China’s international school sector is threatened by Covid and attacks

China’s international school sector is threatened by Covid and attacks

Parents who plan to send their children to the bilingual New Oriental Primary and Secondary School in Beijing next academic year must look elsewhere.

Private education company New Oriental announced in March that it would close the school, one of hundreds of its kind set up across the country. cinema since the 1990s to offer mostly Chinese students foreign-style education. The new rules forbid companies from financially supporting such schools, according to New Oriental.

The closure is a symptom of broader problems in China’s private international sector education sector, which has been hit hard by regulatory shocks and harsh policies against the coronavirus that have caused the exodus of foreign teachers.

According to the Beijing-based research and consulting firm NewSchool Insight, in 2020 China had over 535 “international private schools” with over 450,000 students. Most of them are bilingual schools, and many are affected by rules published last year that limit the participation of for-profit companies and require the use of the state curriculum until at least the ninth year of student education.

China also has 113 international schools that are only allowed to teach foreign nationals and have about 99,000 students, according to NewSchool Insight. Such schools are not affected by regulatory shocks, but suffer severely from a shortage of foreign teachers.

“The situation is terrible everywhere,” said the director of an international school in a northern Chinese city where only foreign children are taught.

“Teachers were bleeding from China,” the principal said, adding that his school was struggling 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 estimates that up to 60 per cent of foreign teachers will leave their posts this year.

Kerr Gibbs, the former head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, said that the drop in student enrollment and the increasing costs of teachers represent an “existential threat” to international schools for foreign children.

Bilingual schools also face difficulties because they need native English speakers for their classrooms. [and] “Beijing’s policy is becoming more restrictive, placing restrictions on the use of foreign textbooks,” Gibbs said.

In 2021, the Chinese government wiped out billions of dollars from the value of these private education providers when it banned an industry worth $ 100 billion a year from making a profit from basic teaching services for children.

The ban was disastrous for suppliers such as New Oriental on the U.S. stock market, which suffered a net loss of $ 122 million between June 2021 and February 2022, compared to a profit of $ 151 million during the same period last financial year.

The closure of Cram Centers has also disrupted the core recruitment process for bilingual and other international schools.

Brett Isis, executive director of Teaching Nomad, a teacher employment agency, said more than 100,000 foreign teachers were employed at English language centers in China before the ban, but that number was quickly depleted and salaries for those who remained “jumped into the sky”.

The ban on nonprofit teaching had other effects: an American teacher at a bilingual school in Beijing said his students’ English had dropped significantly since it was introduced last year.

Schools also place less emphasis on learning English, and many students have focused more on subjects such as math and Chinese, the teacher said.

Gibbs said changes in the regulation of bilingual schools are part of a “broader synification of economy and society”.

“In the early days of China’s development, they needed foreign capital, foreign knowledge and foreign technology. It took them a lot from the outside world to accelerate their development. “They are on the right track now, and their needs are different,” he said.

Julian Fisher, an education consultant in Beijing and vice president of the British Chamber of Commerce in China, said the best bilingual schools and international schools for foreign children would survive the pandemic. “There is still a demand for high-quality schools.”

However, Fisher said that the restrictions on making a profit in the education sector, together with the fall of the Chinese real estate industry, meant that investments in new schools stopped. The big Chinese real estate companies are the financiers behind hundreds of bilingual schools.

An increasingly restrictive regulatory regime is prompting some British schools to reconsider their participation in mainland China’s market after more than a decade of rapid expansion.

England’s Westminster School last year abandoned plans to develop six schools in China due to regulatory changes. A bilingual school in Beijing linked to the 450-year-old English public school Harrow was forced to give up his famous brand this year due to new rules.

Many bilingual schools see Chinese bilingual schools as a springboard for studying abroad. But Fisher said parents with children yet to go to school are now “reconsidering going international.”

“We were able to reach the peak in the number of Chinese students going abroad,” he said.

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