More and more Chinese students are putting overseas study tours on their agenda this summer.
Consisting of language courses, sightseeing and international communication, study tours meet the demands of Chinese parents and students for a long and fruitful holiday, despite high costs of around 4,000 to 6,000 U.S. dollars.
This year saw the number of students going abroad for study tours increase by nearly 40 percent, with reservations for tours starting almost a year ago, according to English First, a Swedish-English education company in China.
A recent report published by a Chinese tourism booking website showed most study tour participants were teenagers in middle school.
According to the report released by Tuniu.com in June, 73 percent of their participants in 2016 were middle school students, 11 percent primary school students and only 3 percent college students.
Students of a younger age seem to be the upward trend.
"The biggest growth of our clients in the past few years is among primary school students, over 50 percent," said Joe Chiu, Country Manager of China's EF International Language Center.
Unlike study tour participants in other countries who are at least 13 or14 years old, Chinese parents seem to be more willing to let their children go on tours at a very young age, Chiu said, noting that the youngest Chinese participant on his program was only five years old.
According to a blue book on global study tours released by New Oriental Education & Technology Group, expanding children's horizons was the major goal for parents, while improving language skills, experiencing independence and exploring cultural diversities were also popular.
Zhan Fuman, a 14-year-old from Guangzhou, currently on a 15-day study tour in Australia with a price tag of 32,800 yuan (about 4,870 U.S. dollars), went to the United States for her first overseas study tour last winter.
"She has been much more confident and independent since her first tour in the U.S. and learnt to use knowledge from books and real life communications," said Zhu Wanxia, Zhan's mother.
Going on a study tour does not lead to going to a foreign university in the future, Zhu said, adding that they preferred their child to go to a top Chinese university instead.
According to Chiu, only half of students in their study tour programs went abroad for higher education.
"Some parents consider staying in China as a better choice for their children, and such overseas study tours are more about qualities beyond learning by the books," said Chen Jingjing, Joe's co-worker from English First.
According to China's Ministry of Education (MOE), over 80 percent of Chinese students who studied abroad returned to China in 2016.
CHINA'S NEED OF TALENTS
Being the world's second largest economy, China is hungry for talent in all aspects.
According to the "Outline of China's National Plan for Medium and Long-Term Education Reform and Development (2010-2020)" issued by the MOE in July 2010, China called for more international communication and cooperation in order to give the country's young men and women international horizons, making them better understand international rules, and join the world's competition.
The MOE also encourages primary and middle schools to put short study tours in student curricula.
Other than sending Chinese students abroad, China also welcome overseas professionals to visit the country.
In 2008, China launched a national recruitment program for top global talent, called the "Thousand Talent" program, as part of efforts to become an innovation-driven economy. The program encourages overseas Chinese and foreign professionals to work in China.