British private schools face restrictions on contact with China in Beijing’s education crackdown

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British private schools are facing new pressures to expand ties with China as the authorities tighten restrictions on foreign influence in the education system and seek to reduce the number of children receiving private education by more than half.

The restrictions on foreign teachers’ visas have also slowed down the establishment and expansion of private schools for Chinese citizens. Dozens of private schools are connected to well-known British institutions-including Harrow, Wellington, Dulwich College and Chathouse.

As more and more students seek to apply to foreign universities, these changes are part of the government’s attempt to balance educational opportunities after the rapid growth of private schools, including those that offer international examinations and English teaching. The reforms follow the recent severe restrictions on private tutoring services.

The central government stopped approving new private schools to open compulsory education in May, that is, the first 9 years of the 12-year education. Last month, at least four provinces stated that the goal is to increase the proportion of children attending such schools from more than 10% to the end of the year. Drop below 5%.

At the same time, some provincial authorities are controlling the curricula of private schools and the use of foreign textbooks.

Education consulting company ISC Research has determined that 66 schools in China are connected to 29 schools in the UK. These include 12 Chinese citizens holding foreign passports and 52 bilingual private schools open to other Chinese citizens. It said it knew that another 28 schools were in planning.

Harrow International School, Haikou City, Hainan Province © Shutterstock

The government’s policy does not specifically target schools with dual nationality or bilingual schools. These schools account for about one-fifth of China’s 15,000 private primary and secondary schools, but some have been suppressed, and industry leaders have more expectations for this.

For example, bilingual schools in Chongqing City and Shanxi Province have been acquired by the state.

In Shenzhen, officials said that some schools, including foreign-funded schools, have encountered difficulties in running primary and secondary schools.

“Despite the strong demand for Western education, the days of rapid growth in bilingual schools in China are gone,” said the principal of a bilingual school in Shanghai that provides A-level examinations used by most British schools. Prepare. “In the foreseeable future, we are ready for a smaller group of students.”

This year, Shanghai requires bilingual primary and secondary schools to use the same textbooks as public schools when teaching Chinese literature, politics, history, and geography; starting from the third grade, teach Xi Jinping Thought once a week; and seek approval to use foreign language texts.

Schools connected with foreign countries are usually owned and operated by Chinese investors, but pay fees to affiliated British schools. These schools usually borrow their brand names and provide materials and suggestions on personnel and teaching methods.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, ISC has been tracking the decline in the number of private bilingual schools. Of the 27 principals and administrators of schools outside China surveyed last year, 13 said they postponed or cancelled their plans to start schools in China in 2021.

Its East Asian field researcher Pia Maske said that Chinese families’ demand for international education is still strong, but the control of private tutoring and foreign textbooks and the possible extension of strictly regulated compulsory education “all indicate that the Chinese government has imposed more control over private education.” …[which]Cast a less attractive light for the Chinese education market”.

Steve Allen, principal of LEH International School in Foshan City, Guangdong Province, affiliated with Mrs. Eleanor Holles School in Southwest London, said that he is expected to open to Chinese foreign passport holders in September, with an initial enrollment of 75 students. student.

However, he added that given the challenges faced by non-Chinese teachers in obtaining visas, some parents have been slow in their commitment to schools, partly due to restrictions on the new crown pneumonia epidemic and wider restrictions on teacher spouse visas.

“We have seen a lot of inquiries and applications from families, but people are hesitant to accept the offer. This is what changed.”

He said that he also knows that other projects linked to international schools in Guangdong have slowed their opening after the tightening of the regulatory environment.

The growth of private and bilingual schools in China has been slowing down. A graph showing the total number of schools in China and the enrollment rate of students, divided by schools for foreign children and private schools in China ('000)

The principal of a famous bilingual school in Shanghai said that he and other leaders could not resist the suppression. “Private bilingual schools are part of the national education system and must be supervised,” the director said. “If the government wants us to downplay English education, we have no choice but to follow orders.”

However, Ahmed Hussein, Chief Education Officer of Asia International School, which runs Harrow International School in Shenzhen and plans to open a private bilingual school and kindergarten in Shenzhen next year, said that he is “optimistic” that the Chinese market for British schools is “sustainable” “.

“For those entities seeking to provide true private school education, the issue of textbooks or curriculum content is not a new or extremely challenging issue,” he said.

Bird & Bird’s lawyer Mark Abell, who specializes in Chinese education, said that he is still negotiating for some British schools that want to open affiliated schools in China, although he admits that “this will be a bit complicated and you need to pay attention to certain areas. Sensitivity”.

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