Demand for private school education in China continues to grow, even amid a new regulatory landscape that has altered the rules governing those programs.
Over the past five years, the number of international private schools in China—those offering an international curriculum and some instruction in English—has risen from 629 to 857, according to a new report from ISC Research, a British organization that studies the market.
And ISC says it’s aware of at least 48 new international schools scheduled to open in China over the next few years. Many of those schools, the organization says, will be partnering with foreign school brands.
Five years ago, many of the international private schools served a relatively limited number of Chinese national students, ISC says.
Today, the enrollment has shifted noticeably. Sixty-six percent of the 372,000 students enrolled in an international-style of education—schools offering aspects of an international curriculum and some English instruction—are Chinese nationals attending international, Chinese-owned private schools in the country, according to ISC’s report.
ISC says there are two types of schools in China today that are delivering an international-style education:
- International, Chinese-owned private schools. These schools are designed for Chinese citizens, and cannot have foreign ownership, though they can have business relationships with foreign schools.
- Schools for children of foreign nationals, which the vast majority of Chinese national children are unable to attend. (Exceptions are if the child has a parent who is a foreign national, or who has lived outside China for an extended period of time.)
ISC has recently become “far more defined” in measuring enrollment figures in international Chinese private schools, it told EdWeek Market Brief. It’s done so partly to reflect changes in the Chinese government’s regulations on private schools, and partly to focus on the number of students who are truly studying in an internationally focused approach to instruction, as opposed to other models, the organization says.
Originally, ISC counted some schools in China as international private schools if they merely included “international streams” within their instruction. But changes in Chinese government regulations have made those types of schools less common. ISC’s current data reflects only those children in China who are actually studying an international style of education, the organization explained to EdWeek Market Brief.
China also no longer permits “sino-foreign schools,” which used to allow foreign schools to partner with local investors in China.
There are now 245,000 students enrolled in international Chinese private schools—which ISC describes as schools designed for Chinese citizens. That’s a 63.6 percent increase over the last five years. Of the 857 international schools in China, 563 are international “Chinese-owned private schools,” according to ISC. Those schools offer Chinese national curriculum during the years of compulsory education but can offer elements of an international curriculum, and some instruction in English.
Those Chinese-owned private schools can also form a business relationship with a foreign school to support their international concentration, says ISC.
International private schools are generally found in Chinese largest cities—known as Tier I cities, says ISC. Beijing and Shanghai have the largest number, but there are now 55 such schools in Shenzhen, 47 in Guangzhou.
ISC collects information on international private school that deliver instruction primarily in English in many countries around the world. For China, it says it gathered information from schools, government entities, and associations in China, among other sources.