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.
Self-Funded: The Foster Family
Tuition- RMB 136, 680
Lunch- RMB 6,000
Yearly deposit- RMB 5, 000
School trips- RMB 200
Texbooks- RMB 60
Total: RMB 147,940 (Placement fee paid in first year)
Jody and Scott Foster from Australia have lived in Beijing for two and a half years with their daughters, 4-year-old Macy and 8-month-old Keira. Jody volunteers at the International Newcomers’ Network and the Australian and New Zealand Association (ANZA) of Beijing, while Scott works for a mining and engineering company. Although Scott’s expat package provides education for school-age children, it does not cover kindergarten. Until then, the family is independently funding their eldest daughter’s education at House of Knowledge International Kindergarten.
What has led you to self-funding Macy’s education?
When we first moved to Beijing we were looking for something similar to what we had in Australia – one or two days a week [at kindergarten]– but there weren’t that many schools offering this kind of schedule. Our other option was to get an ayi and not send her to school until she was older, but all of the additional costs, like art classes, were very expensive. After her first school year, she moved up a class she could only do full time. We asked [Scott’s] company for assistance but they only offered a small amount so we could either pull her out of the school or fork out. We decided to keep going because she really enjoyed it there.
Did you consider sending her to local school?
No. Initially we were only planning to be here for 12 months, so at the time cultural immersion in Chinese was not a priority.
Were you surprised by how expensive international education is in Beijing?
Yes it’s ridiculous – mind-blowing. I was posting on Facebook telling everyone how expensive [education is]here. The amount that you would normally spend on a high school education in Australia is what you need for a 2-year-old here. But it’s an excellent school; we’ve been fortunate enough to always have good teachers and the curriculum is well-established.
Have you had to make sacrifices to be able to pay for fees?
Thanks to our package we do not have to pay for other things like rent. In that sense it hasn’t impacted on our lifestyle – what comes out of one hand now comes in by another. We also have rent coming in from our place back home, but we have lost a substantial amount of our savings that we would have put towards renovating our home in Australia. So inadvertently we have made a sacrifice.
What are you plans for Keira’s education when she’s older?
We’re actually relocating to Nanjing. But hypothetically, we wouldn’t do the same for our youngest daughter because we have an ayi now. The culture in Beijing is to send kids [to school]full-time from a very young age, which is very different from Australia. There are far fewer [schooling]options in Nanjing and it’s even more expensive there.”
Find the downloadable 2014-2015 School Choice Guide here.
Photo by Mitchell Pe Masilun