More news from the Independent concerning the globalisation of education, which is all mixed up with the global mega-success story that is the English language:
A successful Chinese industrialist was boasting proudly that his son was at a British educational institution, one of the best in the country. However, he couldn’t remember which. After racking his brains, he decided to call his wife on the mobile phone. But his wife couldn’t recall the name of the elite establishment either. In desperation, the entrepreneur had only one choice: he fast-dialled his son in the United Kingdom to ask where the boy was being educated.
This is a true story, illustrating not only the Chinese affection for mobile telephones, but also their enthusiasm for a foreign education. In China, to receive your schooling or your degree at an institution in Britain, or Australia, or the United States automatically puts you into the top league. The name of the university or school is not as important as the fact that you have tasted learning outside the People’s Republic. No wonder universities from the United Kingdom are falling over one another to meet this huge demand.
Last year, the number of Chinese students in the UK reached a new record – 25,000. But there are millions of people in China now who aspire to, and receive, a university education and would leap at the chance to get a degree from the UK. In the three years between 1997 and 2000, there was remarkable growth in student numbers within China, according to the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education. Numbers increased from 3.2 million students to a staggering seven million. (The government target is 15 million.)
Ironically, given China’s status as a Communist country, many of the new universities that are being set up to deal with this demand are private. There are 1,300 private institutions now in operation, and alliances between Chinese and foreign organisations are burgeoning.
While English educators fret about whether English people are well enough behaved, Chinese educators worry that the Chinese are too well behaved. Too dutiful, obedient, conformist, uninventive, inflexible.
Seriously, one suspects that the real product here is not just Anglosphere education, but Anglosphere education plus a bit of that Anglosphere attitude, hence the indifference concerning exactly which University their children go to. It could be a winning combination. Although I reckon word will soon get around which universities are the best.
It makes you wonder what Mao would have thought about it all. “I ordered you to have a permanent revolution and challenge all authority, but I didn’t mean this!” Attitude!
And quite aside from the impact of all this on China, there is the interesting matter of how it will affect Britain. How long before someone uses the word ‘swamped’ to describe what is happening to higher education? All those foreigners, taking our children’s places. And working too hard.