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Private Education Law

29 Sep 2021

Prayer Updates / Featured

Private Education Law

You may be surprised to hear that one in every five students in China attends a private school. In fact, over the last twenty years Chinese parents have been scrimping and saving to get their children into them.  Why? Because private schools are perceived to give students the best chance to score well in the Gaokao, the national exam that determines which tertiary establishments will accept them.

Private schools generally have smaller class sizes, higher quality teachers, quality facilities and prestige. Admission is not dependent on exam scores but on ability to pay the fees. In addition, the hukou (household registration) restrictions that prevent children attending public schools beyond their registered zone do not apply to private schools.

In 2020, there were 186,700 private schools in China, making up over one-third of all schools in China.

There are nine years of compulsory education in China usually beginning at age six (K-1 grade) and ending at age 15-16 (K-9 grade). Private education is a significant cost to families and a deterrent to the government’s current goals of encouraging larger families.

While developing China’s economy, state policies have favoured urban areas in distributing resources to public schools. But, not wanting to be left behind in the field of education, China’s rural population favoured the better equipped private schools, despite the higher costs.

There are a number of different school ownership and licencing models – Some are 100 % Chinese owned, others are built with funds from foreign investors, some are government owned and contracted to private business to run. Some schools are not-for-profit, while others operate for profit demanding hefty fees of USD$30,000 to $40,000 a year for their superior services. 

In 2017, China reined in the rapidly expanding industry.  They banned for-profit schools from teaching core curriculum.  Though, not-for-profit non-public schools were still able to teach core curriculum subjects providing their school fees were set by the state. Outside the compulsory education years, (i.e. preschool, and senior highschool through to adult education) curriculums and fees still enjoyed more flexibility, subject to the discretion of Chinese investors and education providers.

One subset of the private school sector is the International schools, which offer bilingual education programmes.  From grades 10 to 12 they could offer a foreign or international curriculum, allowing students to take exams such as the British A-levels or the IB Diploma. In the case of Sino-foreign cooperative schools, other countries agree to recognise the student’s APT and gaokao scores and simultaneously award successful students an international qualification. A number of public schools also operate an international division.

And of course there are the SCFNs (schools for the children of foreign nationals), which are not allowed to take on local Chinese students. However, many astute and affluent Chinese do manage to obtain foreign passports for their children and enroll their children.

Now, on the heels of the recent Dual Reduction Policy which devastated the USD$100 billion private tutoring industry, more new laws are rolling out. On September 1st 2021, ‘Regulations for the Implementation of the Promotion of Privately-run Schools’ will halt the teaching of foreign curricula in schools from kindergarten to grade nine (K-9) and prohibit the ownership or control of any private K-9 schools by foreign entities.  All decision-making bodies at private K-9 schools must be Chinese nationals and must include representatives from the regulators. These and other changes indicate that Beijing wants tighter control over what is taught in its schools, and it is particularly taking aim at for-profit private junior and middle schools. The K-9 schools will no longer be able to organise entrance tests or recruit in advance. Online educators must obtain the required licences and systems, and not-for-profit private schools are not entitled to provide preschool education.

The Financial Times has reported that, since August, over a dozen private school owners had relinguished their schools to the state without compensation. By levelling the playing field with public schools, the more expensive private schools know they will struggle to draw customers.

Prayer Points

Give thanks that China is seeking to address the pressures and high costs parents are paying to school their children.

Pray for the private school teachers, staff, owners and investors affected by the changes.

Pray for our co-workers, that they will know God’s peace, leading and purpose.

Pray for the private school boards and decision making bodies, as they adjust to the changes.

Pray for China’s children that they will not grow up without opportunity to know the Lord.

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