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Overseas education demand unstirred amid China slowdown

The recent slowdown in China’s economy may have dented commodity markets across the globe, but stakeholders in the international education sector say demand for an overseas education goes untouched.

Demand for international degrees remains strong despite currency devaluation and growth slowdown. Photo: The PIE News.

"China demographically is in a bit of a difficult situation as a result of damage done by the one child policy"

The government in China has recently downgraded its growth predictions from 7.3% to 7.2%, its lowest in 25 years, and devalued the renminbi to the lowest value its seen in 20 years.

However, agents and educators say parents have enough secured savings to continue pursuing international education both at home and abroad.

“Parents with intentions to send their children to study abroad often secure their overseas expenses in advance,” commented Jon Santangelo, spokesperson for China’s largest agency association, the China Overseas Study Service Alliance.

“Parents with intentions to send their children to study abroad often secure their overseas expenses in advance”

A COSSA member meanwhile commented that Chinese families take lower investment risks with their savings.

“Though the recent plunges in Chinese stock market might have caused shrinkage in lots of family savings, Chinese households are generally conservative and tend to invest only a small part of their savings in the stock market.”

In 2012, China accounted for almost 20% of total mobile students worldwide sending 712,000 tertiary students overseas.

Xuewen E, vice-chairman of China Overseas Study Association, doesn’t expect the economic shrinkage to affect demand but could encourage parents to test-drive overseas education first.

“If there is to be any change, many parents would like to first send their kids to short programmes in order to give them a feel about foreign education, or to study at local international schools before going overseas study to get them better prepared both academically and mentally,” he told The PIE News.

Indeed, demand for English-medium international schools remains insatiable, according to Richard Gaskell, director for International Schools, ISC Research (part of The International School Consultancy).

“An international school sector is developing rapidly within China’s private school market, with the dual curriculum school model currently the most popular,” he said.

Wealthier local families are sending their children to these new schools to give them a pathway into American, UK or Australian higher education, he added.

“Even with the economic downturn, this demand is sufficient to create opportunities for school operators to move into, or expand within China.”

“If there is to be any change, many parents would like to first send their kids to short programs in order to give them a feel about foreign education”

For Susan Fang, founder of UK-based agency Academic Powerhouse, the economic slump is to be expected. “China has been growing at a tremendous speed in the last decade and I think ultimately it will slowdown, that’s just the cycle of economics. China can’t push on forever,” she commented.

However, she doesn’t expect the recent stock market falls to have any affect on short-term demand but the decrease in exports could impact mobility from certain regions.

“Near Shanghai and Dongguan, where there are lots of small and medium family businesses and their core business is all manufacturing and exporting, if something were to happen I think those are the families that would be hit first,” she said.

Meanwhile Lakshmi Iyer, director and head of education at market entry specialist Sannam S4, said the economic downturn will be the least of China’s concerns over the next five years.

“China demographically is in a bit of a difficult situation as a result of damage done by the one child policy,” she told The PIE News.

“It was estimated that India will overtake China by 2028, but now it will overtake it in terms of population by 2022. And that is China’s biggest problem, not the devaluation of the renminbi. That’s just a blip.”

“The internal demand for education and pipeline is already there. Over the next three to five years that pipeline will keep them going, but after that what happens is anyone’s guess.”

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