China - International Education

Tuesday 17 April 2018

Exponential growth in international education in China

China has the largest education system in the world. The one-child policy (up until 2015) has meant that the strong education ethic evidenced throughout many parts of Asia is exaggerated in China where the aspirations and attentions of both parents and four grandparents are often focused on one child. Today China has the greatest number of international schools and given the insatiable demand by ambitious Chinese students and parents this growth is estimated to exponentially increase in the coming years. A key driver for growth in international education in China is the aspiration of Chinese parents and students to obtain international qualifications to study at university abroad.

Leading an international school in China (RSAcademics, 2018) presents research into the features of international schools in China and the range and challenges of leadership roles. It is a succinct overview of the educational market in China that throws light on the factors that influence success or otherwise of leaders.  It does not pretend to be comprehensive – the research having a small data base and being limited to Beijing and Shanghai and their surrounding cities. However, it highlights the positives and challenges of working in China.

Positives include:

  • High levels of investment in education.
  • Working in a dynamic fast-changing environment where you can be part of significant infrastructure developments and societal and political change.
  • Commitment to education and a high work ethic from both students and staff.
  • Being part of their nation building where they are becoming the largest economy in the world, and investing in talent.
  • Pedagogical possibilities where you can create new and distinctive opportunities for students.

Challenges include:

  • Having a good working relationship with the local, provincial and national government in order to comply with regulations. Guanxi refers to the system of social networks and influential relationships that facilitate business and other dealings in China. There is a need to be politically astute and organizationally savvy.
  • Bilingual curriculums: making sure that Chinese students can cover their compulsory national curriculum in Years 1-9 in addition to any international curriculum and the learning of English.
  • The importance of leaders having Chinese cross-cultural competence, demonstrating a real interest and enthusiasm for learning about China and building consensus with Chinese partners.
  • Dual leadership structures - many international schools have a designated Chinese leader in addition to the expat leader.
  • Governance and ownership: their motivations, expectations and involvement.

Tags: China, Opening new schools


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