High School “International Class” Investigation: High Fees & Worrisome Quality

This is a re-post of a translation by Elliott Bernstein, whose excellent translations of Chinese education related news can be found at his newly-launched website Education News China. His translation was sourced from the Chinese article 高中“国际班”调查:收费昂贵教学质量堪忧, dated from September 2012. Elliott is a long-term resident of China and Education News China is where he translates Chinese news and opinion on Chinese education and study abroad.


September 22nd, Zhongguancun

Various study abroad ads are all over the place.

This year, “international classes” in large and mid-sized cities around China have exploded in popularity. More than a few schools have started “Sino-foreign cooperation” “global famous school” programs in order to get parents to send their children off to study. Our investigation has found that some of these “international classes” not only charge high fees, but also suffer from worrisome academic quality. Experts are urgently calling for regulation of the flood of “international classes”, and for careful consideration of study abroad options.

Course Fees

There is no single standard, but there are many programs that charge additional fees

In 2012, a Beijing-based for-profit educational training company organized an international high school. According to the parents of Xiao Xin (pseudonym), who was a student at the school, yearly tuition, room, and board costs were 90,000 RMB, but the “United Nations Youth Conference” and the World Bank study abroad activities organized by the school were an additional 39,800 RMB. Taking part in the Interview Asia Olympics activity was another 7000 RMB, and adding an SAT prep course that included three test-taking trips to Hong Kong was altogether nearly 70,000 RMB.

A high school in Beijing set up their “international class” for the first time this year, which in addition to a 98,000 RMB tuition, charges students 3000 RMB for school uniforms, 600 RMB per month for dormitory expenses, plus nearly 100 RMB per day board. Altogether, a student will pay nearly 137,000 RMB per year for these expenses alone. At the average Beijing high school, a semester’s tuition is only 800 RMB. Investigations found that there was no standard fee for “international classes” nationwide, and that most came at a considerable price. Some tuitions seemed low, but included numerous extracurricular activities that charge fees.

Test prep service, test-taking trips, and school application service, among others, all often charge fees not included in tuition. But some parents feel that “nothing should be overlooked,” whether it is test prep or other fees, allowing students to successfully study abroad and increase knowledge and understanding of study abroad.

Due to insufficient financial resources, some high schools have resorted to generating profits through fee-bearing or even high-cost sources, which has led to current proliferation of high-cost ‘international classes’.

–Yuan Guilin, Professor at Beijing Normal University

Academic Quality

“International classes” turn into a “testing competition”

By paying high tuitions, many parents hope to increase “holistic education”. But dealing with the “overseas gaokao”, students are under no less test-taking pressure than in regular high schools. To help students prepare for the “overseas gaokao”, many of these “international classes” set up so called “testing competitions”.

Investigations also found that within a few years of the development of some “international classes”, teaching resources were weak, courses were disorganized, and academic quality was slow to improve. The school attended by Xiao Xin (pseudonym) organized nine general examination courses running through freshman and sophomore years, and also stuck in courses for TOEFL, SAT, and other tests. According to Xiao Xin, students took these nine courses and four TOEFL or SAT courses every semester. “We studied from the moment we woke up to the moment we went to sleep. It was very tiring.”

“It’s the first graduating class of the high school’s international class, and I feel like the school doesn’t have experience designing curriculums and managing schedules. They just kept the students busy all the time,” said the father of Xiao Xin. According to other parents, the language teachers at the school were only part-time, and classes were scheduled according to the needs of those teachers.

“High school ‘international classes’ need to bring top international academic resources and deepen the exploration of reform for high school curriculums. If they can’t meet this requirement, their claims of ‘elite international education’ are just empty words.”

–Interviewed education expert

The Current Situation

Many ‘international classes’ still need accreditation

Some schools have eagerly set up ‘international classes’ for economic gain. An individual working in the industry in Shanghai revealed that some high schools hold over twenty different groups of these students at once, and that with nearly 500 students, they’re still not fully meeting demand from parents. Many International Departments and international classes are actually study abroad training courses, and the charging of fees has not yet been approved. An individual connected to the Shanghai City Education Commission verified that outside of five accredited schools and international kindergartens, many schools in Shanghai with “international classes” still lack approval, and have issues with quality of teaching resources and curriculum.


Administration urgently needs standardization

“The objective reason for the increasing number of ‘international classes’ at high schools is the craze for study abroad. The lack of accreditation and oversight has produced a flurry of both good and bad,” said Xiong Bingqi, Deputy Director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute.

Experts suggest that a clear system of accreditation and authorization is needed for Sino-foreign “international classes”. Rules are needed for the enrollment ratios of domestic students, and standards are needed for curriculum design, with a set ratio of courses for the Chinese and foreign sides. Finances should also be made open and transparent.

Yan Chengzhong, professor at Donghua University stated that “international classes” at high schools urgently need standardization. The opening of “international classes” should be controlled, especially at high schools that provide teacher training, in order to avoid the monopolization of high-quality education resources and educational funds by children from a small number of families.

Zhang Yang, Headmaster of Shanghai City Kongjiang Middle School believes the to senselessly follow the study abroad craze is dangerous. “Internationalizing education is the right thing to do, but we need to look at each child and decide if he or she is well suited for study abroad.”

This is a repost of a news translation kindly shared by Elliott Bernstein a long-term resident of China whose education-related translations can be found at his website Education News China.



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