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International Schools for Expats in China

Submitted: August 2013

If you want a more ‘global’ education for your children, you will be pleased to know that there is a wide range of excellent international schools in China which cater to students ranging from kindergarten to high school level. Currently, China boasts over 340 international schools with most located within cities with a high expat population such as Beijing and Shanghai. Most of these schools are geared towards sending their students to universities within their sponsoring countries; as such curricula include the International Baccalaureate (IB), the English National Curriculum (leading to the GCE exams), American-based curricula, German-based and other curricula. Teachers are generally well qualified and utilise their students’ mother tongue as the main medium of instruction. Generally the standard of teaching at these schools is often in-line with those in the home (sponsoring) country, which allows for easy transition between schools irrespective of their location.

In assessing the quality of education being offered, you may want to consider whether the prospective international school is accredited by any international or local bodies. Some accreditation bodies include the Council of International Schools (CIS - https://www.cois.org/), Western Association of Schools and Colleges (https://www.acswasc.org/), among many others. A list of member schools is usually provided on their websites.

You could also check to see if the school is a member of any school partnership organisation or association such as the East Asia Regional Council of School (https://www.earcos.org/), The Association of China and Mongolia International School (https://www.acamis.org/), The Independent Schools Association of the Central States (https://www.isacs.org/), among others. Schools which are members usually will have established a good reputation as an international school, and benefit from various activities such as interschool competition.

Additionally, international schools are inspected by various inspectorates and government bodies. You should check for inspection reports for schools of other sponsoring countries (if available).

Aside from the official accreditations of the above bodies, you should also visit the school yourself. Various pertinent questions to ask include:

Further, enquire with your High Commission/Embassy in China and request contact information for other expats in the China (if possible). Solicit their views on international schools. As international schools do not teach the national curriculum (unless they opt to), there is less information available online apart from what they provide so it is important to get as much information as you from other parents.

Tuition fees for international schools are relatively high when compared with other schools. In China, elite international schools in prominent cities may cost as much as US $33, 000 for senior year tuition. Fees generally vary based on several factors such as grade level, boarding, and extra-curricular activities, with cheaper schools still averaging in the price range of US $10,000 - $15,000 yearly. As a rule of thumb, there is usually a small increase in fees each year.

Despite these fees, international schools are in high demand and available spaces usually fill up quickly. To ensure the best chance of getting your children enrolled, you should apply well in advance of the new school year. Enrolment procedures differ, but you should be prepared to submit your child’s passport and visa information, health records, previous school records and recommendation letters. In some cases, your child may be required to show up for an interview and an entrance exam. You should note that local Chinese students in international schools are in the minority if any at all, as they are only allowed to be enrolled in foreign international schools if their parents hold foreign passports.

For a comprehensive list of the more popular international schools in China, do see:




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