Growth in international schools in China opens up education choices for expats

With the announcement that Buckinghamshire boarding school Wycombe Abbey is setting up an international school in China, the range of choices for expats moving to China with children continues to grow. So, what is fuelling the incredible appetite for English-medium education here?
Following the likes of top UK boarding schools Dulwich College, Harrow, Malvern and Wellington, Wycombe Abbey International is due to open its doors in September this year, reports the BBC. Unlike its UK counterpart though, the international version will be co-educational and teach a hybrid of Chinese and English curriculums within the English boarding school environment.
While it may not be the obvious location to settle down abroad, China is fast becoming a top international destination for expats. As we reported in a previous article, China is ranked among the best for economic desirability and is a country to which 53% of expats have moved to take advantage of superior job prospects and improved pay packages. The growth of the Chinese economy in recent years has been the main reason for this expat influx and this has in turn led to increased demand for international schools in China. Now, according to the International School Consultancy, China has 481 international schools.
Though there are still fewer than one million foreigners living in China, this number is likely to go up as China’s status as an Emerging and Growth Leading Economy (EAGLE) continues, and businesses import expats to fill important job roles.
However, it isn’t just expats who are driving the growth in Chinese international schools. Many local Chinese families are keen for their children to receive an English-medium education. One of the key reasons for this is that an international education is considered to boost students’ chances of getting a place at one of the top UK or US universities. Competition for these places is intense but the International Scholarly Exchange Program (ISEP) establishes a platform for these top universities to communicate with international institutions such as Wycombe Abbey International. Parents are also keen for their children to mix with the international elite at these schools, helping to build contacts for a future career.
So, whereas international schools used to be an enclave made up exclusively of expatriate families working for international organisations, they’re now made up of both local and international students. In an increasingly globalised world, local families are keen for their children to become familiar with English to enhance their future employability but these benefits also go both ways. Expat children, through mixing with local families, get a feel for the local culture while still enjoying the highest quality English-medium education.
With strong demand for English-medium education from this growing expat community as well as from locals, we’re likely to see more and more choices for expats looking to give their children a world-class education.
Information correct at time of publication.