As the summer break approaches, many Chinese parents are making plans to send their children overseas－but no longer just as tourists or language students.
The latest trend is to introduce young people to novel experiences at camps run by professional organizations, according to a report on overseas study tours by Ctrip, a major Chinese travel agency.
In addition, those taking part are getting younger. The age range of the children enrolled this year is 8 to 15, three years younger than in 2014, the report said.
Zhang Jie, head of overseas study tours for Ctrip, said parents today want their children to learn new things.
“Before, study tours were basically focused on two aspects: trips to renowned universities or middle schools, or language skills. It was more like preparation for studying (long term) overseas,” she said. “However, when it comes to camps, it’s totally different.”
Sun Kai, director of international admissions at Sappo School, a private school in New York’s Long Island, agreed and added that parents are choosing activities abroad that their children would not have access to in China.
These include “wildness survival programs, which challenge children’s hardworking spirit by training them to save themselves and to react fast in the wild”, he said.
Sappo School has been receiving international exchange students for more than six years, and Sun said it is true that more Chinese have started to participate in US summer camps, with most being from junior high schools.
“More Chinese parents have chosen camps for their children because school is class-based and cannot cover lots of activities,” he said. “Professional summer camps can teach pottery, ballet, piano, violin and martial arts.”
He added that participants in his school’s program come mainly from relatively rich “and open-minded” areas of China such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou in Guangdong province.
In addition to those in the United States and Canada, summer camps in western and northern Europe are also popular with Chinese parents.
The Ctrip report said bookings for summer camps account for more than 30 percent of its total overseas study tours this year and that inquiries from parents have risen threefold compared with last year.
“The average price for a professional summer camp is 10,000 to 15,000 yuan ($1,520 to $2,280) higher than a regular study tour,” Zhang said.
Sun at Sappo School said parent feedback has been strong.
“More parents hope short-term overseas study will give their children new experiences and help them to build knowledge of the unknown,” he said. “Without knowledge, how can you know if you like or dislike something?
“As living conditions get better, parents are willing to encourage their children to discover what they like and what they dislike.”
Hong Xiao in New York contributed to this story.