Chinese ‘Tiger Mothers’ spending up to £100,000 on teaching their children ‘Britishness’
Mega-wealthy Chinese parents are paying out hundreds of thousands of pounds for their children to have lessons in the art of chit-chat – to help them get into Oxbridge.
The families are doing their utmost, including paying out the huge sums to British ‘education consultants’ based in China in order to give their children the edge in interviews for our top universities.
This behaviour is known as ‘Tiger Parenting’, a term inspired by Amy ‘Tiger Mom’ Chua, the woman who wrote a book about her super-strict Chinese parenting style called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother which received world-wide recognition last year.
Intensive tutoring covers topics such as ‘rugby banter’ and how to chat about the perennial British weather – and even tips on how to grasp the English sense of humour.
The practice has been common for the last decade with the country’s richest ploughing their vast wealth into tutoring designed to help their children win places at establishments such as Eton College and Harrow.
This has now moved on to cover further education in order to to improve the childrens’ chances of winning coveted spots and Oxford and Cambridge
BE Education, a firm designed to specifically enhance foreign students’ education prospects in Britain, has seen its early ‘school’ clients returning for help getting into the top universities.
The business, set up by British entrepreneur and old-Etonian William Vanbergen, 30, in 2003, promises to ‘prepare China’s young future leaders for success in an increasingly interconnected world’.
BE Education has since placed more than 20 Chinese students in UK universities – many who attend the classes with their own bodyguards.
The prospective students receive comprehensive lessons in British sport, arts, music and public school and university traditions as well as maths, physics and English.
In some cases this has involved being taken to British-style pubs in China to watch international rugby fixtures as well ass attending drama classes to increase their confidence.
Mr Vanbergen said his clients were predominantly entrepreneurs, senior managers and bankers – who hoped to expand their empires through their child’s international education.
He said: ‘Many parents want to expand their business internationally. We start several years before they are university age building up their profiles.
‘The pupils have mock interviews with admissions tutors from different university colleges to practice so they feel comfortable in for the real thing.
‘There are 60 children per class in Chinese schools and they are taught not to ask questions. We teach them discussion and questioning.’
Mr Vanbergen added: ‘I imagine if I ran this business in the UK I would get quite a lot of criticism.
‘But even though there is a communist government this is one of the most capitalist places in the world.
The process has been criticised by some students for handing an advantage to super-rich Chinese students in securing places at Oxbridge.
Milly Farid, a mathematics student at Clare College, Cambridge, originally from Beijing, said: ‘With such huge disparities in wealth emerging in China, it seems inevitable that a culture has come into being where anything – including a semblance of intelligence – can be bought.
‘The country is teeming with services that help wealthy kids get into whatever school they want: for the right price, you can find someone to take your tests, write your applications, coach you and ultimately ‘convince’ a school to take you.
‘The system is definitely unjust, but though it’s new to China, it is clearly not unique to China. Hasn’t the British system been working like this for centuries?”
However Oxford and Cambridge Universities have said their entry process still relied on screening for .rigorous academic standards’.
A spokesman for Oxford University said: ‘It is of absolutely no benefit to Oxford and its reputation as a world-leading university to recruit students who do not meet the most rigorous academic standards, regardless of their personal means.’
In reference to similar UK-based schemes, he said:’“There is absolutely no point in parents spending money on this type of service when there is a wealth of free information and videos available on the University’s Undergraduate Admissions website’
Oxford University has seen an increase of more than 21 per cent in the number of applicants from China over the past two years and a 39 per cent rise in postgraduate applications over the past five.
‘This is good for the British economy if future big Chinese businessmen have a positive experience in the education system.’
In total BE Education has placed 24 Chinese students in UK universities and regularly gets about 150 a year into British public schools.
Families generally pay about £50,000 per pupil, although in recent months the firm’s fees have increased to £100,000 for successfully placing candidates in top establishments.
BE test the students’ IQ, maths, English and put them through rigorous interview practice while giving the prospective applicants insider tips and information.
Carl Meng, 25, who was helped to get a place at Eton and Cambridge University by BE, remembers having ‘cultural lessons’ involving understanding British history and society.
He said: ‘We went to British pubs in China to watch the Rugby World Cup. And we talked about British weather, the British sense of humour and things like that.’