An Oxford in Changzhou? International schools spread across China

Updated 14 January 2013
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An Oxford in Changzhou? International schools spread across China

The website for a private school in Changzhou, one of China’s smaller cities, features blue blazers and plaid skirts, music classes and an ivy-clad brick doorway — all the trappings of the British school system designed to appeal to wealthy Chinese parents.
In choosing a smaller city, Oxford International College — no relation to the British university — is tapping into a growing market of upwardly-mobile Chinese willing to pay as much as 260,000 yuan ($ 41,700) a year for a Western-style education and a ticket to college overseas for their children.
“Changzhou is quite an affluent area and many people want to send their kids overseas, so the proportion of Chinese students is ticking up. The expat community is not enough to justify a school,” said Frank Lu, the general manager of Oxford International Colleges of China.
“The market really is the Chinese — it’s the Chinese who want their children to go abroad and are willing to pay the fees.”
Some of the schools offer programs specifically tailored to British A-levels or the US Advanced Placement tests; all promise the English proficiency needed to attend a foreign university.
In a sign of the eagerness to get the Changzhou school up and running, classes have already started even though the campus — complete with an artificial lake and boathouse — is under construction until September.
That international aura is key to persuading ambitious Chinese parents to pay steep tuition fees. Many schools feature foreign-looking children on their websites or name themselves after elite schools in Britain or North America.
Oxford International is one example. Then there is EtonHouse, a Singaporean company that operates schools in eight Chinese provincial cities.
Maple Leaf Educational Systems has expanded to seven cities in China from its original home in Dalian, a northeastern Chinese port city, by offering a curriculum endorsed by the British Columbia board of education in Canada.
Established British schools like Harrow and Dulwich are also expanding their branches in China.
“My dad wanted me to go abroad at an early age, but my mom did not support the idea,” said Jiang Xin, the 17-year old son of a real estate developer, whose parents compromised by sending him to Maple Leaf’s Chongqing campus at 50,000 yuan a year.
“In the future I want to study abroad. My experience here at Maple Leaf is helping me adapt to the Western learning style earlier.”
Indeed, many wealthy Chinese parents see these schools as a way to get a foreign-style education while keeping their only children close to home.
“Later when she goes overseas to college we will have few chances to see her. We treasure the time we have with her now,” said Zhuang Zhengyi, the head of the parents association for Oxford International in Changzhou, where his daughter is in tenth grade.
The number of international schools registered in mainland China has skyrocketed in the past 12 years, from 22 to 338, according to Nicholas Brummitt, managing director of the Britain-based International School Consultancy Group. Enrollment has risen by 25 times in the same period, to 184,073 students.
Overall, 28.8 million students attend state-run primary or middle schools in Chinese cities, which are officially free but in reality charge a number of fees.
Just under half the international schools in China are in provincial cities like Changzhou, well apart from the main expatriate centers of Beijing, Shanghai or Guangdong. The trend coincides with the increasing incomes of China’s middle-classes, who are spread across the country, and their aspirations.
Parents who can afford it believe the international schools are the passport to a better life for their children, despite the steeply higher costs. They offer the chance for a university education overseas, avoiding the pressure cooker of the national college entrance exam, taken by more than 9 million Chinese students last June.
There are good state schools in every city, but the problem is their teaching is aimed entirely to the university entrance exams.
“This hurts students’ confidence and the quality of the teaching,” said Xu Jin, whose 16-year-daughter started at a branch of Dulwich College in Suzhou city in September.
“She was at the best public school but we were more and more dissatisfied. The teachers just taught the right answers and didn’t want the students to ask why... We can already see the difference. She’s happier and learning faster.”
The international schools in Beijing or Shanghai generally are limited by law to foreign passport-holders. But that’s not the case in many provincial cities, where growth in private education including bilingual schools is exploding.
For newly wealthy Chinese parents, the international schools offer an alternative to China’s conformist, competitive exam-based state school system, and, some say, make for more well-rounded youngsters.
But other parents are not entirely ready to jettison the Chinese education system and want to retain both options — applying overseas and taking the national college exams.
For them, companies like Tianjin-based Compass Education and Australian education services provider Dipont Education offer joint-venture international sections within established public schools, with an average tuition fee of up to 100,000 yuan a year. That lowers costs and cultural barriers.
“International education is not mark-centric, which is a brand-new idea for parents from second-tier cities,” said Compass board member Gavin Newton-Tanzer.
“For Chinese parents it’s a totally different idea. Their children study only through memorising things.”
The joint-venture schools offer the best of both worlds, he added.
“Students can still be exposed to Chinese learning, which is more acceptable for local parents.”


Restaurant asks Trump spokeswoman Sarah Sanders to leave

Updated 3 min 30 sec ago
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Restaurant asks Trump spokeswoman Sarah Sanders to leave

WASHINGTON: A Virginia restaurant was inundated with reviews from both ends of the political spectrum Saturday after White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said its owner asked her to leave because of her job.
On Friday, a Facebook user claiming to be a waiter at The Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia — around 70 miles southwest of Charlottesville — said he served Sanders “for a total of 2 minutes” before she and her party were asked to leave.
His post went viral when Brennan Gilmore, a musician, activist and former US diplomat, uploaded a screenshot to Twitter alongside an image of a handwritten note which read “86 — Sara Huckabee Sanders,” supposedly from the restaurant.
To “86” someone is a slang term meaning to refuse to serve a customer.
“Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left,” Sanders tweeted on Saturday, confirming the incident.
“Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”
Chef-owner Stephanie Wilkinson said that politics were especially explosive in her small town which voted against Trump in a county that did not.
Given her own moral position that the spokeswoman serves in an “inhumane and unethical” administration, Wilkinson told The Washington Post, she could not accept a defender of the president’s “cruelest policies.”

“I’m not a huge fan of confrontation,” Wilkinson said.
“I have a business, and I want the business to thrive. This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals,” she stressed.
The owner said many of her employees were gay and that Sanders had defended Trump’s wish to bar transgender people from the armed forces. And then, she said, she was stunned by the spokeswoman’s defense of Trump policies leading to migrant children being taken from their parents’ care.
“I explained that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation,” the owner explained.
“I said, ‘I’d like to ask you to leave.’“
The restaurant continued to be flooded Saturday afternoon with five-star online reviews praising the restaurant’s stance — and one-star reviews accusing the owner of “discrimination.”
“Sarah, you’re a class act. I’m so sorry you were treated this way,” was State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert’s response on Twitter.
It comes after US Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen was heckled as she dined at a Mexican restaurant in Washington on Tuesday.
Protesters chanted “shame! shame!” repeatedly at Nielsen, a frontline defender of the Trump administration’s practice of separating migrant children from their parents, until she left the restaurant.
Two days earlier, according to the New York Post, White House adviser Stephen Miller was branded a “fascist” while dining at another Mexican eatery in Washington.