urban middle class are under growing peer pressure to send their kids on
expensive study tours abroad which have become the latest fad.
Recently, a post titled "A monthly salary of 30,000 yuan could not
afford [my] child’s summer holiday" has been widely circulated on social
networks in China.
The author’s friend, a senior manager who earns 30,000 yuan ($4,502) a
month, complained that she has dared not buy new clothes recently
because the summer holiday is coming and so are big travel bills
generated by her daughter.
Beijing residents on average made 7,706 yuan a month in 2016, according
to the municipal bureau of statistics.
The mother says her daughter’s education cost a total of 35,000 yuan
over the summer holiday, including 20,000 yuan for a 10-day US study
tour and other training classes which altogether cost 10,000 yuan.
The post, which quickly went viral, was criticized by many who said that
only wealthy people can suffer from these kinds of problems. Others
questioned whether spending this much money on a child’s holiday is
Regardless of these criticisms, the post shows how much money
middle-class families are willing to spend on their children’s
education, as well as the anxiety they feel over the subject. These
well-educated and well-paid people usually have high expectations of
their children and are therefore easily persuaded to part with their
Besides the extra-curricular classes which are within the reach of most
urban families, there is evidence that more and more parents are sending
their children abroad for study holidays in the hope that this will make
them stand out from their peers.
The firms organizing these trips say that the children will expand their
knowledge and horizons while traveling on these package holidays, which
cost from 30,000 to over 60,000 yuan. These trips are seemingly becoming
both a status symbol for parents and a symptom of the anxiety sparked by
comparing their children with others’ offspring.
"It is doubtless that the anxiety over education exists in Chinese
society and families are burdened, but if a monthly salary of 30,000
yuan could not support a holiday, there must be irrational comparisons
going on," Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education
Research Institute, told the Global Times.
Sunny Wang, a senior manager at a newspaper in Beijing, just sent her
11-year-old daughter to Vancouver, where the girl will stay for five
weeks. In the Canadian school, her daughter will not only have English
classes but also visit museums, climb mountains and go swimming. At
night and at the weekend, the girl will follow the schedule of her host
Such educational holidays are common among families living in Beijing
and Shanghai. For instance, in Shanghai, it is reported that nearly 90
percent of all the students at international bilingual schools went
abroad to study this year, with many heading to different countries
The most favored countries are the US, the UK, Germany, France and
These trips are so popular that some families are left disappointed. For
example, a primary school in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, had 30 places
on its tour to Australia but the names of 60 students were entered. The
school interviewed the students in English and only allowed the best
students onto the trip.
According to Xiong, the trend started in around 2007 and has been
witnessing a sharp increase in the last five years, which is closely
related to increasing incomes.
"It shows that Chinese parents are paying increasing attention to
education. More and more parents hope their children can enlarge their
knowledge and horizons by touring abroad. Some parents who want to send
their children to school abroad also see it as preparation," said Xiong.
More importantly, there are safety problems. A student once told the
media that on a visit to the US in 2016 organized by a travel agency,
the minibus they used had been converted from a seven-seat vehicle
without the addition of proper seat belts.
But these problems seem inconsequential when weighed against Chinese
parents’ enthusiasm, given the exploding market. Or, the parents maybe
don’t expect much from the tours.
"I don’t have high expectations. I just hope she could learn more about
the world, have a different experience and, if possible, improve her
English," said Wang who lives in Beijing. "It is huge expenditure for my
family, but we think it is worthwhile."
Many parents actually just regard such trips as a necessary experience
for their children’s development, as they have increasingly become a
must-do in big cities, regardless of their effect.
Lucy Wu, a Beijing accountant, said she always feels anxious about her
son’s education. She said many parents choose to make their children
participate in all kinds of activities because they worry that their
children "may fall behind other children a bit" if they don’t catch up.
Seeing that many parents were showing off pictures of their children
abroad, she entered her son’s name for a 15-day trip to the US.
But in the end she had to give up on that plan because the trip
conflicted with his remedial classes, which cost her nearly 20,000 yuan
every term. "Otherwise I worry he may fail to catch up in high school,"
Some parents who send their children abroad just hope they could be
regarded as equals in class discussions, because at least they have
something to talk about.
Some experts point out that in China’s fast-changing society, the
well-off middle class are anxious that they may fall off into a lower
class if they don’t work hard to build on what they have acquired.