Here’s another one to throw into the mix of the Chinese education industry: American-style summer programs in China, taught by American professors at a fraction of the cost to Chinese-born students.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported Jan. 14 that Chinese summer schools selling American college credits have becoming a booming business. These schools are private, for-profit companies that have “taken an American product – the Western college course – and created a shorter, cheaper version to sell to their peers,” says the Chronicle. The Chronicle reporters did a great job covering the different aspects of these programs, and we’ll do our best here to quickly summarize what they’ve uncovered.

Quick Facts

The problem: Chinese college students enrolled in American colleges, while home for the summer – have fewer opportunities than their American peers to take summer courses and earn credit towards their degree.

The solution: Businesses like SIE International Summer School recruit American professors to teach a few weeks in the summer to Chinese students. They cater specifically to Chinese students, recruit them through friends and social media, and persuade American universities to accept their credits. Classes are hosted by Chinese universities.

The draw (for professors): diversify teaching background, trip to China, explore Chinese culture and society for free, generous pay.

The draw (for students): transferability of credits; regular summer classes at a fraction of the cost.

Interesting Factoid: Renren Network, known as the Facebook of China, is a major investor. Perhaps not surprising, given how much of the recruiting is done through word-of-mouth and social media.

Where these programs fit in with what American universities understand: Though free-standing programs, it’s not clear who or how these ventures are operated. One of the owners of one such company, Ping Chuan of Fujen Summer School, was quoted as saying, “It is really hard to make everything make sense, [sic] This is China. You don’t understand the connections. You don’t understand the really complicated stories.”

As for American universities that accept the transfer of credits, administrators struggle to make sense of what these programs are. Stand-alone? Study abroad? Or an entirely new breed in China’s complex and often frustrating maze of an education industry?

Quality of Programs

Students come to these summer programs with different motivations; some want to work hard and finish college ASAP, while others come thinking summer school will be easier than their own school. With the availability of these programs at home, it’s unsurprising that student performance in such programs evoke the same issues first highlighted by the China Conundrum. The usual suspects of cheating, low class participation, and lack of preparedness are present and in attendance.

Faculty members often say that being faced with a classroom of Chinese students is not something they’ve experienced before. In addition to cultural differences, like a lack of class participation, faculty members and some administrators say cheating has been a pervasive problem.

But it’s also interesting to see some effort on the part of program administrators to uphold the standards of these summer programs.

Administrators at some programs encouraged instructors to be tough on cheaters, professors say, and even advised them what to look for, like drink bottles with the answers written on the inside label.

Yet, for the most part instructors themselves must work together to deal with issues of student performance. As is the case anywhere, teachers want to teach students who want to learn. While the good students were brilliant, many teachers have had to adjust their expectations.

In any case, the rise of Chinese summer schools promising American college credits will be interesting to observe.

SourceChinese Summer Schools Sell Quick American Credits – The Chronicle of Higher Education
Pictured: Hao Liu, founder of SIE International Summer School, the first such program, in Shanghai in 2010.
Photo Credit: Mark Greenberg for The Chronicle



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