When a family moves to Beijing for employment reasons, one of the most important questions that must be sorted out is where the kids will attend school. These days, Beijing is flush with options, particularly when it comes to top-notch international schools. However, the international educational scene comes with a high price tag, especially compared to local schools. In an effort to get a grasp of what it actually costs to attend Beijing’s international schools, beijingkids sat down with four families and compared costs to understand what the schools are delivering in terms of educational experience and quality.
Naturally, tuition accounted for the lion’s share of each family’s education costs, but additional expenses for transportation, lunch programs and more accounted for as much as 17.5 percent of education-related costs. Depending on a family’s situation, such additional costs could break the bank. Fortunately for our four families, these costs were manageable and were worth the value of their children’s education.
The Rutstein Family
The Rutstein Family moved to Beijing three years ago for Dale’s work with UNICEF. Since the family relocates frequently (Dale and Helen have lived in eight countries in the past 24 years) and because of their preference for an international educational environment,Sophie enrolled with an international school in the Shunyi area. One child might not be much of a financial burden for the family, especially with Dale’s employer covering 75 percent of Sophie’s tuition fees, but with two more children in private universities in the US, Helen started working full-time to help cover the expense of multiple tuitions. Though the family has made sacrifices to ensure all the children get the best education possible, Helen described the value of Sophie’s school as priceless since it is helping ensure that Sophie gets an idea of what it means to be a world citizen. Dale explained that the cost of Sophie’s education is a fraction of what the universities are charging her siblings. Although the cost of Sophie’s education would be a bit less expensive in the US or the UK, she would still attend the same caliber of school if the family relocated to Chicago or London, even without the educational stipend.
Tuition (one year): RMB 204,000, includes a five-day China studies trip
Application Fee: RMB 1,600, Non-refundable
Transportation: Sophie walks to school
Meal Program: RMB 5,400, RMB 30 a day for lunch
Uniform: Extracurricular Activities: RMB 7,000-10,000, per interscholastic event. Sophie participates in two to four events a year
Miscellaneous: RMB 1,400, fundraising events
Total: from RMB 219,400
The Low-Hosoda Family
Setsuko Hosoda and Rob Low moved their family to Beijing a year ago when Setsuko took up a position at Beijing United Family Hospital. Since then, Rob has started working with a Beijing-based software company. They opted to enroll their 8-year-old son Tenzin in a Shunyi international elementary school that focuses on a bilingual Chinese and English curriculum. It gives him the option to attend either a local or an international middle school when he completes his elementary studies. Starting with zero knowledge of the Chinese language, Tenzin received a significant amount of one-on-one assistance in the first year to ramp up his level. The family is very pleased with the caliber of teachers at his school. In spite of the added costs of two private schools on the family income (the tuition fees are paid straight out of pocket), they feel the situation is manageable since their other expenses in Beijing are reasonable.
Tuition: RMB 65,360,for one year
Application Fee: RMB 2,000, non-refundable
Deposit: RMB 16,340, included a discount for the school year
Transportation: RMB 8,500, bus for one year
Meal Program: Tenzin takes his own lunch to school
Uniform: RMB 430, includes winter and summer wear
Miscellaneous: RMB 3,000 ,laptop
Total: RMB 95,630
The Woodruff-Cairns Family
In August 2007, Lisa Cairns and Woody Woodruff decided to relocate to Beijng from Atlanta, Georgia in the US. Lisa works full-time for the World Health Organization while Woody has commandeered a room in the family’s home to carry out consulting work. Their 7-year-old son Anders attends an international elementary school in the Chaoyang Park area. As far as Lisa and Woody are concerned, the value of the educationAnders is receiving is outstanding and they have recommended his school highly to those who ask about it. They particularly like that it is a bilingual learning environment with plenty of individual attention devoted to each student. Compared to what it would be in Atlanta, the cost of Anders’ education is definitively more expensive in Beijing. However, they noted that there are far fewer options for an international learning environment back home. As they hope to keep Anders in a comparable educational environment, the family will consider both private and public schools when they return to Atlanta this summer. Even though Lisa’s employer covers the cost of her son’s education, they did have to pay one year of tuition on their own; if it had been necessary, they would have continued to do so because they believe in the quality of the education Anders is receiving.
Tuition: RMB 157,000, for one year
Application Fee: RMB 1,660, non-refundable
Deposit: RMB 11,000, applied to tuition
Transportation: RMB 9,300, bus for one year
Meal Program: Anders takes his own lunch to school
Uniform: One set is included with tuition
Extracurricular Activities: RMB 1,000, for a wushu course
Total: RMB 168,960
The Chan Family
Vivien and the children joined Leo in Beijing in July of last year. They found an international kindergarten for 4-year-old Jocelyn near their Chaoyang Park apartment outside Fourth Ring Road. Vivien thinks the tuition cost at Jocelyn’s school is reasonable, but has noticed that the work experience of the teachers varies. Back in Hong Kong, the family would pay a similar amount of money for a kindergarten, but it would be a local school that would not follow the Montessori teaching method. Leo and Vivien find the expense of their children’s schooling manageable for now. But with two tuitions to cover, they are keenly aware that as their children advance to elementary, middle, and high schools, the cost of their education will rise. In the future, cost will most likely be a determining factor as to whether or not they stay with international schools or consider local options instead.
Tuition: RMB 55,000, for one year
Application Fee: RMB 2,000, non-refundable, applied to tuition
Transportation: Jocelyn walks or rides a bike to school
Meal Program: Included in tuition cost
Uniform: One set is included with tuition
Total: RMB 55,000