Since Harvard offered the world’s first master of business administration qualification in 1908, the number of MBA programmes has never stopped rising. Europe caught the business school bug when INSEAD, a French school, launched a rival programme in 1957. In the last 20 years, similar schools in Asia, South America and Africa have followed suit.
Demand from China is growing too. The Financial Times reports that even though Chinese schools provide just 5% of all admission places at the top 100 business schools, Chinese students make up 10% of the cohort. In contrast, the UK offers 14% of the available places, but British students account for only 2% of them.
Now the ‘business school’ offer is available to younger children in China too. Fang Yuan, a woman from Sichuan, has opened a new training camp for children between seven and 11 years old, charging Rmb30,000 ($4,923) a year for three hours of classes each week. “A lot of rich people in China are worried: ‘What is going to happen to my child?’ Entrepreneurs want their children to have even stronger entrepreneurial spirit, not just buying whatever they want,” says Fang. “In today’s lingo, we don’t want them to be tuhao (a popular slang for nouveau riche, see last week’s issue).”
To that end, Fang’s school aims to help rich kids grasp the concept of how best to manage money. Classes mainly involve interaction through games and field studies. And there’s some academic rigour too. Fang says every child needs to sit for a test to make sure that they have paid attention in class.
So what sort of thing is being taught?
In a typical session the teacher might raises a hypothesis such as: “I want to buy a car that costs Rmb200,000 but I only have Rmb50,000 in my pocket. Can I afford the car?” The children then offer answers ranging from borrowing from parents to begging the dealer for a discount. Not right, says Fang. The point is to teach the children about how leasing works.
And then there’s the games of treasure hunt. The children are asked to pick the valuable things out of a goodies box. Most of them avoid the spoons and toothbrushes but keep the jewellery and gold. They’re right and they’re wrong, the teacher explains. If, for example, they were stranded on an isolated island, then the spoons and toothbrushes would be more valuable than the jewellery and the gold. Fang says the game teaches children that value is relative, varying according to circumstances.
Fang’s business school isn’t the only one targeting the country’s fuerdai, or ‘rich second-generation’. But not every parent is supportive of their children receiving financial training from such a young age. “It’s too early [for children under 11] to learn how to manage money. The training is not as important as the parents wish for it to be,” says Tang Lixin, chairman of the board of Chengdu Digital Plaza, a local property developer, who adds that childhood should be a more carefree experience.
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