Home Opinion ACT Column Some risks for elementary students studying abroad

Some risks for elementary students studying abroad

The National Education Work Conference in China was held earlier this year during January. Speakers at the conference promoted a “system policy that does not encourage or promote studying abroad at a young age.” As discrimination and violent acts toward international Chinese students have become more prevalent, many parents have become increasingly concerned. More families that have previously planned to have their children study overseas are becoming more cautious. 

Sending children to pursue their studies overseas at a young age is an approach that has been popular among Chinese families. There is a growing sentiment that by living internationally at a younger age, adaptation to the local social life may be achieved much more easily. However, taking adequate precautions for these young students prior to departure is essential. One of the most important decisions made is regarding the choice of guardian. There are thousands of young, Chinese children that pursue their studies internationally. Ensuring that all preparations necessary to help keep students safe and able to succeed is crucial. This includes choice in guardianship. Challenges regarding guardianship are present in countries such as Britain where the law requires that a guardian be legally established. In addition, there are certain schools that require guardianship for international students that are already the age of 18.

The effects of the pandemic have compounded many of the challenges of coordinating international studies by presenting new issues and magnifying those that have previously existed. Most notably, the vast amount of school closures occurring shortly after the onset of the pandemic presented the obvious issue of ongoing education. The closures caused scheduling and logistical issues for many. This manifested in some cases as insufficient care of children who lacked consistent access to meals and transportation. Another major issue resulted from the response of host families during the pandemic. Whether it was due to the perceived risk of viral transmission that incoming students presented, or other challenges that the families may have been facing at the time, many primary students have been reported to be left stranded during this past year. In extreme measures, chartered flights and other available means of international travel were utilized to bring students home. Although some parents hoped that their children would be able to continue their international studies without interruption, the outcomes this year have been highly variable. 

The psychological toll that studying internationally from a young age can hold has been exacerbated in the past few years. There have been many, highly publicized events of international students involved in violent altercations that resulted from seemingly minor issues. Learning to deal with social and other life challenges at a young age can be difficult. Having to overcome language and cultural barriers to address these challenges can place additional stress on these young individuals. Although many of these issues present within the school setting, there have been other stressful situations that have been reported. One instance involved receiving delayed medical treatment. As a guardian or an interpreter is often required, this may cause a delay in treatment or neglect of the issue altogether. 

Having a guardian that can assist with the variety of challenges that international students face can be a tremendous resource. Many Chinese parents have entrusted local guardianship companies in the UK to facilitate the process of guardianship. However, some of the companies have not provided proper accommodation and may not even be affiliated with the host families. This may have resulted in improper vetting of guardians assigned to some students. In certain cases, guardians have been found to be largely absent from their responsibilities. Instances of inadequate care for these students have resulted in a variety of different strategies to provide support. Some parents have decided to simply move overseas with their children. Although this practice has been controversial, the needs of every child are different. As the risks of international studies continue to remain high, it is important to be mindful of exploring options other than international education for young children.

Songzi Li/Managing Editor


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