Bilingual Boom in Education

By 2018-12-20 23:26:08

The expansion of bilingual education in China

Looking back over the past 10 years, the number of international schools has grown exponentially in China. This is particularly evident in first-tier cities like Shanghai and Beijing, which a large number of expat families have come to call home. But within the scope of international education, there is an even newer trend emerging.


Gone are the days when Chinese nationals could not enroll their children in international schools. Over the last two years, several new international schools have emerged to incorporate the local population. It’s important to note that this differs from an international school that only accepts non-Chinese passport holders or a Chinese school that has an international division, both of which have been around for the last 10 years. Rather, this is a new hybrid: recognized foreign educational institutions that have tapped into the growing market of local families who want their children to receive an international education on Chinese soil.

Consider the Nord Anglia Chinese International School (NACIS), located in Shanghai’s Minhang District. In September 2016, it was the first Chinese dual-curriculum school within the Nord Anglia Education Family. Offering a blend of the Shanghai National Curriculum and international curriculums, students aged 6 to 18 are taught through bilingual classes.


According to Robert Graves, Executive Principal of NACIS, “Our vision is to create a genuinely ambitious, multilingual school community. We believe there is no limit to what our students can achieve, and I am confident that learning at our school will be a creative, challenging and rewarding experience for every child.” The students at NACIS will be able to link globally with 42 Nord Anglia Education schools within 15 countries around the world. The opportunities to learn abroad, connect with over 34,000 students through an online platform and have access to instruction from New York’s Juilliard School are what NACIS hopes will set it apart for the Chinese students coming through its doors.

Similarly, HD Bilingual School, with campus locations in Ningbo and Shanghai’s Songjiang District, plans to cultivate younger students and prepare them for higher education with a unique curriculum designed to build a strong school culture. Currently, they offer classes to students from Kindergarten to Grade 3. “We need to develop the culture, the school ethos and the wider school community,” explains Ashley Penny, HD Bilingual School Executive Principal. “Since our students come from different backgrounds and different schools, we have to develop them and guide them in the ‘HD Way.’  This does not happen overnight. We need to develop this slowly and carefully. We are committed to providing excellent teachers and learning programs as well as personalized education to HD students.”


HD Bilingual pulls from the traditional Montessori method to create its bespoke educational system. “I am committed to providing a holistic and nurturing learning environment for our children and families,” says Angela Tung, Principal of Shanghai HD Kindergarten and Chief Academic Officer of HD Schools. “I discovered the benefits of Montessori when evaluating kindergarten options for my own daughter in the USA. My goal is to inspire children to become independent thinkers, problem solvers and lifelong learners.”

Clearly, China is entering new territory for the next generation of learners. And with the local middle class rising, spending on alternative education has now become a possibility for many families. What is the ultimate goal for the young Chinese student?  As competition continues to increase in China for spots at top universities, students are looking to the US and other foreign countries for higher education. According to the Institute of International Education’s 2014-2015 Open Doors report, Chinese nationals make up 31 percent of all international students in the US. Currently, there are more than 304,000 Chinese nationals enrolled in US universities, a 10 percent increase from the 2013-2014 findings.


Some critics argue that the influx of Chinese nationals creates more competition in an already highly competitive market. According to an excerpt from the Chronicle of Higher Education, American colleges that are new to the Chinese market struggle to distinguish between good applicants and those who are too good to be true. However, this pattern also increases the prospect for a broader cultural dialogue. The influx of students (and tuitions) gives colleges the opportunity to increase on-campus diversity and give more scholarships to those who need it. Many schools would do well to pay attention to and make the most of this fast-developing trend.