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Chinese parents scramble to send children to top British schools
Packed into a grey minibus, 22 Chinese parents are trundling down a bumpy driveway towards Cobham Hall, a girls boarding school set in 70 hectares of Kent countryside. 22位中国家长挤坐在一辆灰色的小型巴士里,沿着一条崎岖不平的车道向科巴姆堂学校(Cobham Hall)缓缓行进,这是一所位于肯特郡乡间、占地70公顷的女子寄宿学校。

The red-brick Tudor mansion, with its octagonal wing turrets, looks like something out of an Enid Blyton novel. But there is nothing fanciful about the battle Asia’s rich are waging to secure places for their children in top British boarding schools – an export market worth about £1bn a year to the UK. 学校的红砖都铎式大楼及其八角形配楼,看起来好像出自伊尼德?布莱顿(Enid Blyton)的小说。但亚洲富人为确保子女入读英国顶级寄宿学校而发起的战斗,则绝没有什么奇幻元素——对于英国来说,这一出口市场每年带来的价值高达10亿英镑。

The Financial Times joined the Chinese parents on part of a week-long tour organised by Gabbitas, an education consultancy which advises on applications. By day, the group visits schools and by night, they enjoy retail events laid on by Harrods, the Bicester Village designer shopping centre and Asprey the jeweller. 英国《金融时报》部分参与了中国家长们长达一周的学校考察之旅,此次活动是由提供入学申请建议的教育咨询机构Gabbitas组织的。家长们白天考察学校,到了晚上则参加由哈罗德百货公司(Harrods)、比斯特购物村(Bicester Village)的精品购物中心以及珠宝商爱丝普蕾(Asprey)等商家举办的零售活动。

“These parents are extremely high net worth,” explains Ian Hunt, the organisation’s managing director. “These are people who would not blink at spending £30,000 a year for 10 years for their children’s education?.?.?.?They start with the premise that Chinese education is too linear and constricting, and we try to show them the holistic environment in which the English system operates.” Gabbitas的常务董事伊恩?亨特(Ian Hunt)表示:“这些家长都拥有极高的资产净值。为了子女的教育,他们连续十年每年花费30000英镑都不会有任何犹豫……他们一开始就普遍认为,中国教育过于按部就班、压抑孩子天性,我们则试图向他们展示英国教育系统运行的整体环境。”

Pupils from Hong Kong and mainland China now account for nearly a third of all overseas children at British boarding schools, and the numbers are growing steadily. 来自香港和中国内地的学生目前在英国寄宿学校外国学生中的占比约为三分之一,而且这一数字还在稳健增长。

Given that Liz Truss, UK education minister, visited Shanghai just last month to find out how the city achieves its enviable success in maths, reading and science, it might be surprising that the Chinese are travelling in the opposite direction in search of good schools. 英国教育大臣利兹?特拉斯(Liz Truss)上月刚刚访问上海,考察上海何以能在学生的数学、阅读以及科学教育方面取得令人羡慕的成就。而中国家长为了寻找好学校却奔向了相反的方向,这或许令人有点惊讶。

Wendy Le, an entrepreneur from Guangzhou, has a 14-year-old son at Whitgift School in Croydon, and is on the tour to find a place for her daughter, who is three. Wendy Le是一名来自广州的企业家,她有一个14岁的儿子在克罗伊登(Croydon)的惠特吉夫特学校(Whitgift School)就读。她也参加了学校考察之旅,为自己年仅三岁的女儿物色学校。

“Chinese schools just want academic results, especially the sciences, so pupils cannot learn about art and music,” she says. “Also, we don’t have experimental equipment in Chinese schools, so children can’t do anything practical themselves.” 她说:“中国的学校仅仅看重学习成绩,特别是自然科学类科目的成绩,因此学生们无法学习艺术和音乐。而且中国的学校缺乏实验设备,孩子们没办法自己动手实践操作。”

Ms Le says she has a £50,000 annual budget for her son’s schooling, and is surprised when asked whether she misses him while he is away. “No!” she laughs. “Schools have many holidays in the UK, so he comes back six times each year. That is enough.” Wendy Le表示,自己对儿子学业的年度预算是50000英镑,在被问到儿子不在身边自己是否想念他时,她露出了惊讶的表情。“当然不会!”她笑道,“英国的学校有很多假期,因此他每年可以回家六次,这已经足够了。”

At each school there is tense question-and-answer session where parents grill teachers on whether there is a cap on the number of Chinese pupils. 在访问的每一所学校,都会有一个气氛紧张的问答环节,家长们会反复盘问老师,学校对于中国学生的人数是否设有上限。

“We don’t want your children to come to a school that’s full of Chinese children,” says Arabella Stuart, director of admissions at Sevenoaks, a co-ed boarding and day school. “We want pupils to have a genuine international experience.” 七橡树中学(Sevenoaks)的招生主管阿拉贝拉?斯图尔特(Arabella Stuart)表示:“我们不希望您的孩子来到一所全是中国学生的学校。我们希望学生能够拥有真正的国际化体验。”七橡树中学是一所男女合校的寄宿兼日间学校。

After further badgering for exact figures, she says that the school would not allow more than two children from the same “cultural background” in each boarding house. 因家长们进一步软磨硬泡要求她给出确切数字,斯图尔特表示,学校不会允许每个寄宿公寓中来自同一“文化背景”的学生人数超过两人。

Creating the right mixture of international and British pupils has become a vexed issue for the schools, who rely on wealthy foreigners to pay the £27,600 a year average boarding fees which are rising beyond the reach of UK middle classes. 对于学校来说,在国际学生和英国学生之间形成合适的人数比例关系,已经成为了一个棘手的问题。学校依赖富有的外国家长支付年均高达27600英镑的寄宿学费,这笔日渐上涨的费用已经超出了不少英国中产阶级的承受能力。

Mark Mortimer, headmaster at Warminster School in Wiltshire, is one of many headteachers offering lower weekly boarding fees for a handful of parents, in an effort to boost pupil numbers from London and the home counties. 多所学校的校长向少数英国学生家长收取较低的每周寄宿费用,试图通过此举提高来自伦敦以及周边郡的学生人数。威尔特郡(Wiltshire)沃敏斯特学校(Warminster School)的校长马克?莫蒂默(Mark Mortimer)就是其中一员。

Gabbitas’s Mr Hunt believes that if the number of overseas pupils goes beyond 45 per cent, the school ceases to be British, deterring both local and foreign parents. “Because of the commercial pressures it’s a difficult decision to make – if a school knows that they can fill a place with an international pupil but that will tip them over the threshold, that’s a difficult balance,” he says. Gabbitas的亨特认为,如果海外学生人数占比超过了45%,学校就将不再是纯正的英式学校,在英国本地家长和外国家长眼中都将失去吸引力。他说:“受商业压力影响,这是一个非常难以做出的决定——如果学校知道,他们可以招收一名国际学生,但这么做将导致学校的外国学生人数超过阈值,这将是一个很难把握好的平衡。”

Back on the road, Hong Yong Shi, a businessman from Chengdu, says it is worth facing the intense competition for places in Britain, if only to escape China’s gruelling gaokao college admission test for school leavers. “All children will have to leave home at some time,” he says. “Chinese parents figure out that it is best for the future if they make a sacrifice by sending them away to school when they are young.” 重新上路,来自成都的商人洪永世(音译)表示,在英国为寻求入学机会而面对激烈竞争是值得的,就算只是为了逃避中国令人筋疲力竭的高考招生制度。他说:“所有的孩子或早或晚都必须离开家。中国的家长们认识到,为了未来打算,最好的办法就是由他们做出牺牲,在孩子年纪尚小的时候将他们送到学校。”

?.?.?.? ……

Two way trade in education 教育领域的双向贸易

As Chinese parents push to get their children into British boarding schools, one Shanghai-based company is trying to tempt UK parents to do the opposite. 就在中国家长为了让自己的孩子入读英国寄宿学校而努力时,一家总部位于上海的公司正在试图吸引英国家长反其道而行之。

William Vanbergen, an old Etonian, is founder of BE Education – a consultancy originally set up to help Chinese students get into the UK’s top schools. 威廉?范伯根(William Vanbergen)出身伊顿公学,他创立了必益教育(BE Education)——这家咨询公司创立的初衷是帮助中国学生入读英国顶尖名校。

But now that BE has set up its own British-style boarding schools in the Chinese cities of Changzhou, Chengdu and, soon, Zhengzhou, Mr Vanbergen is trying to persuade hard-up UK residents to send their children to China for a bicultural education at a keen price. 必益教育现已在常州、成都等中国城市建立了自己的英式风格寄宿学校,在郑州的学校不久之后也将落成。范伯根试图说服手头紧张的英国民众将自己的孩子送到中国,以低廉的价格接受二元文化教育。

“Our new boathouses are designed to make Eton jealous,” Mr Vanbergen says, as he describes his trio of schools which combine traditional English traits with Chinese ones. 范伯根在介绍自己的三所学校时说:“我们的新学校就是要让伊顿公学眼红。”这些学校兼具了英国与中国的传统特色。

“As well as having good academic results, pupils who’ve been to one of our schools will speak fluent Mandarin, have a real understanding of China and have their own Chinese friends,” he adds. “If they put that on their application form to Goldman Sachs, it will definitely mark them out.” 范伯根补充称:“除了取得优异的学习成绩以外,在我们学校就读的学生还能说一口流利的汉语,真正地理解中国,并拥有自己的中国朋友。如果他们将这段经历放在高盛(Goldman Sachs)的申请表中,将无疑使他们脱颖而出。”

At £15,000 a year, BE’s boarding fees are about half what they would be in the UK. The schools’ pupils are roughly two-thirds Chinese and one-third international, although the vast majority of the overseas contingent have expat parents living locally. Mr Vanbergen hopes that the school’s British alumni will be the country’s future representatives in Asia. 必益教育一年的寄宿学费为15000英镑,大约为英国本土的二分之一。学校的学生约三分之二是中国人,三分之一为国际生,不过绝大多数外国学生的家长都是在中国当地生活的外派人员。范伯根希望,学校的英国校友能够成为英国在亚洲地区的未来代表。

“These are the people who will take Britain and the western world into China once they’re older,” he said. 他说:“这些孩子长大以后,将成为带领英国和西方世界进入中国的领路人。”