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Alike but Unequal: Quality and Credentials In China’s International High School Sector

Alike but Unequal: Quality and Credentials In China’s International High School Sector

The 2014/2015 school year marked a shift in the mix of Chinese students on U.S. college campuses: It was the first time that undergraduate enrollments outstripped those of graduate students. These 124,552 students’ collective impact on campuses is enormous. Some arrive fresh from U.S.-based high schools. They’re already acclimatized to American culture and academic norms. But a significant number – many thousands – are educated at international high schools throughout China. The 2014/2015 school year marked a shift in the mix of Chinese students on U.S. college campuses: It was the first time that undergraduate enrollments outstripped those of graduate students. These 124,552 students’ collective impact on campuses is enormous. Some arrive fresh from U.S.-based high schools. They’re already acclimatized to American culture and academic norms. But a significant number – many thousands – are educated at international high schools throughout China.

As the number of international schools operating in China expands, it’s critical that international enrollment and recruitment personnel have deeper insight into the types now operating in China. As the number of international schools operating in China expands, it’s critical that international enrollment and recruitment personnel have deeper insight into the types now operating in China.

The quality of this secondary schooling is directly relevant to Chinese undergraduates’ experience and success on U.S. campuses. Some schools offer rigorous college preparatory programs, including excellent training in English language skills and well-established international curricula. Others are essentially feeder schools aimed at supplying a hungry global market with the numbers it craves. As the number of international schools operating in China expands, it’s critical that international enrollment and recruitment personnel have deeper insight into the types now operating in China. Knowing how each type of school operates, how each prepares students for international education, and what types of credentials each provides can help institutions ensure 1) the long-term sustainability of internationalization initiatives, and 2) the preparedness and success of students who are admitted. The quality of this secondary schooling is directly relevant to Chinese undergraduates’ experience and success on U.S. campuses. Some schools offer rigorous college preparatory programs, including excellent training in English language skills and well-established international curricula. Others are essentially feeder schools aimed at supplying a hungry global market with the numbers it craves. As the number of international schools operating in China expands, it’s critical that international enrollment and recruitment personnel have deeper insight into the types now operating in China. Knowing how each type of school operates, how each prepares students for international education, and what types of credentials each provides can help institutions ensure 1) the long-term sustainability of internationalization initiatives, and 2) the preparedness and success of students who are admitted.

International High Schools in China: From Exceptional Quality to Fly-by-Night International High Schools in China: From Exceptional Quality to Fly-by-Night
At the broadest level, international schools in China can be categorized into three types: At the broadest level, international schools in China can be categorized into three types:
Privately operated schools for both international and Chinese students Privately operated schools for both international and Chinese students
Public schools with international divisions Public schools with international divisions
Schools for international students only Schools for international students only
The value of the credentials and the quality of education conferred by schools within these three types vary considerably. Some offer easily verifiable dual high school credentials, from China and the U.S., for example, or from China and the U.K. Some offer degrees recognized only by education authorities outside of China. Still others offer diplomas recognized only by the school itself; their pitch to families, not always true, is that they will prepare students to succeed on standardized exams required by U.S. institutions. Some schools are of exceptional quality; others are fly-by-night – run by shady operators who sell credits that help students get a coveted seat at institutions in the U.S., but then leave them unprepared to succeed. The value of the credentials and the quality of education conferred by schools within these three types vary considerably. Some offer easily verifiable dual high school credentials, from China and the U.S., for example, or from China and the U.K. Some offer degrees recognized only by education authorities outside of China. Still others offer diplomas recognized only by the school itself; their pitch to families, not always true, is that they will prepare students to succeed on standardized exams required by U.S. institutions. Some schools are of exceptional quality; others are fly-by-night – run by shady operators who sell credits that help students get a coveted seat at institutions in the U.S., but then leave them unprepared to succeed.

Behind the Growth: ‘Insatiable’ Demand + A Relaxed Regulatory Environment Behind the Growth: ‘Insatiable’ Demand + A Relaxed Regulatory Environment
As of 2016, the Industry Report counted more than 1,000 international schools in China. Only 597 have official government recognition. The International School Consultancy, which tracks data on international English language schools at the K-12 level, expects growth to continue. It has called Chinese demand for these schools, most of which are private, “insatiable” (as have others). In 2014, McKinsey & Company estimated that the p As of 2016, the Industry Report counted more than 1,000 international schools in China. Only 597 have official government recognition. The International School Consultancy, which tracks data on international English language schools at the K-12 level, expects growth to continue. It has called Chinese demand for these schools, most of which are private, “insatiable” (as have others). In 2014, McKinsey & Company estimated that the p

NOTE: According to some reports, Chinese city governments are cracking down on these programs. Because the programs are run by overseas entities which charge substantial tuitions (of more than USD $15,000 sin some cases), but operate on public school campuses and receive state support, they have begun to raise concerns about equity and access. NOTE: According to some reports, Chinese city governments are cracking down on these programs. Because the programs are run by overseas entities which charge substantial tuitions (of more than USD $15,000 sin some cases), but operate on public school campuses and receive state support, they have begun to raise concerns about equity and access.

Students who attend these schools are admitted based on their Zhongkao results. These schools follow a bilingual, bi-curricula format. To graduate, students must pass standardized exams including the Huikao, and at least one international test such as the A-Level, IGCSE, I.B., or A.P. The types of credentials offered by these schools are variable, depending on how the program is structured. Students who attend these schools are admitted based on their Zhongkao results. These schools follow a bilingual, bi-curricula format. To graduate, students must pass standardized exams including the Huikao, and at least one international test such as the A-Level, IGCSE, I.B., or A.P. The types of credentials offered by these schools are variable, depending on how the program is structured.