Recently, an article titled “A Monthly Salary of 30,000 RMB ($4,493) is Not Enough for My Child’s Summer Vacation” written by a high-paid Chinese mom was widely spread around WeChat. In the article the mother complained how she can hardly cover the cost of her daughter’s RMB 35,000 ($4,493) education during the summer break, which included RMB 20,000 for a 10-day US-bound study tour, RMB 2,000 for piano classes, RMB 2,000 for swimming classes, and other essential offerings that amount to around RMB 10,000.
The post caused furious responses focusing on the rise of education fever among Chinese middle-class parents over the past several years. Netizens dubbed the phenomenon of parents investing so much in their children as a new way of showing off their luxury status.
Over the past several years, study tours to foreign countries have been becoming more and more popular in China. According to the Hangzhou Youth Activity Center, the number of students this year that attended overseas study tours have doubled since 2013.
“The US and UK are the top two popular study tour destinations, which are also more expensive than some Asian countries. The most expensive one is a NASA camp that costs 37,800 yuan”, Feng, a teacher working for the center said.
“A kid attended study tours to four countries—Korea, US, UK, Singapore, during one summer break”, Feng said with a joking tone, “He is obviously from a wealthy family”.
According to a report on global education expenses, 93 percent of Chinese parents have been paying for kids’ private education, vastly surpassing that of the United States (46 percent), France (32 percent), and the United Kingdom (25 percent).
Yu Xiulan, a professor of education at Nanjing University, said in one of his blogs that the phenomenon is generally more unique to the middle class in China, whose anxiety about keeping their current social status urges them to spend a great deal of money on education, even at the expense of their quality of life.
As the fat-bill payers, parents hold different attitudes, with some rationalizing their decisions saying it’s an investment that has a high rate of return, while some doubting an expensive overseas summer tour really makes a big difference on their children.
There is a Chinese proverb that said “Traveling ten thousand miles is better than reading ten thousand books” implying you can learn more from traveling to places as opposed to reading about them from books. But still, there are voices questioning that expensive study tours to foreign countries are an act of “going round the sun to meet the moon” if you haven’t even shown your children your own country’s wonderful places or even your own city’s museums.