Steven Chen Profile - iTEP Distributor Tianjin AE Technology Company

With 20 years of experience in educational cooperation programs, Steven Chen, the founder of Tianjin AE Technology Company, is taking advantage of a unique Chinese higher education system model to promote iTEP English language proficiency exams in 12 Chinese provinces. Chen’s new distributorship agreement with iTEP was just inked this year and has already tested 1,700 students in China.

In China, a popular higher education model includes combining Chinese university programs with American university programs. Chinese students will spend the first part of their university years learning from Chinese colleges and professors but will cap off their education with years spent with American colleges and professors. Various formats exist across the country of China and the many universities, including models like “3+1,” “4+0” or “2+2” programs, with the numbers indicating how many years students spend with each program.

“In the 3+1 program, students will complete credits at a Chinese university for two years, while working on their English language proficiency and writing. For the third year, the students still live here but American professors will travel to China and teach the students their curriculum on the student’s home turf,” Chen said. “Then, for the fourth year of the degree, the students will travel to America to complete their studies. This program allows the students to earn both a Chinese degree and an American one in their field of study.”

The 2+2 program is similar, but offers two options to students. 

“Students in the 2+2 program study the first two years in China, then travel to America for their last two years,” he said. “However, we also have many students who want the educational benefits while living at home – so they study with Chinese universities and professors for the first two years, and American professors come to China for the junior and senior level credits – through the 4+0 program. This also allows the students to graduate with two degrees.”

Before beginning the American coursework, Chinese students prove English language proficiency, both in speaking and writing. In addition to running his own company, Chen also works with The Language Company, through which he learned about iTEP exams. The flexibility of iTEP Academic and iTEP Academic Plus allows Chen and his team to meet the English-language testing needs of the students in the 4+0, 3+1 and 2+2 programs. The team provides tests online, as well as in-person.

“In many cases, we take the tests to the students. We’ll visit the campus of these mainland universities and provide and proctor the tests in an environment familiar to the students,” Chen said. “This provides convenience, but the students are also just more comfortable taking the tests on their own campus.”

More than 2,000 of these Chinese+foreign programs exist throughout China (of which around 800 programs are partnering with American universities,) offering distinct educational prospects to college students in the country. According to Chen, these programs are so popular because they offer a worldly experience with somewhat of a safety net.

“It can be very expensive for a Chinese family to send their student to the United States for four years of study. With these partner programs, families save money since the student can live in China for a few years while still taking advantage of American college opportunities. These years also allow students to grow up in maturity a bit before traveling internationally, as well as honing their English language skills,” he said.

The coronavirus pandemic has added an additional layer of concern for students looking at foreign degree programs. Freshmen students who are interested in studying in a foreign country can opt to stay in China for two years before traveling to American for both personal safety and to avoid travel restrictions.

Students from all 2,000 programs must prove foreign language skills, adding to the already massive market for English-language testing in the country. Chen is pleased with the iTEP tests for these students due to a few factors: the flexibility in taking the tests to the students’ campuses, the feedback they are able to give the students, the cost, and the technology and service from iTEP.

“We appreciate the partnership from iTEP,” he said. “They are great at providing technologies and platforms – even emergency solutions when needed.”

Chen himself holds a bachelor’s degree from a Chinese university, a master’s degree from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas, and is about to complete a doctoral degree from a French university. Not only has the education from three different countries helped him in his day-to-day business, it’s also helped him refine his knowledge in educational cooperation and higher education needs. He credits his team with cultivating trust and relationships at colleges in the 12 provinces they target, which has allowed them to bring iTEP to the students.

“There is a business-to-consumer model with English language testing, but iTEP also allows us to implement a B2B model in working with the colleges,” he said. “This just creates partnerships that will lead to more future trust and benefit the students and the 4+0, 3+1 and 2+2 programs for years to come.”

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