nearly 40 percent in 2017. Most overseas study tour participants are teenagers in middle school. A June 2017 report released by tuniu.com, a Chinese tourism booking website, shows that 73 percent of international study tour participants in 2016 were middle school students, 11 percent primary school students and only 3 percent college students.
However, the expense of overseas study tours is high. The report said that about 47 percent of parents choose overseas study tours with prices ranging from 20,000 yuan ($2,974) to 30,000 yuan per person and 16 percent of them choose study tours priced above 30,000 yuan per person. That means an international study tour is not a small expense for a family. But parents are still willing to pay for overseas study tours because they treat the tours as an important part of educational investment for their children.
It seems that Chinese parents are very willing to pay for overseas study tours at a high price and let their children go on tours at a very young age. Frankly speaking, international study tours can open a window for children to explore cultural diversity, expand their horizons and improve their language skills. However, a major driving force for the booming overseas study tour industry is, to some extent, parents' fear of their children lagging behind others.
As a Chinese saying goes, "Don't let your child lose at the starting line." What's more, since education is closely related to children's future opportunities, parents are beefing up efforts to provide quality educational resources for their children as much as they can, so their kids will not lose at the starting line. They do their utmost to create what they deem the best living and learning environment for their children to solidify their middle-class status. They are also infatuated with ensuring that their kids can stay in the same social class as them or move toward a higher class.
Apart from that, some parents are fond of overseas study tours to gratify their vanity. They will gain a sense of superiority over those who cannot afford international study tours. Parents may flaunt their kids' pricey overseas study tours to their peers, which may cause a craze of comparison among parents. The parents' sense of superiority may exert an invisible influence on their children, posing a challenge to their mental development.
However, this goes against the essence of education, which is to cultivate an independent and enlightened mind. But many middle-class parents are burdened with a growing sense of anxiety and dread, for fear that they and their kids will be left behind by their peers.
In fact, overseas study tours cannot guarantee children a bright future. Life is a marathon. Having a good start does not mean a marathoner can always keep the front-runner status. Whether a kid will succeed in the future is determined by multiple factors and an overseas study tour is not the decisive one.
Instead, there are many alternatives to overseas study tours. Parents can create more opportunities to spend time with their children or allow them to explore the wildness with their peers. Parents' companionship with their kids strengthens family bonds between them. Experiencing the wilderness helps children learn to be independent, considerate and cooperative with others, and appreciate natural beauty.
Summer break is necessary for children to relax and have fun with others, but now it is overloaded with numerous materialistic and utilitarian motives. Please give children an easy and comfortable summer holiday.
The author is a post-graduate student in translation studies at Beijing Language and Culture University. firstname.lastname@example.org Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion