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Southern China new hotspot for British schools

A total of 14 new British independent schools opened in China last year despite the pandemic, with more than 40 new openings scheduled for the next few years.

ChinaGuangzhou are its neighbouring cities are at the heart of plans to develop the Greater Bay Area, including its educational offerings. Photo: iStock

Of those [schools] that plan to open in the next two years, 47% are in Guangdong

According to a report from education consultancy Venture Education, the southern province of Guangdong has seen a surge in education investment as part of the government’s plans for developing the Greater Bay Area encompassing the cities around the Pearl River Delta as well as Hong Kong and Macau.

“China’s southern coastal provinces, especially Guangdong, are burgeoning regions for British independent school brands. Of those that plan to open in the next two years, 47% are in Guangdong and 51% of the companies that are partnered with British independent schools are headquartered in the Greater Bay Area,” the company noted.

“China’s southern coastal provinces… are burgeoning regions for British independent school brands”

“This flourishing region is now expanding into other southern provinces such as Sichuan, Fujian and the island of Hainan.”

However the company also noted that “British independent schools are in a complex position, on the one hand finding themselves under increasingly tight government regulations, but on the other experiencing unprecedented interest from Chinese companies looking for partnerships”.

Local regulations over the last few years have put greater emphasis on ensuring Chinese students aged between six and 15 cover the basic national curriculum, while there has also been a “growth in local elements becoming more deeply integrated into schools’ cultures and routines, such as morning flag raising”.

International schools in China only able to accept non-Chinese passport holders further said they had lost some students because of families relocating. However hesitancy to send children overseas for their education has also created new demand in cases where the children of Chinese parents hold foreign passports.

“Those families are very nervous about the children being 10,000 miles plus from home,” said Steve Allen, headmaster at Lady Eleanor Holles International School Foshan, which opened its doors to its first group of students in September last year.

“[They] have either not been able to send their children back to their normal school or have not wanted to because of the very difficult situations in both the UK and the US.

“As a result of that, the number of people wanting to send their children to the British schools in particular has gone up.”

While some smaller schools have struggled to switch to online, which resulted in parents refusing to pay fees, one of the biggest issues faced by schools remains staffing.

“All international schools have had staff stuck overseas. That has been tough,” said Allen.

“There are the usual teacher recruitment rounds happening at the moment. Good candidates in China are finding it easier to get new jobs. Schools are giving more weight to being in the country,” he added.

“There’s a gentle to move anyway to training nationals, particularly in the bilingual schools and in some international schools.”

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