International schools in Beijing – A lot of expensive choices

international school beijingMoving to a new country with children can be stressful but it also is a unique opportunity to expose kids to a different culture. Of course their schooling is important. You want to make sure your offspring will enjoy a quality education while experiencing a new culture. So how are International schools in Beijing?

Another very important but sometimes overlooked question is: Who will pay for this education? International schools in Beijing are very expensive as this recent article about climbing tuitions describes.

This post explains what to consider when looking for a school, including the cost.

How to choose an International school in Beijing

Location is probably the most important consideration, besides cost. Beijing is huge with about 24 million people, and commuting times can be long. So finding a school that is close to your home is important.

In Beijing, most of the international schools are clustered in the typical expat areas. Many international schools are in located in Shunyi, a suburb closer to the airport. Many others are in the Lufthansa and CBD (Central Business District) areas and Shuangjing.

Here are some international schools in Beijing:

International high school in Beijing for the price of college in the US

The popular International schools in Beijing offer a world-class education with interesting curricula and experienced international teachers. But they have tuition fees that rival college tuitions in the US. Sending your kid to a school like Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) or British School of Beijing can cost more than 200,000 RMB (around 30,000 USD) per year. Cost for buses, lunch, school events, etc come extra.

The expense is not limited to high schools. Even International kindergartens can already cost in the 80-100,000 RMB range.

Affording your kids’ education

Who can afford those fees? Mostly expat parents with a generous expat package that covers school tuition and wealthy Chinese families can afford to send their kids to an International school in Beijing.

If you or your spouse is sent to Beijing on an expat package, make sure you understand how the employer covers schooling for your children. I have heard that some employers cap the maximum tuition amount or limit the number of children they are willing to reimburse for.

If you don’t have tuition paid for – at least partially – by your employer, you can try to get scholarships, look for cheaper International schools, or even send your kids to a public Chinese school.

When you look at less expensive and less well-known International schools, be aware that the word International is used very loosely in China. Have a close look at teachers’ credentials and the curriculum to make sure that the education lives up to the promise.

The less International the school is, the better will probably your child’s Chinese language skills become. But it will also make it harder for you to communicate with the school or help with homework. Another difference that sets Chinese schools apart from Western schools is the education style, with more Chinese emphasis on conformity and less on creativity. Therefore many parents don’t really consider a public Chinese school an option.


International schools in Beijing – A lot of expensive choices — 4 Comments

  1. We are planning to move to Beijing soon, but the biggest question in mind is schooling for our 8 year old daughter. All the international schools look so expensive. Is it compulsory to learn chinese in international schools?

    Please advise about cheap international schools soonest.

    • To my knowledge, there are not cheap International schools in Beijing. I don’t think learning Chinese is compulsory there.

  2. My husband may be relocated to Beijing for 2 years. We have 3 elementary school age boys. It is difficult to pick an international school from abroad, but I want to move quickly since August is only 4 months away. Do you have a recommendation between ISB and WAB? If neither have openings, I’m at a loss as to what would be the next best fit. Also, my husband would be working in the Chaoyang District. Would living near WAB significantly improve his commute as opposed to living near ISB?
    Thank you!

    • Hi Susan, I don’t have kids so I don’t feel qualified to answer your questions about the schools. But there is a Yahoo group for expat moms in Beijing, which people say is very responsive and helpful:
      Also make sure to take cost into account. International schools in Beijing are very expensive, and some employers cap the amount of school fees they are paying for. I will have this post updated on the topic cost in a week or so. Please check back.