Forget UK and the US, China is now the most preferred destination for overseas studies.
China is now emerging as the most preferred country for studies by African students.
According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the number of African students in China is remarkable. The country has experienced a significant growth in the number of students from just under 2, 000 in 2003 to almost 50,000 in 2015.
Such are the compelling numbers that have seen China surpass UK and US 9 (that both host around 40, 000 African students) to become the second most popular destination for the scholars; after France which hosts about 95, 000 students.
The statistics paint a bigger picture of the steadfast growth in China-Africa ties and also make it possible to compare China’s international education trends in a global context.
Dr. Lloyd G. Adu Amoah, Lecturer at the Department of Political Science and Founding Director, Centre for Asian Studies, at the University of Ghana said that it is hard to overlook China as a prestigious place to study in the world.
“China has a emerged a leading nation on the globe. This fact in itself is alluring. Parents and students make the calculation that such a feat must come from a superior knowledge base across a diverse field of disciplines,” Dr. Amoah said in a interview with Business Insider.
He adds that the world’s perception towards China as a backward country has changed as it is now viewed as a more trendy and hi-tech state.
“In the past China was painted especially in leading Western media outlets as communist, red and backward. This image has clearly worn off and in its place is a China that is trendy, hi-tech and even hip,” he reckoned.
This dramatic increase in students from Africa can be explained in part by the Chinese government’s targeted focus on African human resource and education development.
The East Asian nation has set scholarship targets to aid African students trooping there for study; a pledge it seeks to uphold with regards to African education.
China’s education empowerment to the region is viewed as a way of cultivating the next generation of African scholars and elites.
The experience that these students get in China can translate into a willingness to work with China and view the country’s internal or external policies favorably in the future.
What do students gain in return?
A good number of scholars go to pursue affordable education, whereas others go for the chance to develop business connections or learn the Chinese language.
Likewise, other students prefer engineering degrees as the course is taught in English for international students.
Students however gave mixed views with regards to the quality of education. Whereas some were contented with the Chinese education, some felt it wasn’t the best opting to appreciate the trade and business opportunities that the education made available to them back home.
It is still unclear which African countries send the most students to China.
Even then, most students cannot stay in China after their education due to Chinese visa rules. This prevents brain-drain and enables African students bring back the skills they’ve acquired back home; a move seen as plus by Dr. Amoah in the face of today’s job market.
“Today the ability to speak Mandarin is respected. Companies are hiring people with such skills as Chinese firms increase their presence in lucrative markets world wide. That is another draw for African students,” he said.