Finding the right school is often the top priority for families living in or relocating to Beijing. But education in the capital comes at a cost.
Many larger companies offer full school funding for employees’ children as part of their relocation packages, meaning that money is no barrier to the top international schools. But not all are so fortunate. Some may choose to simply pay the fees out-of-pocket, while others look to local schools, homeschooling, and different sources of financial assistance to mitigate the cost of education. We spoke with four families about their solutions to the school funding conundrum.
Local School and Expat Package: The Nair-Harikishan Family
Yearly Spend (in RMB) for Peiji Bilingual
Tuition- RMB 54, 000
Lunch- RMB 4, 800
Bus- RMB 7, 200
Application fee- RMB 1, 600
Insurance fee- RMB 50
Late pickup (for working parents)- RMB 4, 800
Total: RMB 72,450
Yearly Spend (in RMB) for BSB Sanlitun)
Total: RMB 8,200 (Full school fees and trips covered by expat package. Application fee and security deposit paid in previous years)
Rohini Nair and her husband Harikishan Narayanan both hail from India and moved to Beijing three years ago. While the family’s expat package covers the cost of 7-year-old Manu’s education at the British School of Beijing (BSB) in Sanlitun, 2-year-old Aryan is still too young to qualify, so he currently attends a local Chinese kindergarten, Peiji Billingual.
Why did you choose to send your youngest son to a local kindergarten?
[My husband’s company] will only cover the child’s education from the age of 5 but I wasn’t happy with my son spending so much of his time just with the ayi. He didn’t have that many friends in our compound to play with, so now he gets the chance to interact with other children – that’s my only expectation of the school.
How has your experience of the kindergarten been?
I’ve been impressed by the food, which is cooked at the school and catered for the children. It doesn’t have any stuff like fries and burgers and it’s very healthy. Secondly, they have CCTV set up, so any time I walk into the waiting area I can see what he’s up to. They also have a password they give to parents so you can log in and see what’s happening in class. I can see he’s picked up a lot and I’m quite happy with the school.
Were you surprised by the fees for local kindergarten in Beijing?
We moved from Zurich, where we paid quite a lot for kindergarten. But compared with a country like India, [Beijing is] way higher. [Our son is] making progress in Chinese and English and for a bilingual school with good standards, I don’t think [the fees]are too high.
Your eldest son goes to BSB Sanlitun on your husband’s expat package. How have you found the school?
It’s a small school and I thought a smaller campus would be better for a younger child rather than being intimidated by a big one out in Shunyi. It’s very close to where we live and we weren’t interested in moving further out. I’m happy with BSB – it’s a very good school and if we’re still here when my [youngest son]is 4 then he will also go to the same school.
Would you be been able to afford to send both kids to international school were it not for the financial assistance?
No, we wouldn’t be able to pay for both children. It is also a question of whether we want to. If we were going to pay for a bachelor’s degree, say for four years, then that’s the same amount I would spend on education at an international school. It could cover the cost of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree at one of the most reputable universities in the world. I don’t think a good education is necessarily [based on]how much you pay for it.
Find the downloadable 2014-2015 School Choice Guide here.
Photo by Mitchell Pe Masilun