Beijingkids has previously blogged a brief history of International Education in Beijing. In 1970, there were only a few international schools established in Beijing, but that number has dramatically increased since then. In 2018, 372,000 children in China were enrolled in an international style of education, and 66 percent of these children were Chinese nationals attending international Chinese-owned private schools in the country. These figures come from a report on international education in China that includes data from this school year (2018-2019).
Richard Gaskell, the Schools Director at ISC Research, said that there were 629 international schools in China five years ago, and many of them only accepted the children of foreign nationals. Now there are 857 international schools in China, with 563 of them being Chinese-owned international private schools. In addition, the student enrollment rate has increased by 63.6 percent. There are currently 245,500 students enrolled in these Chinese-owned international private schools.
What caused the sudden increase in enrollment and schools?
Gaskell stated that the international private school market in China has grown substantially due to an increasing demand from Chinese parents for an international, bilingual approach to learning for their children. China’s two-child policy has also seen an effect in Early Years education, as wealthy parents are able to send more children to these schools compared to previous years. With recent amendments made to education regulations, Gaskell believes it provides more opportunities for foreign schools to engage with private ones.
Since 1999, Chinese universities also have expanded their enrollment. Jingdong Xiao, the founder of myfitcollege.com and the international education columnist for Financial Times China, said, after graduation, most of these students stayed in economically developed cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen to work and raise their families. Thus, their children are at the peak of K12 education at the moment. However, China’s strict Hukou registration system makes it difficult for their children to attend local public schools, which has led to the new choices that private international schools offer.
What it could mean for the future of China?
According to the report, most of the international schooling options are available in China’s Tier 1 cities. While Shanghai and Beijing dominate the market, there are still 55 international schools in Shenzhen, 47 in Guangzhou, and 25 in Chengdu.
Wei Wei, an education columnist from Tencent, said there are still some problems in the field. The quality of teaching in international schools is still uneven. For most international schools in China, finding foreign teachers with a high-quality education background is still a big challenge. Many contracts between international schools and foreign teachers are signed for only a year, which can lead to a fluctuating job market. Some foreign teachers come to China to teach with the mentality of “part-time job plus tourism”. Few foreign teachers tend to stay in a school for more than 3 years. Due to the frequent turnover of staff, the faculties of international schools can be unstable, putting teachers under great pressure.
However, Gaskell said that during the past five years, 31 independent school brands, both from UK and US, have established agreements with Chinese schools and investors in order to deliver teaching expertise and an international style of education. Such partnerships will continue to prosper in the future.