British independent schools bloom in China

A huge growth in the market has seen UK partnerships spring up across the country

New figures released by ISC Research reveal a surge in international private schooling in China, with 48 new international schools set to open in the next few years.

At least 30 British international schools have established partnerships or service agreements with a Chinese investor, including Reigate Grammar School, Durham School, Fettes College and Westminster School.

Between them, the 30 British-style independent schools in China now educate around 16,000 students.

Enrolment in Chinese-owned private schools has gained pace since 2013/14, with a 63.6 per cent increase across the sector. Under Chinese law, these schools are not permitted foreign ownership but 31 have partnerships or service agreements with foreign institutions.

These links help offer independent Chinese schools significant educational support, brand integrity, business relationships and an international outlook. Some even bear the name of their partner school in the UK, like Wycombe Abbey International in Hangzhou.

Many more, like Wellington College’s newly-opened Huili School in Shanghai share a successful service agreement.

Director of international schools at Malvern College, Allan Walker, expects enrolment at its two mainland Chinese schools in Qingdao and Chengdu to double over the next five years.

Walker said: “In collaboration with our existing East Asia partners we are opening a second campus in Chengdu and a second pre-school in Hong Kong this September, and we have plans for further campuses over the next few years.”

Walker said: “Parents appreciate in particular the opportunities we provide their children to access higher education overseas. They also appreciate the opportunities we provide, through our holistic approach to education, to develop soft skills and personal qualities such as independence, curiosity, self-awareness and open-mindedness.”

Although China prescribes a national curriculum that all schools must follow, independent schools have greater freedom to introduce additional aspects to the curriculum. Huili School, for example, offers half its classes in English and creative lessons that draw on aspects of the British curriculum.

Powered by rising household prosperity and the two-child policy, more families than ever want to take advantage of this internationally-recognised education. Changes to national laws have also helped breathe new opportunities into the sector.

Read sample pages of the ISC Research 2018-19 China Report online.