In the news: Chinese students looking for the elite American boarding school experience, Marvelwood School, a U.S. boarding school, said to be disillusioned

Promised an elite college-prep experience by agents in China, these students often find that one-third or more of their dormmates are also Chinese, and many of the U.S. students require extra time and support. The schools end up segregated academically and socially into full-paying Chinese students, many of whom rise to the top of their classes, and American teenagers who fell behind in public schools.

‘Continuing Exploitation’

“This is a classic case of the continuing exploitation of Chinese students and parents, not only by agents in China but also by the independent schools that pay and enable them,” said Richard Hesel[3], principal of Art & Science Group, a Baltimore- based firm that advises colleges and private high schools on enrollment, including recruiting in China without using agents.

Half a dozen Chinese students applied this year to transfer to St. Andrew’s School[4] in Boca Raton, Florida, because they were frustrated attending other U.S. schools with higher Chinese enrollment, according to Kilian Forgus, the associate head for enrollment and planning at St. Andrew’s.

“It’s unethical to have too many students from one language group,” Forgus said. His school caps the number of Chinese boarders at 15 out of 102. “The ability to integrate into an American education system is compromised.”

Remedial Instruction

As awareness of different learning styles has evolved, schools such as Marvelwood fill a vital niche for college-bound teenagers who need help with organization, time management and study skills, current and former boarding school administrators said. About 40 percent of Marvelwood students are enrolled in math tutorials or a “Strategies” program, which has 18 teachers providing one-on-one “academic support and remedial instruction,” according to the school’s website.

Chinese students as well as Americans benefit from Marvelwood’s small classes, said Goodearl, who came as headmaster this year. They improve their English, experience American culture, and get into U.S. colleges. Students from different backgrounds room together so that no dormitory has an all-Chinese floor, he said. More than 90 percent of underclassmen return to the school each year, a retention rate that reflects student satisfaction, said Marvelwood Chairman James Samartini[5].

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