“I chose to put my two daughters in a [Chinese] private school because in public schools there is not enough communication between the teachers and the students. And it’s too stressful,” said Amy Lin, a Taiwanese mother who moved to China six years ago with her husband.
“I would like to send her to America later to study. There are better universities and job opportunities there,” Lin added.
The Lin family is one of many affluent Chinese families turning their backs on traditional Chinese education. A growing number want more from their child’s school, an alternative, more Western approach which they believe will help their kids develop their creativity. And they’re willing to pay.
Asia-focused brokerage and investment firm, CLSA, estimates the private education market in China is now worth more than rq yuan ($315m). The broker also expects enrolment in international schools, which are all private, to grow 14% annually through 2018.
The private sector is flourishing: A wide variety of classroom options are available for parents able to pay, from private classes once a week to full-time boarding-school education. Some schools cater for three-year-old kindergarteners all the way through to 18-year-olds, many offering after-school activities and tutoring in English, art or music.
Research published by McKinsey in January 2015 reveals there are now more private kindergartens in China than public ones and at the secondary level, the percentage of private schools in China has risen to 10% from 3% less than a decade ago.
Where pressure starts in kindergarten
Every year, more than nine million students in China sit the same terrifying exam that will determine which university they can attend and ultimately their job and future social status. The state system remains geared almost entirely towards this high pressure end of high-school exam, called the “gaokao”.