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25% of students plan to work abroad

More than 25 percent of junior high and primary school students born in Shanghai expect to work and live abroad after finishing school, a survey has found.

By contrast, the figure for students who were born outside the municipality and now study in schools in Shanghai is 18 percent. 

The population and development studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences published the report on Tuesday after handing out a questionnaire and interviewing nearly 1,500 students between the ages of 9 and 14 over the last three months.

This is the first-ever research into where young students' want to earn a living, said Zhou Haiwang, deputy director of population and development studies at the academy, adding that the percentage of students who said they wanted to work and live abroad was higher than they expected.

"It's widely known that Shanghai natives refuse to go to study or work in other cities in the country, even with an enviable offer. But now they are looking abroad," he said.

Data from the Ministry of Education showed more than 330,000 people nationwide went abroad to study in 2011, making China the biggest supplier of students to Western schools.

Many high schools in Shanghai, just like many other schools in the country, have special classes for students applying for universities overseas. 

Zhou Haoyu, a third-grader, is taking one of those classes at Shanghai Yan'an High School, and said he has 21 classmates. Shanghai has been an international city since the 1920s, said Zhou Haiwang, and the various exchanges have given children a broader vision.

"A vast number of Shanghai residents went to work and study in Japan in the 1980s, which did not happen elsewhere in the country. Now they are heading for places around the world."

The survey also found that girls have a stronger aspiration to settle down overseas. Thirty percent of girls said they wanted to settle down overseas, compared to 24 percent of boys. 

"I became eager to take up residence overseas when I heard my relatives talking about the lifestyle and education there," said Gu Ni, a 12-year-old girl in Shanghai. "I want to migrate in the future."

Some experts attributed the results of the survey to the long-standing adoration of foreign cultures by Shanghai women.

The difference of recognition of social roles between boys and girls may be another reason, said Li Xia, an anthropologist working in women's studies and senior editor at the Commercial Press.

"It's promising for boys to be successful in their careers with the country's booming economy, as they are taught to be career oriented," she said. "But girls may be more attracted to life in the West as they are more influenced by the lifestyle and culture."

But some social experts criticized the survey, saying it will encourage children to look overseas for opportunities.

"Students will give up some favorable opportunities available in the country and hope for something unrealistic when they have the idea to go abroad," said Xia Xueluan, a professor of sociology at Peking University.

"Overseas study and life are not suitable for everyone."