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An expat’s guide to choosing the right school in China

One of the most important decisions expat parents have to make is what school to send their children to. Some key considerations that parents have to deal with when finding a school abroad include language barriers and cultural differences. Fortunately, there are many options for education in China, allowing expats to choose from international, public, or private schools. This Pacific Prime China article is an expat’s guide to choosing the right school in China.

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Options for education in China

China is recognized for its strict public schooling system that uses exams to evaluate performance. With an educational philosophy that focuses on discipline and results, it’s evident that China takes schooling very seriously. Therefore, it’s no surprise that there are several options for education in China, including international schools, public schools, and private schools.

International schools

Most expats living in China choose international schools for their children. These institutions are available throughout the country and make the transition from their previous school easier on the children. Popular cities for expats, such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, are home to the largest groups of international schools. However, even medium-sized cities in China have a few international schools closeby.

Most international schools in China follow the International Baccalaureate (IB system), which is an ideal choice for expats who move frequently or are looking for an international environment. Schools that don’t use the IB, British, or American system use the curriculum from their representative countries, such as France or Germany. Nevertheless, standard coursework typically features local culture and it’s common for schools to teach Cantonese or Mandarin. However, classes are typically conducted in English or the language of the country the school represents.

There are different types of international schools in China that serve all types of students. Expat parents should note that admission to international schools can be competitive and the most popular institutions usually have long waiting lists. The admission procedures typically involve interviews, placements tests, and application fees. Additionally, parents will have to provide transcripts, health records, and even recommendations if necessary. It’s advisable for parents to begin the admission process as early as possible.

While international schools in China have their differences, one thing they do have in common are the high tuition costs. In fact, some international schools in China cost as much as international university tuition. Expats moving to China for work should check whether their relocation package has an education allowance – and negotiate for one if it doesn’t.

Public schools

Expat parents sometimes decide to send their children to public institutions in China, especially if their children are in pre-school. Nowadays, western families are gradually starting to embrace the idea of living in China and want their children to absorb as much as possible.

As with public schools across the globe, some institutions are simply better than others. Generally speaking, the top state schools have a higher standard of education. Public schools in China also tend to be more strict and competitive than public schools back home.

However, the biggest drawback when it comes to public schools in China is the lack of second language programs. That means that all lessons are conducted in Chinese, and all coursework is in Chinese as well, though some exceptions can be made for foreign students. What’s more, Chinese teaching styles center around rote learning as opposed to critical thinking.

Private schools

Private schools in China can vary from institutions that are similar to public schools, but with better funding, to ones that incorporate an international curriculum. Likewise, some may offer instruction in English along with Chinese. These institutions tend to have modern facilities, better infrastructure, and more extracurricular activities to choose from than public schools. Waldorf, Montessori, and other alternative learning schools are also included in this category.

Even though tuition is more expensive than state schools, you’ll still pay less than at an international school. Private schools in China usually attract students that come from diverse yet affluent backgrounds.

Choosing the best school for your children

Now that you understand the differences between the types of schools in China, you probably have an idea of which one you would like to send your child to. Factors such as budget and location will affect your decision, so be sure to discuss your options with your employer if you’re moving for work. It’s also recommended to go over your relocation package to determine your education allowance and make any negotiations if necessary.

Aside from ensuring that your children get the education they deserve, you’ll also want to make sure that their healthcare needs are being met. Securing family health insurance or health insurance for expats gives you the peace mind that comes with knowing you and your loved ones are protected. Pacific Prime can help compare health insurance in China so you don’t have to waste time and energy looking for the ideal plan for your needs and budget.

Contact us for impartial advice or for a free quote today.

Disclaimer: Pacific Prime China solely represents, operates and manages locally regulated insurance products and services in the territory of PR China. Any references to Pacific Prime Global Company or Group, the international services, insurance products or otherwise stated written or verbally, is for introduction purposes about our overseas network only as each entity is fully independent.

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime China
​​Jantra Jacobs is a content writer at Pacific Prime. On a typical workday, she writes and edits articles, guides, and anything else word-related. She loves creating content that is both easy to understand and enjoyable to read.

In her free time, she’s likely to be writing poetry and prose, geeking out on her latest interests, reading, or practicing yoga.