An Oxford in Changzhou? International schools spread across China

Sun Jan 13, 2013 5:15pm EST
 
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By Lucy Hornby

BEIJING (Reuters) - The website for a private school in Changzhou, one of China's smaller cities, features blue blazers and plaid skirts, music classes and an ivy-clad brick doorway -- all the trappings of the British school system designed to appeal to wealthy Chinese parents.

In choosing a smaller city, Oxford International College - no relation to the British university - is tapping into a growing market of upwardly-mobile Chinese willing to pay as much as 260,000 yuan ($41,700) a year for a Western-style education and a ticket to college overseas for their children.

"Changzhou is quite an affluent area and many people want to send their kids overseas, so the proportion of Chinese students is ticking up. The expat community is not enough to justify a school," said Frank Lu, the general manager of Oxford International Colleges of China.

"The market really is the Chinese - it's the Chinese who want their children to go abroad and are willing to pay the fees."

Some of the schools offer programs specifically tailored to British A-levels or the U.S. Advanced Placement tests; all promise the English proficiency needed to attend a foreign university.

In a sign of the eagerness to get the Changzhou school up and running, classes have already started even though the campus - complete with an artificial lake and boathouse - is under construction until September.

That international aura is key to persuading ambitious Chinese parents to pay steep tuition fees. Many schools feature foreign-looking children on their websites or name themselves after elite schools in Britain or North America.

Oxford International is one example. Then there is EtonHouse, a Singaporean company that operates schools in eight Chinese provincial cities.   Continued...

 
A teacher helps her students during art class at the Oxford International College in Changzhou, Jiangsu province January 10, 2013. The website for a private school in Changzhou, one of China's smaller cities, features blue blazers and plaid skirts, music classes and an ivy-clad brick doorway -- all the trappings of the British school system designed to appeal to wealthy Chinese parents. In choosing a smaller city, Oxford International College - no relation to the British university - is tapping into a growing market of upwardly-mobile Chinese willing to pay as much as 260,000 yuan ($41,700) a year for a Western-style education and a ticket to college overseas. Picture taken January 10, 2013. To match Feature CHINA-SCHOOLS REUTERS/Aly Song