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Foreign parents face difficult school choices
( 2003-09-05 10:34) (Agencies)

As more foreign students come to Beijing, more Chinese schools are opening their arms to them. The president of Beijing Private Hui Jia School, Wang Jiajun went to South Korea in February to conduct interviews with students who intended to come to the school. Meanwhile, other teachers of Hua Jia went to Malaysia and Japan to recruit foreign students.

Hui Wen, a Beijing public high school, like Hui Jia, is also allowed to accept foreign students. They are the newcomers among schools oriented toward foreign students, like the international schools in Beijing or those with an international student section.

For foreigners wanting to educate their offspring, there are important questions to answer. How much should they pay? Which school should they choose? Yvonne Gluyas, a mother of two school-age children resident in the city, investigates.

The educational choices available to parents of foreign children in Beijing range from bilingual kindergartens for 1-year-olds to university education for the over-18s.

Lucky indeed are the parents who work for companies or embassies providing a salary-and-conditions package including education expenses of that employee's children. They can choose a suitable school from the glossy brochure published by the handful of international schools. Teachers employed by international schools, if hired from their home country, are also often given free tuition for up to two children at their school.

The next group of foreign parents includes those working for companies that, while they may not actually pay for the education of employees¡¯ children, their salaries are high enough to afford a choice of school. But there are a growing number of foreign parents in Beijing on lower wages, who do not have their children's educational expenses covered by their employer. They find their problem almost unsolvable.Some may have a Chinese spouse, but their children do not speak, read or write Chinese well enough to attend a local government school.


As well as annual school fees of up to US$17,000 per student, most schools charge a registration fee of US$50-$500, a large 'entry donation', 'capital levy' or 'building fund' payment is also often required. And don't forget parents might have two or three Bilingual kindergartens cater to 1-6 year-olds. For typical costing examples of international pre-school education, the Lido Kindergarten Beijing's annual fees range from 45,000 to 87,000 yuan (US$5,492-$10,617), depending on the age of the child. The Little Professor Bilingual Kindegarten charges up to 40,000 yuan (US$4,881) per year, which also includes food and bus transport.

The major English-language international schools in Beijing enroll students from 4-18 years old, and their annual tuition fee per student averages 136,000 yuan (US$16,597).

These schools all provide a wide range of sporting, cultural and social activities, plus classes taught in English by extremely well qualified and experienced professional native-English teachers.

There are also smaller schools in Beijing, including those based at some embassies; schools catering for students who don't have either English or Chinese as a first language ¡ª include the French, Swedish, Arabic, Korean and Japanese ¡ª and private 'home-schools'.The International Study Group, which conducts classes in English, charges 64,000 yuan (US$7,810) a year. The school at the Pakistan embassy also teaches English and costs 40,000 yuan (US$4,881) per year.

Cheaper alternatives

The alternatives are Fang Cao Di Primary School (FCD), Beijing World Youth Academy and No 55 Middle School,although teaching at these schools is done primarily in Chinese.

Fang Cao Di International Primary School is a Chinese government school. Its international section has more than 400 foreign students.

All lessons, except English, are in taught in Chinese. Students who cannot speak, read or write Chinese undertake special 'intensive language' asses in their first semester. Annual school fees average 14,000 yuan (US$1,708)a year. The 20,000 yuan (US$2,441) entry fee can be waived for foreign experts.

Beijing World Youth Academy (BWYA) is a middle high school run by the Beijing Education Commission. Most of the 300 students are Korean. The school has good facilities,including a dormitory for boarding students, and an indoor pool and tennis courts on campus. Annual tuition fees are around 32,000 yuan (US$3,905).

The 20,000 yuan (US$2,441) "donation" fee can be waived in some circumstances. Beijing No.55 Middle School has an international student section and all subjects are taught in Chinese. Its Middle Years Program, for students in grades 6-10, costs 28,000 yuan (US$3,417) a year. No. 55¡¯s local pre-university program is aimed at international students planning to enter Peking and Tsinghua univesities.

Some schools also have an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma program, taught in English, for senior students planning to attend international universities after graduation. The annual fee for this program is 50,000 yuan (US$6,102).

Tough decisions

Basically, if a parent can¡¯t afford the international school fees plus the compulsory extras, forget about the child receiving an education in English. Some new Chinese private schools may be persuaded to accept a child if he or she can speak Chinese. Also, if a foreign child is fluent in written and spoken Chinese and/or looks Asian, he or she may also be able to enroll at a local school. It's difficult but, depending on "connections", it can be done. The main criticism foreign parents make of schooling in Beijing is that their child is isolated from local children.This is reflected both in the student ability to learn the Chinese language and in the development of friendships between Chinese and foreign children.

Schools often have different "sections" for local and international students where they do not even play together on the playground.

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