More Chinese families enroll their children in Southeast Asian schools

Updated 2017-10-18 11:27:21 Global Times
Peggy Wang's daughter and son pose for a photo at their school in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Peggy Wang's daughter and son pose for a photo at their school in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

As Peggy Wang positioned her smartphone to take the photo, her daughter, a grade five student, and her son, who is in grade one, smiled into the camera, their white and blue school uniforms standing out against the colorful playground behind them.

The two Chinese children moved from Beijing to Chiang Mai, Thailand with their family in May. For Wang, who runs her own business, the most important factor that led her to relocate the family to Chiang Mai is the quality international education available in the country.

"The Thai international schools run systematic educational programs based on American or European curriculums, which provide a more relaxed learning environment for children compared to that of schools in China," said Wang.

Wang is not alone. A growing number of China's middle-class families are turning to Southeast Asian countries, such as Thailand and Malaysia, for international education. The past decade has seen an international school boom in China, with international or private bilingual schools becoming the primary choice for many wealthy and elite families.

Drawn by more affordable tuition and the slower pace of life in Thailand, some Chinese families have started enrolling their children in international schools in the country.

Thai education

The international school Wang's children attend uses the British education system and is one of the eight international schools in Chiang Mai, a tourist city in northern Thailand and one of the most popular Thai destinations among Chinese travelers.

Wang got the idea to relocate while vacationing in Chiang Mai with her children during Spring Festival.

"We all fell into the cozy and slow-paced lifestyle in the city. It's not as crowded as Beijing where traffic congestion and air pollution always turn people down," she said. "The international school fees are also cheaper in Thailand."

Thai international schools charge around 80,000 yuan (,119 ) per year, much less than the average of 200,000 yuan required by international schools in Beijing.

Wang said she is satisfied with the well-established international education system in Thailand, a country that has a long history of offering international education to meet the demands of a large number of Western residents.

Students admitted to the international schools are mainly from Thailand, the U.S. and European countries. Wang's daughter is in a class of 12 students, three of which are from China. Her son is one of two Chinese in a class of 20.

Rising demand

Roy Lewis, the head teacher at Lanna International School Thailand in Chiang Mai, said the school has seen a significant increase in the number of Chinese applicants over the past three years. Lanna currently has 30 Chinese students in a school population of 480 students.

However, while the number of students from China has increased, those who meet the school's entrance requirements are a relatively small percentage of the applicants, said Lewis.

"We have a selection process for all students above kindergarten age, and it is based on English language proficiency. This is because we follow a curriculum that is academically rigorous and requires English language competence," said Lewis.

To ensure a mix of cultures and nationalities, many international schools in Thailand have policies to avoid the situation of one nationality dominating student numbers. Lanna caps the number of students from each nationality at 30 percent per class.

"Any Chinese student who meets our entry requirements is accepted, as at present, we do not have the 30 percent cap in any class for them," said Lewis. "We do not apply different criteria to Chinese applicants to our school."

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