In China, receiving a good education is considered very important, not just among expatriates but also among Chinese locals. While Chinese schools offer a high quality of education, many expats choose to send their children to one of the international schools in China. The most common reason for this decision is the language barrier, but many also worry about the effects which the high pressure of China’s education system might have on their children.
China has a wide range of international schools with an excellent reputation, mostly in the urban centers such as Shanghai and Beijing and other expat destinations in China. Expats can choose from different curricula such as British or American curricula, or in rare cases German, French, or other national education programs. On top of that, many international schools in China offer the International Baccalaureate (IB). This is a good choice for expats who move their children around a lot or who value an international atmosphere.
If you move to a smaller town, not all of these options might be available to you. But no matter which type of curriculum you finally decide on, you need to keep the financial aspects in mind. After all, international schools in China are rather expensive with tuition easily reaching up to (and beyond) 30,000 USD per year. Some expats are able to negotiate their children’s schooling provisions as part of their expat packages, but not everyone is so lucky.
Even though the tuition of international schools in China is so high and makes up a big part of your cost of living, both international and Chinese students are flocking to these schools. The foreign-style education international schools offer is a way for Chinese children to gain some international experience, good instruction in the English language, and access to better possibilities for an international career in the future. Moreover, the curricula of these schools are not exclusively geared towards the national college entrance exam, as is the case with Chinese institutions.
This is one reason, aside from the increasing number of expats, why the number of international schools in mainland China is on the rise, from 22 to 338 in the past twelve years. A little less than half of them are not located in Beijing or Shanghai but cities like Changzhou. They are Chinese-owned (allowing them to admit both international and Chinese students) and cater to China’s middle class.
Because of the high demand, more and more international schools are opening their doors to Chinese students. Other local schools are beginning to adopt a second language of instruction and offer an international curriculum next to the Chinese one.
It is not surprising that spots fill up quickly, and many schools have long waiting lists. Try to apply for a spot as early as possible and provide your child’s transcripts, health records, and, if necessary, recommendations. Keep in mind that an entrance exam and a personal interview might be part of the admission process.
As we have mentioned above, there are various international schools in China, more than we could possibly list here. This is why the following list is by no means exhaustive. If you do not find an international school close to your destination on this list, we encourage you to nevertheless do your own research.