Record number of Chinese students entering Christian high schools in U.S.

by Gregory Tomlin, |
National Public Radio

NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) – Chinese students aren't only coming to the U.S. in record numbers to study in America's top universities and graduate schools. They're coming in waves to study in, of all places, Christian high schools.

Foreign Policy magazine reports that 300,000 Chinese students are now enrolled in American colleges, but "less widely known is that at the secondary level, most Chinese attend Christian schools – even though they come from the world's largest atheist state."

That large numbers of Chinese come to the U.S. for their secondary education is not new information.

In 2014, USA Today reported on the growing number of international students (majority Chinese) enrolled in U.S. public high schools, in spite of the fact their presence in publicly-funded schools is often controversial. Principals want the students because they raise the school's academic profile and test scores, but residents sometimes object that public funds are used to educate foreigners who have paid no school taxes.

Also, according to U.S. law, foreign students on F-1 educational visas may only enroll for a single year in public schools.

For private schools, however, which depend solely on tuition paid for financial solvency, there is no such limitation and the presence of large numbers of foreign students who can pay the sometimes $25,000-$35,000 a year for school tuition is a win-win. The school's academic reputations improve and they bring in the cash necessary to run the school business.

According to data obtained by Foreign Policy from the Department of Homeland Security via the Freedom of Information Act, 58 percent of the F-1 visas issued for Chinese high school students in 2014 and the first three months of 2015 were for Catholic of Christian schools.

All of this is done with an eye toward creating a solid academic record pegged to U.S. standards and admission requirements at top U.S. universities. That is why, Foreign Policy suggests, Chinese parents do not object if the private high school has "a Christian underpinning."

"According to data obtained by Foreign Policy from the Department of Homeland Security via the Freedom of Information Act, 58 percent of the F-1 visas issued for Chinese high school students in 2014 and the first three months of 2015 were for Catholic of Christian schools," the magazine claimed.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Chinese parents typically buy a home in the U.S. in a school district with a solid record of academic performance and high number of wealthy families. The child then travels to the U.S. with an adult relative or a "housemother" and lives will completing a private high school. After a successful high school experience, the student finds enrollment in and transition to a U.S. university that much easier.

Private schools, which oftentimes focus on classical curricula, provide the best launching platform for success in higher education. Many of those schools are Christian.

"Just under 28 percent of Chinese students obtained these visas to attend Catholic schools, while 30 percent were for schools with nondenominational or Protestant Christian affiliations, including schools affiliated with Episcopal, Lutheran, Adventist, Presbyterian, Mennonite, Baptist, Church of Christ and Quaker traditions," according to the magazine.

Only 4.5 percent of the Chinese students enrolled in U.S. high schools chose the public school route.

The number of Chinese students – sometimes dubbed "parachute kids" – enrolled in U.S. high schools now stands at 23,000, up from only 1,000 in 2005, according to the Institute of International Education.

Most of the Chinese students who come to the U.S. come having already been thoroughly indoctrinated with communist ideology and atheism (only about 5 percent of Chinese are Christian). As a result, even those enrolled in religion courses – required at many of the private schools – do not understand religion, the magazine claimed.

"It's challenging to come to these classes with zero knowledge," John May, the director of international student programs at St. John's Jesuit High School and Academy, an all-boys school in Toledo, Ohio, told the magazine. "They have no framework. It's not like a Lutheran sitting in on a Catholic class. It's a blank slate for these guys. It's a bit of a head scratcher."

While there have been some instances of students converting to Christianity and being baptized, those instances are rare, the magazine claims.