China is beginning to dismantle school programs that prepare students for studying abroad in what seems to be an effort to cut its students off from Western influences.
The government has reportedly ordered some high schools to remove their international programs, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Principal Shi Guopeng of Beijing No. 4 High School, which relocated their international program away from their public school at the request of the government, told the Wall Street Journal that the shared spaces of international programs and public schools can create divides among students.
He added: “Some government officials don’t want to see so many students going abroad.”
Beijing no longer approves international programs, and the government in Shanghai has told international programs to lower their fees. This move, which is seen as an effort to hinder the programs’ operation, received a negative reaction from the head of a Shanghai-based program: “International education isn’t being encouraged now. The government may not require you to shut down, but it is a nice way to say, please stop.”
While Chinese students studying abroad may be a concern for the government, experts think that China is more concerned about Western culture influencing its youth.
“Politically, there is a question of soft power,” education consultant Jiang Xueqin told the Wall Street Journal. “Xi Jinping’s China Dream has really been about a strong China that can project itself overseas. China sees itself as a natural competitor to the U.S., and it can’t have its elite creating all these alternative pathways to education.”
The government’s change in policy on international programs comes as more Chinese students are leaving the country to study abroad. Last year, 459,800 Chinese students studied abroad, an 11% increase from 2013.