The Chinese government is growing fed up with British private schools “creaming off” the best pupils, a conference has been told.
Institutions which have set up sister schools or franchises in China now face a “backlash” for party officials, according to Richard Gaskell, schools director at ISC Research which specialises in analysing data on international schools.
There are now 47 campuses in China operated by British schools. The £41,580-a-year Wellington College runs schools in Tianjin, Shanghai and Hangzhou while the £44,346-a-year Dulwich College has two schools in Shanghai, one in in Beijing and Suzhou.
Mr. Gaskell said that British private schools in China have been “growing on steroids” in recent years but they are now facing a crackdown by the authorities.
ISC Research conducted interviews with head teachers of 50 international schools in China, and found that they are now facing “extraordinary scrutiny” from officials.
Mr. Gaskell told delegates at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC): “Private schools have been subjected to increased visits and scrutiny. There is a backlash against the rapid increase in private schools in China, particularly from the big public schools where it’s conceived that they have been simply creaming the best kids for their schools.”
He explained that local education bureau officials have been visiting private schools in China to “gather intelligence on structure and systems”.
“The view of some of the heads we interviewed is that they want to replicate these models in their own Chinese schools," he said.
Any new schools planning on opening up campuses in China should “be ready for the bureaucracy, legislation and the regulation”, he warned, adding: “There is no light touch, it is now highly intrusive.”
Earlier this year, China announced that all schools would have to adopt a lottery system for places, raising concern among private schools that this will put an end to academic selection. It comes after an earlier ruling that private schools need to teach the Chinese national curriculum as well as whichever international qualifications they offer.
Mr. Gaskell also said that Beijing is “clearly worried” about the number of Chinese students who go overseas to be educated.
Mainland China is the largest source of foreign-born pupils at British boarding schools, with numbers rising 10 per cent last year to just over 9,000.
“The Chinese state is now looking at ways to curb number of Chinese families going abroad for education,” he said. “They are keen to attract families, who have gone overseas for work and lifestyle opportunities, to come back to China.
“There is a focus group investigating barriers to families returning from abroad, and one such barrier is deemed to be guaranteed access to high quality education.”