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Coming to America

"Coming to America" Continued...

Issue: "Medical care circus," Feb. 25, 2012

Jia's parents had already pulled her out of a Chinese public school and were homeschooling her when they met Sarah. As Christians, Jia's parents wanted their child to go to a school that shared their beliefs: Jia, 16, says she's understanding the Bible for the first time and noticing changes in her outlook "a little at a time." The school also gives Jia a shot at college: A mediocre student in China, she felt discouraged about her future, but now she envisions returning to her hometown after college to teach English and one day homeschool her children.

Still, Sarah believes sending students over to Christian schools in the United States is not the solution. She believes more options inside China should exist for parents and students unhappy with the public school system. Homeschooling co-ops are popping up in Chinese cities. One group has grown from nine to 23 kids in the past few years. Parents in that city have formed about 10 other homeschooling groups, which are not connected for security issues.

Groups exist in 30 other Chinese cities as well, sources say. Homeschooling is a broad term in China that describes anything not government-sanctioned, including one-room schoolhouse models where students meet in a classroom and work on curriculum provided by outside programs.

The problem with these underground schools is that as students finish high school, they have nowhere to go next. Once students leave the Chinese education system, it is very difficult to come back, and they can't take the college entrance exam to get into a Chinese university. Their best option is America, although many cannot afford to go.

This is where Sarah believes Christians interested in China's education system need to push for reform: "There needs to be a Christian education movement that comes from Chinese Christians building their own curriculum [in China], and that needs to be done in the right way, where value can be taught as character education."

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