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Expat Education in China Gets a Revamp

China has been a talking point in recent months due to an English state academy opening a fee-paying school in the country. Joint-venture schools are emerging due to local laws preventing the admission of local students. Furthermore, the International Baccalaureate announced its 1,000th approved programme in Beijing.

There are more foreigners moving to China for work than any other Asia Pacific region. Therefore, it is understandable that educational challenges for families moving to China are in the news.

Recent reports have suggested that there are significant challenges for relocating families. There is a huge scarcity of places in English-medium school, and costs can be high.

The Global Times recently reported that school fees were beyond the pay grades of many expat families. This included families on relocation packages. An expat worker at Microsoft told the paper that he actually left China to move back to Seattle for this reason. He discovered that sending his son to a Western school in Beijing “costs more than a college education – at least $30,000 every year.”

Beijing and Shanghai are home to the highest concentration of international schools in China. Traditionally, these are not accessible to Chinese locals.

Joint-venture schools are emerging as wealthy families seek a traditional Western education for their children. This new breed of school is a partnership between a Chinese owner and a foreign education company or school. They are restricted to secondary and higher education.

Usually, the foreign organisation provides the teaching and learning. The Chinese partner supplies the land and financial investment. Both expatriate and Chinese children can attend these schools.

One school due to open in September, Nord Anglia Chinese International School, wants to create a new dynamic. “Our vision is to create a genuinely ambitious, multilingual school community,” said executive principal Robert Graves. Sarah Graves, director of studies, told the Global Times, “We have combined the best learning objectives from international curriculums with the Shanghai National Curriculum.”

NACIS’s curriculum will mix Chinese values and core elements of the National Curriculum. Classes will be taught in Putonghua and English.

Sarah Graves, director of study at the new school, believes that the Chinese style of education is something that can be learnt from. She comments: “Perhaps Chinese students work a little bit harder after school and during lessons, and therefore perform better in exams. But I definitely think the Chinese mentality of being able to perform arithmetic without having to calculate, for example, is a strength. So I believe that we have a lot to learn from the Shanghai National Curriculum.”

Schooling in China for expatriate families has always been a concern. However, with the significant changes being implemented in the county to the education sector the situations for families that relocate is evolving positively.

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