International schools are gaining some serious attention in China. By 2022, international schools will teach 6.2 million of the world’s children and bring in an annual income of more than $60 billion, claims Nicholas Brummitt, Chairman of the International School Consultancy Group.
Asia is both the largest and the fastest-growing market for international education; it is home to more than half the world’s international schools. Fifteen years ago, there were just a dozen of these in China; this number now stands at 530.
While the traditional international school can only accept those with foreign passports in China, a new breed of international schools are arriving with an English-medium which caters to primarily Chinese students. The curriculum is typically co-educational with a hybrid of Chinese and English curriculums, giving students an international education which is well-rounded.
According to the BBC, international schools appeal to the Chinese for a host of reasons. They see it as a networking opportunity as their children can meet and befriend the offspring of what they see as international elite and create contacts for the future. An international school teaches its pupils impeccable English, and gives them a Western-style (or Western-Chinese hybrid) education. Parents see this as a way of securing their child a place at a top British or American university. An international school also provides an alternative to the gaokao (Chinese university qualifying exam)- viewed by many as both outdated and overly competitive.
William Vanbergen, chief Executive of BE Education, an education consultancy, accounts the sudden rise to China’s growing upper and middle class. There are an estimated 2.5 million millionaires in China, and an ever-increasing number of these want an international education for their children. Mr Vanbergen claims that the Chinese are attracted by international schools’ ‘big brand names,’ as well as the alternative education they provide: focusing more on sport, art and extra-curricular activities- areas largely ignored by the local education system.
In China, the demand for an English-medium education remains high, but represents only a fraction of the system as a whole: just 326,000 students out of 200 million school-age children. But as Mr Brummitt says, “the potential for growth…looks enormous.”