International school Boom in China: why and why not


“I’m happy I’m in the international school, I so afraid of the Chinese College Entrance Examination. But if you are an international high school student, you can directly go abroad after you graduated from high school, isn’t that cool?” when I asked about his thoughts of international high school, Zhihang Xiao, who is an international high school student in Hubei Province, told me this.

International School is the school offering an international curriculum only for the expatriate children in China. But, under the atmosphere of globalization, more and more Chinese parents want their children to have western-style education, believing that the pure English environment can better help their children to learn English, additionally, they believe it will be easier to send their children abroad. Due to the over-demanded position of public international school, the number of ‘private’ international school is growing; even some of the public international schools are changing their rules to absorb Chinese children. Asking for high educational fees from the hothearted parents and making great profits.

The Exclusive Director of International School Consultancy Group Nicholas Brummite pointed out that in the past 10 years the number of international school in China dramatically increased from 22 to 338, and the number of students increased by 25 times, and these numbers are still increasing.

The international school offers curricula that is been specially designed, such as the International General Certificate of Secondary Education or the IB Diploma Programme that are all predominantly committed to internationalism, developing the global citizen, providing an environment for optimal learning, and teaching in an international setting that fosters understanding, independence, interdependence, and cooperation. Some of them are offering English A-Level or American Advance Placement curricula, point to send their graduations to British or U.S..

An elite school from England-Harrow International School Beijing, which asks for 40 thousands Australian dollars per year, locates at the very outside of Beijing CBD. People living around can often see the blue-white painted school buses, and uniformed students. As an elite school, it asks at least 220 thousands of Australian dollars to finish the 7 years’ curriculum (not included uniform fees or any activities fees). But the high fees are not stopping parents seeking every way to send their children in.

Due to the high demand of positions, the Harrow International School Beijing is expanding their new strongholds in these years. A new low-grade department has opened in ShunYi Beijing to satisfy the increasing students. And announced by its School President QiDe Li, another branch in ChengDu will open in the next year, “ChengDu is a growing economic city, many wealth parents there are happy to spend their money for their only child, we have done some research there, the demand for international school is high.”

Because of the growing economy, more and more foreigners are coming to China for business. But many local schools don’t open for expatriate children in China, parents have no choice but to send their children to the international school, after they finish the course in China, children will be sent back to their own countries for college entrance examination. “The growing number of expatriate children in China is another reason we established ChengDu branch school” QiDe Li said.

By the research, I noticed that traditional international school like Harrow International School Beijing, Beijing International School, Canada International School of Beijing, Yew Chung International School of Shanghai are ‘only’ open for the foreign children. But there has a definite appeal that Chinese parents are sending their children to traditional international school through different kinds of ways. “Conditions can be created” QiDe Li told me indistinctly.

As long as the children aren’t Chinese, you have the opportunity to attend the traditional international school, thus, many parents change their children’s nationality to achieve their aims. “Many small countries in Africa are easier to apply, last year, I successfully changed my child’s nationality to one of those countries so that my child can attend international school” Jingfang Qian said, who is a mother of a 15 years old boy.

Zhihang Xiao attends international school in Laos, “in Laos I was counted as the foreigner, which can enrol in the international school”. Sending children aboard is another way to attend international school.

The limit position of traditional international school can barely satisfy the parents like Jingfang Qian. Many businessmen have caught this chance to make a fortune. More and more private international schools are marketing Chinese students.

Maple Leaf International School is an educational system including from primary to high school levels, which headquarters in Dalian. In recent years, it already expanded its business to another 10 cities of China.

“There are plenty kinds of international schools, but for our kind, we are more suitable for students who are preparing abroad or who would like to try western education mode” Shenzhong Cai said, who is the president of Maple Leaf International School.

The school collaborates with the high school in Canada and offers with same curricula in Canada. The school’s graduation certificate can be approved by the Ministry of Canada Columbia Education. Their students can attend the Canadian Collage Entrance Examination (the exam will be held in China but with the examination paper from Canada) and be matriculated by one of the universities in Canada. Even though they don’t pass the exam, the school still offers the chance to attend to the Canadian universities’ foundation course or language course, and they can enroll to those universities directly after finishing these courses.

“Many parents choose us because of the pure English education environment, which would be the best preparation for going abroad, we can promise 100% chance of getting abroad” Shenzhong Cai said.




In spite of the expensive fees of international school, Chinese parents are inspired by the opportunity to send their children abroad. This is because of the high competition of Chinese College Entrains Examination-GaoKao.

For most Chinese students, doing well in this exam is their only hope of finding a place in Chinese university system and getting a decent job. In 2014, there were more than 9.3 million students registered the GaoKao, but only 6.98 million students were matriculated by universities in China. Moreover, only 10% of them were matriculated by the first-tier universities like Tsinghua University and Beijing University (Chinese university system classifies universities into the first; second and third tier). In China, graduated from first-tier universities is the guarantee for a decent job.

Chinese students are under huge amounts of pressure from their parents and teachers to do well in GaoKao. But for the students, whose grade has no hope to reach the first-tier universities, attending to international schools and then go abroad is another way out.

Jingfang Qian told me: “there is little hope for my son to get into one of the first-tier universities, so we would like to try for the universities overseas, so that when he is back to China, he might find a better job due to his experience abroad. More and more multinational organisations have their offices in China now, good English skills and experience abroad can help him a lot when finding jobs.”

Due to the economic boom in China, people are getting richer. And the ‘one child one family’ policy makes Chinese parents spare no effort to their only child’s education, even though the high educational fees of international school, they are still scrambling to send their children in.

“If money can buy a good future for my son, we will try, we’re not the only parents in China who spoil their only child.” Jingfang said.

Indeed, Jingfang Qian is not a single case in China. The dramatically increasing international school is the perfect proof of that. Oxford International School opened their branch in Changzhou, China last year, as well as the Singapore EtonHouse International Education Group had their first international school in Shanghai since 2006. Even traditional high schools in China are now opening the ‘international department’, including High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China, High School Affiliated to Tsinghua University, to name a few.

Based on the report released by the International School Connection (ISC), the growing speed of international school in China is leading in the world.

Attending international school is always exciting. But it’s not true that students in international school can learn better than students in other schools. “Many students start to attend international school when they are 13 years old, it’s very difficult for them to acclimatize themselves to the new, whole English environment. These students can hardly understand the lessons” Ziyun Zhang said, who is a teacher teaching Chinese in International School.

“I spend most of my time studying English, I admit that to some extends I ignore other subjects that may be equally important to English, but how can you learn with English if your English is bad?” Yang Zhang said, who is the son of Jingfang Qian. Moreover, many wealth children’s future have been designed by their parents, they are hiding their own interest to obey their parents.

There are thousands of ways to success, attending international school may be one of them but will never become the only one of them. When facing educational issues, Chinese parents are becoming too nervous. Indeed, the competition in China cannot be ignored, but what’s more cannot be ignored is the interests of children, finding their potential and explore them, your children can success in any school.

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