This is part 4 of my four part series on establishing an international school in China. In part 1, Establishing International Schools in China: The Basics, I discussed the complications foreign parties typically see when trying to start a school in China. In part 2, Establishing International Schools in China: A Deeper Dive, I focused on what it takes to start a School for the Children of Foreign Workers. And in part 3, Establishing International Schools in China: A Deeper Dive (Continued), I discussed Sino-Foreign Cooperative Schools and Chinese Private Schools. In this, my last post in this series, I look at future trends for international schools in China. 

For a foreign party, establishing an international school in China can be very challenging. The foreign party must choose if it intends to retain full operational control of the school, or is willing to share control of the school with its Chinese partner.

In the first decade or so after China’s opening to the West, foreign educators and embassies found the Chinese government quite welcoming to those seeking to establish foreign controlled schools for foreign students. The 1995 regulations formalized these Schools for the Children of Foreign Workers, and the schools were seen as important to support foreign investment into China.

There is now in China strong demand by newly wealthy Chinese families to send their children to the best quality private schools. In that light, and given ease of land contribution and profit sharing possibilities in a JV school, more and more Sino-Foreign Cooperative Schools are being established. With these schools the Chinese government can provide ways for its own citizens to attend the best schools, in country, and hand in hand with foreign children who attend as well. And best yet, Chinese students can still receive a Chinese diploma alongside their foreign school or IB diploma.

Because of the win-win perception of Sino-Foreign Cooperative Schools, it seems clear that most future international schools in China will be of this type. The experience of my own firm reflects this: we are seeing an increase in colleges and private schools looking to set up these types of partnerships while requests to set up private schools exclusive to foreigners has decreased. Though setting up a Sino-Foreign Cooperative School is in many ways similar to a standard Joint Venture arrangement, there are enough intricacies involved to warrant special care during the establishment process.

Though the demand for Schools for the Children of Foreign Workers has decreased there remains a need for them in newly developing areas in China, especially in certain second and third tier cities. On top of that, we have found that the Chinese government is more likely to approve such schools there.

What are you seeing out there?