Europe has long dominated the junior summer school market. Now, however, the Chinese are arriving in the UK in numbers, replacing the cash-strapped Russians and set to overtake the Italians. But where are they going and what are they looking for? The language travel department of the Chinese education provider New Oriental supplies the answers
1 The type of provider running the course is incredibly important, both for parents and for us. There is an absolute preference for direct partnerships with mainstream educators: schools, boarding schools, universities, etc who run their own programmes. Where this isn’t available, we look for as many accreditations as possible. Almost nothing will be considered without at least an accreditation from the British Council. Parents want to feel certain that their children are in good hands and that they’re receiving quality education from accredited, well-known and trusted educators.
2 Location is also extremely important. There needs to be a balance between somewhere famous and absolute safety. Places like London, Oxford and Cambridge are extremely popular, for obvious reasons, but we’re noticing a shift towards more rural areas where many of the country’s good boarding schools are. While we don’t expect the bigger cities to become unpopular anytime soon, where there is a good educator offering a unique experience, students are less concerned about location. However, London and Oxford must be on the excursion program – it just wouldn’t be considered a real trip to the UK without them.
3 If we had to choose the top-two programme types in the UK, it would have to be English language and academic subject programmes, and academic immersion. Both offer real experiences in real subjects, and in the case of the latter programme the all-important connection with local students. It provides most of our students the experience they hoped for when travelling abroad, to truly feel the local style of education.
It is also of very high importance to the parents that students have something tangible to bring home – a certification based on an exam or project is most desirable.
4 When it comes to accommodation, each student has their own preference. Some middle school students (aged 12–15) prefer a host family – many say that it’s like a home away from home. But it’s not easy to meet everybody’s expectations. One student has a family with kids and pets, another stays with an elderly couple. One is not better than the other, but the experience differs. Older students in high school and university enjoy university and boarding school residences. It gives a real sense of being a British student, especially when local or other international students are involved. It also gives them a greater sense of independence, something they might not feel in a host family.
5 The biggest complaint from our summer-school students is that they haven’t had enough time! More seriously, they say many places they visit can be overcrowded with students from around the world and tourists, which can lead to a somewhat hectic excursion. If the parents had a top complaint, it might be that their children didn’t get enough exposure to British students – most of whom are away on their own summer holidays.
… and 5 things Chinese need to know about the UK
The first thing the Chinese need to know about British-Council-accredited centres is that inspectors do not just pass or fail them. They can award them areas of strength or point out needs for improvement.
Second, the areas of strength and the needs for improvement for every centre are published on the summary statement at the bottom of the first page of their inspection report published at www.britishcouncil.org/education/accreditation/centres.
Third, for ten years, the EL Gazette has calculated the score for every centre based on the summary statement by adding up the areas of strengths and deducting the needs for improvement.
The top-scoring 20 per cent of accredited centres become EL Gazette Centres of Excellence.
Fourth, we print a complete list of all our Centres of Excellence twice a year, in March and September.
Finally, in this issue we have prepared a special ranking of Centres of Excellence for under-18s on the next two pages.
It should give Chinese students and their parents most of the information they need.