Here at Via Meadia we have been closely following the slow and sometimes painful process of change in American higher education. Yet it’s worth keeping in mind that, despite all the turmoil, American schools remain the envy of the world, and America’s soft-power lure is still strong, especially in China. As the FT reports, the number of Chinese students enrolling in U.S. undergraduate schools increased by 43 percent in the past year, and these students come from increasingly diverse backgrounds that extend beyond the usual cultural and political elites.This has been proceeding in fits and starts for over a century. The first Chinese students came to study in America 150 years ago; the flow was interrupted after the Japanese attacks, and then again after 1949, but it has slowly increased since then. Now it has reached a new and deeper stage—to the point that a stint in a U.S. university is almost a rite of passage for upwardly mobile Chinese.This is a good thing, and over the last century and a half the presence of American-educated Chinese (including many who attended American-style universities and medical schools founded by American missionaries inside China) has been one of the driving forces in China’s long struggle to modernize.For Americans, consumed as we increasingly are by the shortcomings of our university system and its failures to adapt, yet, to changing conditions, it is also worth remembering that many other countries today are trying to develop their own versions of the university system we already have. Our drive to reform and improve a system that is being copied all over the world is one of the signs that America’s day isn’t done.Innovation, flexibility and reform made American education a beacon to generations of bright young Chinese. Those are still our strengths today.
Chinese Students Flock to American Schools
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