Some parents of junior middle school students in China who had been planning for their children to study abroad before the pandemic emerged are postponing these plans for several years.
However, they are still aiming for their offspring to be educated overseas at some stage.
Yang Lifei, the mother of a 13-year-old daughter in Shanghai, said the family decided to send her to the United Kingdom for studies after she graduated from primary school 18 months ago.
She thought that 14 would be a good age for her daughter to start an independent life in the UK.
However, the pandemic and the current international situation forced the parents to rethink plans for their daughter, who is keen to study in the UK, particularly at Oxford University.
They have now decided to send her abroad after she completes senior high school studies in Shanghai.
Yang said that given the current international situation, cases of discrimination against Chinese living abroad could rise, and she is also not sure just how effective vaccines are going to be in ending the pandemic.
"We're lucky that our daughter is still young, so that we can change our plans. For the parents of those students currently graduating from senior high schools, it is hard for them to decide on another education track at this time," Yang said.
She added that most parents are deciding to call off plans for the time being for their children to study overseas unless families have to move abroad for work or decide to migrate permanently.
Yang, public relations manager for an international organization, said the decision to send her daughter abroad was based on the girl's personality, the family's social network and its financial situation.
The mother said her daughter is not a top student at her school in Shanghai, but she believes that studying overseas where greater diversity is encouraged will help her become more successful.
"She is outgoing and self-disciplined. Since her third year at elementary school, she has attended overseas summer camps twice a year with children from all over the world," Yang said.
In mid-March, Zhou Yijia, 16, who had studied in Germany since November 2018, returned to China as the pandemic emerged. In summer, she started a new academic year at a German international school in Shanghai.
Zhou said she originally planned to return home for a few months to avoid risks during the height of the outbreak.
However, when Germany lifted border restrictions and international students were called back to classes in June, she thought it would be too expensive to spend a total of 28 days in quarantine in both countries, as she planned to return home shortly.
She said it was a shame she had to halt her studies in Germany after becoming used to the local conditions and food. She still aims to go abroad for university studies, but may consider applying to other countries.
"I might look at Singapore or Japan, because flying to either country doesn't take 12 hours and the local food may be more suitable for Chinese," Zhou said.
Some parents of middle school students said they are looking at study opportunities for their children in non-English-speaking European countries, and that more foreign languages are being taught at middle schools, both public and private, in large Chinese cities.
Yang said, "We used to say that the gaokao (college entrance exam) could be compared with tens of thousands of people crossing a single wooden bridge, but now the competition for the bridge has extended to places at colleges in the United States and the United Kingdom.
"I will definitely consider schools in countries such as Switzerland and Austria, which have good teaching resources and a good relationship with China."
Industry insiders believe the desire among parents for their children to study abroad will remain strong in the long term, as many parents feel that experiencing life in another country will help their offspring find more opportunities to fully use their potential and make significant progress.