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Compulsory Education

The Chinese school system is structured very much like the U.S. system, with elementary, junior high, and high schools. Beyond that, there are universities, some of which allow foreign students to enroll, and technical schools. The official school calendar is established by the central government each year and typically begins around September 1, ending around July 15 for summer break. The other major break is for Chinese New Year/Spring Festival, which typically runs January 15-March 1.

Primary and Secondary Schools
Because both parents typically work in China, the children start their schooling in a preschool (called “kindergarten” in China) as early as two years old, unless the grandparents are able to watch the children. There are quite a few private English preschools available, whether run by foreigners or Chinese. At six years old, every child is required to be enrolled in elementary school, which lasts until age 12. Junior high follows and lasts three years. The kindergarten, elementary, and junior high schools are assigned based on where the child lives, but at the end of junior high, a rigorous standardized test determines which high school the child will attend. After high school, students take another exam that determines which university they’ll be admitted to, if any. Those who perform poorly on the exam can’t attend college and will be off to trade school and eventually the factory floor.

With the exception of a few small fees for books and the like, public education through high school is free for locals, though foreigners will have to pay a nominal fee to enroll their children.

International Schools
Unlike some foreign posts where home-schooling is the only option for expat children, there are top-notch international schools in every major destination in China, typically covering preschool or kindergarten up to 12th grade. The English-language schools tend to follow either an American or British curriculum, with the latter often offering the International Baccalaureate college-prep program. The student population at the international schools is incredibly diverse, though current Chinese government regulations only allow those with a foreign passport to attend the international schools so your children probably won’t have too many local Chinese classmates.

There are plenty of advantages to putting your kids in an international school. It is not uncommon for an elementary school teacher at an international school in China to have a doctoral degree, and quite a few of the teachers are seasoned veterans who have decided to finish out their careers on the international scene. Another advantage is that the schools regularly put on community events that will give your family the opportunity to connect with other families. The main disadvantages of international schools are the high price, which can approach $20,000 per student per year in the most prominent cities (though cheaper locales will be closer to the $10,000-15,000 range), and the lack of integration with the local Chinese community.

Beijing BISS International School
17, Area 4, Anzhen Xi Li
Chaoyang District, Beijing
10-6443-3151
10-6443-3156 (Fax)
www.biss.com.cn

Beijing Chinese School
805 A Building
26 Chaowai St.
Chaoyang District, Beijing
10-8565-3718
10-8565-3719 (Fax)
www.beijingchineseschool.com

Beijing Zhongguancun International School
6 Jinzhan Lu
Chaoyang District, Beijing
10-8434-3433
10-8434-3436 (Fax)

British School of Beijing
5 Xiliujie Sanlitun Rd.
Chaoyang District, Beijing
10-8532-3088
http://www.britishschool.org.cn/home/School/en/

Eton International School
7th Floor, Lido Office Tower
Lido Place, Jichang Rd., Jiang Tai Rd.
Chaoyang District, Beijing
10-6430-1590
10-6430-1310 (Fax)
www.etonkids.com/home.htm

International Montessori School of Beijing
China World Trade Center, North Lodge
1 Jian Guo Men Wai Ave.
Beijing
10-6505-3869
10-6505-1237 (Fax)
www.montessoribeijing.com

The International School of Beijing
10 An Hua St.
Shunyi District, Beijing
www.isb.bj.edu.cn

Western Academy of Beijing
10 Lai Guang Ying Dong Lu
Chaoyang District, Beijing
10-8456-4155
10-6432-2440 (Fax)
www.wab.edu

Yew Chung International School of Beijing
Honglingjin Park
5 Houbalizhuang
Chaoyang District, Beijing
10-8583-3731
10-8583-2734 (Fax)
www.ycef.com