The regulations mean some schools may have to restructure and stakeholders have voiced concerns that students will not have time to prepare for international examinations alongside getting ready for national exams.
The new policy will prohibit private for-profit international schools teaching solely under an international curriculum from Grades 1-9 – compulsory education in China.
“My experience suggests that our Chinese graduates will be as well-prepared as before”
From Grade 10 onwards, private not-for-profit schools in China will need to meet certain requirements under the Chinese curriculum, which will be delivered alongside the schools’ international curricula.
Curriculum requirements include teaching Chinese history and geography, the Chinese language and Chinese politics. Schools will need to abide by these requirements by September of next year.
Private international schools which enrol only foreign students are not affected by the new regulations.
However, Chinese students studying the national curriculum at private for-profit international schools will also have to sit the Zhong Kao (national examination) through Grade 9.
These regulations have been met with criticism from stakeholders, particularly as the focus placed on the Chinese curriculum will allow for less time to concentrate on international school subjects.
The International School Consultancy has said the regulations will “restrict the chance for children to study for such international qualifications such as the IGCSE which follows a two-year course of study at Grades 9 and 10”.
Richard Gaskell, director for international schools at ISC Research, added: “The challenge for these schools will be to meet the requirements of the Chinese curriculum and also prepare students in the best possible way for higher education opportunities abroad.”
According to Nicholas Dwyer, CEO of Haileybury International School Tianjin, close to Beijing, the regulations are unlikely to result in the closure of any schools, but the challenge will be restructuring by the government’s September 2017 deadline.
Many international schools have already taken steps to ensure their curriculum is in line with the new regulations.
“We do not believe that there will be significant differences in the curriculum we offer, as we already offer the Chinese curriculum from Grade 1 to Grade 12,” said Dwyer.
“Our international programme runs very comfortably alongside it. My experience suggests that our Chinese graduates will be as well-prepared as before.”
Meanwhile, Paul Wood, executive principal of YK Pao School, in Shanghai said, “with skilful planning and scheduling, international curricula can sit around the outside of a mandatory core academic programme – which is exactly what we’ve been doing and continue to refine.”
And for many schools, the regulations will provoke little disruption. Keystone Academy in Beijing, for example, delivers the International Primary Curriculum in combination with the Chinese National Curriculum.
“The reason we selected the IPC is that there’s flexibility with it, which meant that we could adapt it for our requirements as a Chinese school with a bilingual immersion programme,” said Gary Bradshaw, the school’s assistant head of primary.
“The challenge for these schools will be to meet the requirements of the Chinese curriculum”
For providers who are looking to enter the Chinese market, Mark Abell, partner and head of international education at British law firm Bird & Bird, said the new policy means schools will need to do a number of things, including making sure they have properly structured arrangements with local partners, and ensuring due diligence is carried out.
“Whilst this may involve a little more work and possibly slightly slow things down, it does not present any kind of barrier to schools entering China and teaching grades 1 to 9,” he said.
Despite Gaskell’s concern with the new regulations, he observed that demand for an international school education remains high in China.
“These new enforcements are unlikely to stop any Chinese families, who wish for their child to study in a Western university, seeking out internationally-oriented non-public school options in China,” he said.
And Dwyer believes the law is designed to make the school system better serve the needs of Chinese society.
“Generally, the needs of society are interpreted by the Party and met through the government, so tighter government control is being implemented and the system generally made more equitable,” he noted, adding that “the government also recognises that society’s needs are also served by allowing some diversity.”