Jump to content
  • Sign Up

Bilingual Secondary Education in Beijing


Recommended Posts

I'm new to this forum, and sense that the participants might not be familiar with my situation, but I'm giving it a shot anyway to see if anyone can help. Basically, I'm looking for opinions on private secondary schools in Beijing that will allow our son, who is now 12 and in sixth grade, to get a solid bilingual education. I have a general understanding of "pure" international schools (ISB, WAB, Yew Chung, BCIS, BISS, Dulwich, Harrow) and private Chinese schools that run IB programs or similar for foreign students (THIS, maybe BWYA) or primarily for local students, but with token foreign students and a whiff of Western pedagogy (Huijia). But I don't really know many people with kids currently enrolled or alumni. I realize I should just go visit the various places--and we'll certainly have to visit some--but sometimes even visits aren't that informative. In short, my son, who now attends Huijia, is almost completely bilingual in reading and writing. (My wife is Chinese, I'm American. He only speaks English with me, and Chinese with her. He has spent about half his life in China, and half in the United States.) But Huijia is not really cutting it. The general teaching quality is, well, okay, but he's starting to get bored, and could learn more elsewhere. Seems like all the recent graduating seniors are ethnic China, probably almost all Chinese nationals, and the vast majority of them go to "pretty good" state schools in the U.S. and Canada. But the curriculum is not really challenging or interesting. On the good side, he's up to grade level in Chinese after about two years back in China. But his English skills and ability to think creatively are not really being developed. If he goes to a pure international school, we're a bit worried that he'll become a typical expat brat and let his Chinese atrophy. There seem to be tons of graduates of international schools in China who can do little more than order food or get somewhere by taxi, despite the fact that they've spent most of their lives here! There is such an emphasis on English--except maybe at Yew Chung--and we don't think that they really try hard enough on the Chinese side. On the other hand, the more Chinese schools are quite new, with untested faculty (THIS). We assume our kid will go to school overseas, probably the States, but that's not absolute. For all we know, he might prefer Hong Kong or Australia. But we are certain about keeping him away from the gaokao stream. If you have any tips, I'd love to hear them!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

How about him going to the best local school that he can test into (making sure he gets out before 高三), and finding some interesting creative people to do private (English-language) tutoring in certain subjects after school?

This is something I've thought about for my daughter when imagining what life could be like in 5 or 10 years...


Link to comment
Share on other sites

But the curriculum is not really challenging or interesting

I bet almost international schools in China are like this, as they cater mostly to short-term expats and not meant to be the most academically challenging.

I've wrote about my views on the local vs. international school issue in another thread here:


Do you know what specifically is deficient in the Huijia curriculum or that is causing your son to be bored?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From what I have observed, kids who had went to elementary school in Asia are able to maintain their Chinese when they immigrate to the United States. They are able to quickly pick up English and do quite well. They have the best of both worlds.

I think the western way of thinking, the asking of questions, the creativity, the tenacity etc...are very valuable. To me it more valuable than being excellent in Chinese. My child is in grade 6. She attends a bilingual school and a high school with an IB program is available to her. I'm glad that she in a western style classroom. Western students are different, they raise their hands more, speak up more, work together on projects, does presentations. I think a westerner with excellent techinical expertise, excellent communication skills, good enough Chinese, along with an understanding and enjoyment of Chinese culture could do very well in China.

The families that I know who still have roots in Asia value an English education.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Xiaotao, you live in England, right? Just wanted to clarify because the OP lives in Beijing and what is available there may well be different. My point is to take advantage of the best of local resources. There may not be a great "Western Education" option in Beijing. Just raising that possibility. Maybe a private school taught in Chinese (there are probably a few catering to returning overseas Chinese) with supplemental English home education on the side and lots of English magazine and novel reading, would be a better bet of getting the best of both world.

Creativity (or the ability to think out the box) is almost as much a personality trait as an academic skill. The home plays a big part in developing it, too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The words on Internet are pretty negative about Huijia (汇佳), mostly about the very mixed quality of students.

Here is a thread from a forum on Baidu:









this school is sucks seriously.

i'm in this school like 9 years even more than that .

the teathers doesn't care about you

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are some really good discussions (in Chinese) on the bbs.eduu.com forum about the choice of high schools for someone who wants to go abroad for college.





An option to consider to have your son go to school in Beijing up to say 10th grade (taking into the trade-off between academic rigor and open learning) and do the last two or three years of high school in the US (something like a Phillips Exeter Academy). It would be much easier to get into a brand name college in the US applying from the US than from China, I think, mostly because admissions officers are not familiar with the situation in China and are probably only comfortable with admitting the very exceptional students (those who have won national and international awards and the like). Of course, going abroad at an earlier age should be considered carefully, as well. Socialization and developing a network of friends is a big part of the education and growing up process, too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Gato: Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I did read your post on teacher quality and the Huijia student reviews, and will check out the info on bbs.eduu.com. On the Huijia specifics: math hasn't been going well this year because the teacher is a reassigned Chinese (language) teacher; English instruction has been taught exlusively by a local Chinese teacher whose English isn't very good, and mostly consists of form completion (verb tenses, etc.); and, even when they have native-speaking English teachers, I question their overall ability. (In a class I attended, the teacher, an American, couldn't even handle discipline in the class--a complete waste of time.) As mentioned in a Huijia high school student's post you copied, the students there are a very mixed bag. It's hard to know much about their family background because there is no PTA, the kids are mostly bussed to and from school, and there isn't much interaction between parents. But a lot of them seem to be very wealthy, and very few are from Beijing. We get the sense that they represent China's nouveau riche. Not necessarily the really rich, who can send their kids to top schools in, say, Switzerland or the United States, and pay for a family member or guardian to accompany them, but people whose kids probably can't get into the best public schools in Beijing and figure that they might as well go some place where the environment isn't as grinding and focused on rote memorization. Some of them are like us and just appreciate that the curriculum is a bit more laid back and requires a bit more student action than the typical public school approach. As mentioned, almost all the graduates, though Chinese nationals, head to universities overseas.

On another issue that you and others raised, we do hope to have him educated in Beijing. Sending him off to get "finished" at a top U.S. private school, as you suggest, might be an option, but he's our only son, and we'd actually like him to be around before he leaves, presumably for university, which we expect will be when he cuts the cord. (My wife and I were certainly happy to be out the house at that point.) Is that selfish? Maybe, but not entirely. I think that he can benefit from being with us for those last couple of years of high school, but I hope that I'm not exaggerating my usefulness as a parent! Judging solely from university admission results, right now it looks like ISB has the highest proportion of graduates going to top U.S. schools, and Dulwich sends the highest proportion to top U.K. schools. And the quality of teaching does seem to be pretty good at both places, though not at the level of the best private or public schools in the U.S. or U.K. We're not talking about places in the league of Styuvesant, Eton, or a top East Coast school. One reason is selectivity, another the peripatetic nature of families whose kids attend. With a lot of student turnover, all members of the school community have to spend an inordinate amount of time and energy on acclimatizing to a new environment.

Henry's (hbuchtel's) idea of finding the best public school and supplementing with creative outside help is an option. But preparation for the gaokao does not start during the last year of high school in China. My wife is a graduate of a top public high school in Beijing and just doesn't want our son to be subject to the standard high school curriculum because it is so regimented and based on memorization. Yes, the teachers at top schools are "the best," but what are they the best at doing? They are the best at getting their students into top Chinese universities, and they do that by being masters at teaching to exams. At this point we are also looking at the international "section" of the high school attached to People's University, which is one of the best high schools in Beijing (considered much stronger than the high schools attached to Tsinghua or Beida, go figure), but the teachers in the int'l. section are the same as those in the "local" part of the high school. Yes, they are some of the "best" teachers in Beijing, but aren't they dominated by the idea that the students are supposed to do well on exams? When they teach students in the international section, will they suddenly change their pedagogical outlook and start to think, "Well, now I'm not going to concentrate on helping these kids pass the gaokao, I'm going to develop them as well-rounded, dialogue-oriented individuals with a global outlook and balance mastery of the subject with critical thinking skills?" (That will require a school visit to find out, but I'm skeptical.)

(The People's U international section is different from the new international high school attached to the high school attached to Tsinghua University (THIS). THIS teachers, except for the Chinese language teachers, are basically all expats and do not, as far as I know, work at Tsinghua High School.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm in Shanghai so I can't give any substantial, Beijing-specific advice. In general, though, I would agree that there are some local schools with good teaching and that you can find them out through their reputation. The one stellar example that I know in Beijing is the Int'l Division at the high school attached to Beida[1], whose progress I follow through Jiang Xueqin's posts on The Diplomat's China Power weblog[2]. In Shanghai, schools like the HS attached to Fudan (*not* the int'l division) and Xiwai private school are attempting/have attempted similar things.

Also, my parents moved the family back to the US when I was going into my sophomore year of high school and this did give me a comfortable transition to US education. So I like Gato's suggestion above.

[1] http://www.pku-int.com/

[2] http://the-diplomat.com/china-power/

Regarding bilingual schools, I find that a lot of parents are attracted by the idea but that when it comes down to reality the commitment is lacking. In Shanghai I know of only one school that is truly bilingual (YK Pao [3]), but they are just starting and don't have middle/high school yet. At a recent event at my own school, a suggestion was submitted by a parent that math courses could be taught in Chinese using the local curriculum, and the room of mostly faculty was consumed by snickering and quiet laughter. This even though we are one of the more localized international schools* in Shanghai.

[3] http://www.ykpaoschool.cn/English/Index.asp

* Not officially an int'l school, but for many practical purposes.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In Shanghai, the private school affiliated with SMIC (the Taiwanese-funded semiconductor company) seems to have a pretty good reputation. I've heard it's more academically rigorous than Shanghai American School. They have a Beijing branch now, too, but it's very small and goes up only to 8th grade.


The SMIC Private School


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm waiting for my previous post to appear, which I hope it does, because it was long. But in the interim, I thank msittig for a response that led me to the blog of the very interesting and no-hold-barred comments of the new head of the International Division of Peking University High School. Very informative, and we will have to follow-up there. SMIC looks pretty good, but it won't make much sense to send him someplace for only two years. They claim to have plans to open classes in higher grades, but it would be risky to rely on that now.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Regarding SMIC, they are surely very likely to open a new grade each year as their existing students progress through the school. This is a fairly standard way of opening a new school, especially one with a distinct curriculum that would make it difficult for local students to enter directly into higher grades.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do you know about the Yahoo group for expats living in Beijing? If you search the listing of Yahoo groups, it shouldn't be difficult to find. I was a member for a while. It's an excellent source of information on all and every aspect of life in Beijing for non-Chinese residents, and a lot of the members are people there with children - who must have faced just the same situation as you do. I'd say it's worth signing up to, not just for this. But sign up for the postings as a daily digest or you'll find your email inbox is deluged!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jiang Xueqin's articles are great. Since it appears that can't easily list articles by author on that site, here are some that I found to be particularly interesting.


Back to School

By Jiang Xueqin

September 6, 2010


China’s English Learning Industry

October 1, 2010


China’s Lack of Passion Issue

June 23, 2010


When Good Students Are Bad

August 27, 2010


Gathering Storm

May 26, 2010


Recruiting Season

August 31, 2010

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is a comment in the eduu.com discussion thread about the international program at Luhe High School in Tongzhou (通州), that it's better than the international program at Renda, which some say has some unevenness in teaching quality. The school's website lists the universities that their graduates have been admitted to. The list is not that impressive, but I think that may be true for almost all schools in China. Top schools in the US have quotas for international students, and it is to likely to take more to be admitted from China.


Luhe (潞河) High School International Program


潞河的教学环境比RDF(Renda/People's University High School) 要好,今年RDF的外教也去了潞河,潞河的学术校长是一个英国老绅士,还是英国A-LEVEL协会的会长,潞河的学生报考英国大学他的推荐信十分强大,还有老绅士录用的外教是一水儿的欧洲人士,外教在口试中问我儿子留学方向,孩子说想去美国,外教还问他为什么不去英国呢,看来他们的主流是去英国。潞河因在通州,不大会被认识。我儿子的目标是美国,潞河申请去英国大学虽强大,只有落选了。

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...