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Why Are so Many Students Going Abroad for Education?

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 3575 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Focusing on students from Asian countries


It could not be denied that education has always been one of the controversial topics around the world. The differences in the origin between places in the world created the variation of culture and society as well as the diversity in education systems (Hassan & Jamaludin, 2010). With the increase in globalization, the explosion in the number of international students in higher education institutions in recent years has raised a lot of interest of educators and sociologist of education. “The global number of international students tripled from 1.3 million to 4.3 million between 1990 and 2011” (Cebolla-Boado, Hu, & Soysal, 2018). The reason behind this trend lies in the differences between education systems globally and how they attract students from another culture. This also results in greater globalization and international cooperation. This research will point out why so many students going are abroad, with the explanations of how educating methods vary in different cultures, while elaborating on the benefits alongside the difficulties students face, as well as others factor that may affect their choice on going abroad. Furthermore, this research paper will be focusing on students from Asian countries.


The reason why students chose to study abroad can be categorized into push and pull factors. The push factors are factors that motivate students to move from their countries to another. On the other hand, the pull factors are the opposite. Clearly, school systems in Western and Eastern education are different in various aspects such as teaching and learning purposes, examining and scoring system, encouragement and reward scheme, knowledge allocating system, etc.(Wößmann & West, 2006). It is impossible to state if one education system is better than another. As each education system have their own benefits and drawbacks that affect students differently. Therefore, one can easily detect these differences when comparing Eastern and Western education.

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For example, let’s focus on the student engagement in the classrooms. The Western education system focuses on active learning, while Eastern education system focuses on passive learning. As a result, students in Western countries seem to be more active learners. They are encouraged to share their ideas and voice opinions freely with their classmates so that the learning process is more student-centered than teacher-centered. It helps in developing soft skills by encouraging the students to be creative, independent and responsible for their own learning process. Sometimes, it is hard for teachers to manage the time to deliver the whole syllabus because active learning is a very time-consuming process.  On the contrary, in Eastern education, class effectiveness all depends on the teacher, in short, more teacher-centered. Students only obtain what the teacher gives and are not encouraged to speak up their view (Joyce Lin, 2008). As a result, students are very dependent on teachers, less creative, and frequently face hardship when thinking, generating and presenting new ideas in class.

The differences in the education also result in students’ capability. Students in Western countries are boosted to show their creativity. Being different or making mistake is positively promoted in the Western education. In contrast, the Eastern education emphasizes on making “perfect” student followed by implementing various rules. Therefore, students have to abide by these rules and perform what is considered as good manners (Hassan & Jamaludin, 2010)  For example, public high school students in China or Vietnam have to wear uniform to school. On the contrary, in the United States (US) and Canada students who are enrolled in the public high school are free to wear what they want as long as they are abiding to the dress code. This sort of freedom given to these American and Canadian students to wear their chosen attire allows these individuals to express their creativity and their style publicly. As Hassan and Syuhada Jamaludin “hence, conformity might be good for morality, but bad for the development of intellectualism. Therefore, a good education should encourage conformity to the school’s rules and at the same time encourage creativity in the learning process” (2010).

Western education is emphasized on meaningful study, which means it is more important that students are able understands the knowledge, to internalize them rather than just memorizing them. On the contrary, in Eastern education, students may have to memorize a lot of knowledge but have no understanding of them. Hence, they will also face difficulties linking the knowledge together and turn them into their knowledge.

In regards to creativity and making mistake in Western education, they also have multiple ways of encouraging students. Compliments are used very frequently inside and even outside classroom context. Students will be complimented on their high scores, and will also be encouraged by constructive criticism if their score is not fairly high. On the other hand, Eastern education is stricter and more focused on the score. A student will very likely be criticized when they get a low test-score or fail to achieve a high score if that is their usual performance. This is because, in Western education, it is believed that compliments will encourage students to not give up and work harder in the future, while, Eastern education believes that criticism does the same job. However, over-complimenting may cause over-confidence and over-criticizing may cause students to look down on themselves. Therefore, it is the teachers’ role to decide what is sufficient in giving criticism and compliment.

Based on the discussion above, it is quite easy for one to see that the relationship between a teacher and student relationship in Western countries will be closer than in Eastern countries. Teachers in Western education seem to be more friendly, caring, and supportive to students. It is a positive fact that intimate relationship between teachers and students can lead to positive study outcomes. The students will feel more engaged and motivated in the studying environment. However, in Eastern education, teachers must be ultimately respected and it unintentionally creates a barrier between teachers and students. Sometimes, students have to deal with teachers’ bad temper or unreasonable decisions just because they do not have the gut to speak up. These situations might lead to a misunderstanding between teachers and students.

In conclusion, Western and Eastern education seems totally contrast to each other but both has its own strengths and weaknesses and provide students with different benefits. It is about the teachers to understand what is best for students and to moderate their teaching philosophy. However, it does create an impression on Eastern students that the Western education is better as the education system allows students to express themselves and eventually want to go abroad to study.

For instance, in China, education system emphasizes on memorization and learning by incorporating drills, which is shown by the national university entrance exam which depends on what a student can memorize and repeat; analysis and critical thinking are not tested (Oxford Royale Academy, 2016) In Canada, “the system encourages teamwork, quality education, continued teacher training, transparent results and a culture of sharing best practices” (Gundala, 2016). These differences result in the fact that schoolwork-related anxiety of Canadian students is lower than the Chinese’s. However, Chinese students’ average performance in Mathematics is higher than Canadian students. (PISA – OECD, 2015).

About the recruiting system, for example, in Canada’s education system, each university has its own admission requirements but mostly depend on student’s high school transcript and the minimum is high school graduation (University Study, n.d). Differently, in the Vietnamese or Chinese education system, students have to take the national university entrance exam, and, universities will recruit students based on their result of the exam. This difference might affect students in their studies in high school. Students in countries where their university admission based on high school transcript will work harder in order to obtain high scores and student in countries where university admission is only based on a national exam will be more focused on the exam only. A research showed that the third most important motivation of going abroad for Chinese student in the US is that they can attend a better university overseas but not able to attend the school they want due to the China National College Entry Examinations (Chiang-nan Chao, Hegarty, Angelidis, & Lu, 2017).

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According to the differences explained above, from the Eastern students’ perspective, Western education seems to be more like the ideal education system. Being restricted to regulations and sense of conformity, for the Eastern students the Western education environment is usually depicted as freer and less stressful. Moreover, students will find it easier to reach out to professors due to the closer relationship between students and professors in Western education. Reason being, a lot of international students in Western countries are from Eastern countries. According to 2011 number, China made up 24.5 percent of the total number of international student globally (James-MacEachern & Yun, 2017). In Canada in 2013-2014, with Asia’s share growing to almost 63% of university international students in 2013, up from 55% in 2004 (Statistics Canada, 2016). From 2000 to 2013, the number of international students from India almost tripled from 62.342 to 181.872 (UNESCO-UIS 2015).

Aside from the differences in education systems that might not meet students’ expectation, there are a few others reason affecting students’ decision of going abroad. They might be the limit of program variation, low credential recognition, low job opportunity or other social factors. The pull factors can be the variety of programs, high recognition of their degree, the diversity of culture and social structure, or the job and immigration opportunity (James-MacEachern & Yun, 2017).

The development of personal values is one of the factors that a lot of students focus on while making their decision to go abroad. Studying in another country helps students to develop a lot of skills which are not only helpful in their personal life but also in their professional life such as international experience, problem-solving skills, adaptability, language skills, network and communication skills (Top Universities, 2014). While pursuing a degree in another country, students are provided with knowledge about cultures, customs and the lifestyle of that country. Which is an excellent asset for the globalization in this 21st century business world. Studying abroad also strengthen students’ independence and problem-solving skill. When crossing a problem abroad, students have to deal with it themselves. They will develop their logic thinking, solution drawing ability. In addition, going to a new country, every student has to adapt to environmental factors such as studying style, eating habits, etc. Hence, they will adopt to new changes and become more flexible, while living in a new environment. Another important skills that students can develop is their language skills. Even if their starting point is not very good, after their studying time, students will get use to speaking the language of the host country, as they will be socializing with native speakers and also when studying. These are only few of the many ways their language skill will be perfected. Last but not least, students will also have the opportunity to advance their networking and communication skills. Meeting a lot of new people and using a new language, students will be able to communicate more, establish, maintain and expand their network. Those skills are very important for a person whichever field they are working in.

Regarding job opportunity after graduation, studying abroad helps students develop an international experience and knowledge, along with the skills mentioned above, result in increasing employers’ interest (Fong, 2002). In China and Vietnam, going abroad is considered as an opportunity to achieve global academic standards. Students with a graduate degree that is globally recognized will be more likely to get a better-paid job. Moreover, their language skill obtained after their study time will also be highly recognized in their country (Cebolla-Boado et al., 2018).

Immigration purposes is also another pull factor. International students, with the intercultural knowledge such as culture and language, is considered an important attribution to the competence for future job-market chances. To some students, getting a job and staying in the host country after graduation is a way of giving gratitude for the high – quality education received (Hercog & Laar, 2017). Countries such as Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Australia, etc. are now having policies for international graduate to work during the time and to stay after their studies. Thus, graduates are also welcomed by the host country when applying for their permanent residence permit.

Particularly, for the case of Chinese students who study in the US, the motivation for most students going abroad is they believe that the educational system is better overseas, which is explained above as the differences between the two education systems. Moreover, they want to gain a new perspective on their own country, which means they can have a comparison between the two countries after going abroad (Chiang-nan Chao, Hegarty, Angelidis, & Lu, 2017).

Furthermore, one cannot be denied factor that contributes to the increase in the number of international students in recent years is globalization. Globalization process comes with the rise of global standardized tests such as PISA – the International Student Assessment from OECD which suggest education reorientation (Jackson, 2016) from which students acknowledge which education system suits them best. Globalization increase international cooperation, which also opens a lot of going abroad opportunity for students. For instance, students from Vietnam, China, Philippines, and India can apply for a study permit to enroll in a Canadian college or university by using the Student Direct Stream, which is a faster process. Which is very beneficial for student and obviously, is a result of the process of globalization.


In conclusion, in this 21st century society, with the emerge of globalization in every field including education, going abroad has become a trend, especially for students from Asian countries. The result may come from the differences between education systems of the East and the West. “The Western education emphasizes on active learning, student-centeredness, meaningful-learning, creativity, compliment-giving, and close teacher-student relationship. On the contrary, the features in Eastern education are totally opposite from Western education philosophy” (Hassan & Jamaludin, 2010). Asian students might find that they are being restricted in the conformity of Eastern education that they want to experience the Western open and student-centered style. Or it might be from the differences in education quality along with recognition in Western countries. In addition, it could be the skills, job opportunity that students are able to obtain after their study or immigration purposes. Last but not least, the process of globalization plays an important role in giving students opportunities to go abroad, especially from the rise in cooperation between Asian and Western countries.



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