February 8, 2023

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China’s international school sector threatened by Covid and crackdown

2 min read

Parents who planned to send their children to the New Oriental bilingual primary and junior high school in Beijing next academic year are having to look elsewhere.

Private education company New Oriental announced in March that it would shut the school, one of hundreds of its kind set up across China since the 1990s to offer mainly Chinese pupils a foreign-style education. New rules barred the company from financially supporting such schools, New Oriental said.

The closure is a symptom of broader woes in China’s private international education sector, which has been hit hard by a regulatory crackdown and by tough anti-coronavirus policies that have prompted an exodus of foreign teachers.

According to Beijing-based research and consultancy firm NewSchool Insight, China in 2020 had over 535 “privately run international schools” teaching over 450,000 pupils. Most of them are bilingual schools and many are affected by rules announced last year that restrict the involvement of for-profit companies and require use of the state curriculum up to at least pupils’ ninth year of education.

China also has 113 international schools that are only allowed to teach foreign nationals and that have around 99,000 pupils, according to NewSchool Insight. Such schools have not been affected by the regulatory crackdown, but are suffering badly from the shortage of foreign teachers.

“The situation is dire everywhere,” said a headteacher at an international school in a northern Chinese city that teaches only foreign children.

“Teachers have been bleeding out of China,” the headteacher said, adding that his school had struggled to hire replacements from abroad due to strict border control measures imposed by China to stop Covid-19.

The British Chamber of Commerce in China has estimated that up to 60 per cent of foreign teachers will leave their positions this year.

Ker Gibbs, a former head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, said falling enrolment of students…

2022-06-04 20:30:36

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