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Chinese parents scramble to send children to top British schools

2020-3-26 08:50| 发布者: 小鱼儿| 查看: 6119| 评论: 5

摘要: Packed into a grey minibus, 22 Chinese parents are trundling down a bumpy driveway towards Cobham Hall, a girls boarding school set in 70 hectares of Kent countryside.The red-brick Tudor mansion, with ...
Chinese parents scramble to send children to top British schools
Packed into a grey minibus, 22 Chinese parents are trundling down a bumpy driveway towards Cobham Hall, a girls boarding school set in 70 hectares of Kent countryside.

The red-brick Tudor mansion, with its octagonal wing turrets, looks like something out of an Enid Blyton novel. But there is nothing fanciful about the battle Asia’s rich are waging to secure places for their children in top British boarding schools – an export market worth about £1bn a year to the UK.

The Financial Times joined the Chinese parents on part of a week-long tour organised by Gabbitas, an education consultancy which advises on applications. By day, the group visits schools and by night, they enjoy retail events laid on by Harrods, the Bicester Village designer shopping centre and Asprey the jeweller.

“These parents are extremely high net worth,” explains Ian Hunt, the organisation’s managing director. “These are people who would not blink at spending £30,000 a year for 10 years for their children’s education?.?.?.?They start with the premise that Chinese education is too linear and constricting, and we try to show them the holistic environment in which the English system operates.”

Pupils from Hong Kong and mainland China now account for nearly a third of all overseas children at British boarding schools, and the numbers are growing steadily.

Given that Liz Truss, UK education minister, visited Shanghai just last month to find out how the city achieves its enviable success in maths, reading and science, it might be surprising that the Chinese are travelling in the opposite direction in search of good schools.

Wendy Le, an entrepreneur from Guangzhou, has a 14-year-old son at Whitgift School in Croydon, and is on the tour to find a place for her daughter, who is three.

“Chinese schools just want academic results, especially the sciences, so pupils cannot learn about art and music,” she says. “Also, we don’t have experimental equipment in Chinese schools, so children can’t do anything practical themselves.”

Ms Le says she has a £50,000 annual budget for her son’s schooling, and is surprised when asked whether she misses him while he is away. “No!” she laughs. “Schools have many holidays in the UK, so he comes back six times each year. That is enough.”

At each school there is tense question-and-answer session where parents grill teachers on whether there is a cap on the number of Chinese pupils.

“We don’t want your children to come to a school that’s full of Chinese children,” says Arabella Stuart, director of admissions at Sevenoaks, a co-ed boarding and day school. “We want pupils to have a genuine international experience.”

After further badgering for exact figures, she says that the school would not allow more than two children from the same “cultural background” in each boarding house.

Creating the right mixture of international and British pupils has become a vexed issue for the schools, who rely on wealthy foreigners to pay the £27,600 a year average boarding fees which are rising beyond the reach of UK middle classes.

Mark Mortimer, headmaster at Warminster School in Wiltshire, is one of many headteachers offering lower weekly boarding fees for a handful of parents, in an effort to boost pupil numbers from London and the home counties.

Gabbitas’s Mr Hunt believes that if the number of overseas pupils goes beyond 45 per cent, the school ceases to be British, deterring both local and foreign parents. “Because of the commercial pressures it’s a difficult decision to make – if a school knows that they can fill a place with an international pupil but that will tip them over the threshold, that’s a difficult balance,” he says.

Back on the road, Hong Yong Shi, a businessman from Chengdu, says it is worth facing the intense competition for places in Britain, if only to escape China’s gruelling gaokao college admission test for school leavers. “All children will have to leave home at some time,” he says. “Chinese parents figure out that it is best for the future if they make a sacrifice by sending them away to school when they are young.”


Two way trade in education

As Chinese parents push to get their children into British boarding schools, one Shanghai-based company is trying to tempt UK parents to do the opposite.

William Vanbergen, an old Etonian, is founder of BE Education – a consultancy originally set up to help Chinese students get into the UK’s top schools.

But now that BE has set up its own British-style boarding schools in the Chinese cities of Changzhou, Chengdu and, soon, Zhengzhou, Mr Vanbergen is trying to persuade hard-up UK residents to send their children to China for a bicultural education at a keen price.

“Our new boathouses are designed to make Eton jealous,” Mr Vanbergen says, as he describes his trio of schools which combine traditional English traits with Chinese ones.

“As well as having good academic results, pupils who’ve been to one of our schools will speak fluent Mandarin, have a real understanding of China and have their own Chinese friends,” he adds. “If they put that on their application form to Goldman Sachs, it will definitely mark them out.”

At £15,000 a year, BE’s boarding fees are about half what they would be in the UK. The schools’ pupils are roughly two-thirds Chinese and one-third international, although the vast majority of the overseas contingent have expat parents living locally. Mr Vanbergen hopes that the school’s British alumni will be the country’s future representatives in Asia.

“These are the people who will take Britain and the western world into China once they’re older,” he said.

22位中国家长挤坐在一辆灰色的小型巴士里,沿着一条崎岖不平的车道向科巴姆堂学校(Cobham Hall)缓缓行进,这是一所位于肯特郡乡间、占地70公顷的女子寄宿学校。

学校的红砖都铎式大楼及其八角形配楼,看起来好像出自伊尼德?布莱顿(Enid Blyton)的小说。但亚洲富人为确保子女入读英国顶级寄宿学校而发起的战斗,则绝没有什么奇幻元素——对于英国来说,这一出口市场每年带来的价值高达10亿英镑。

英国《金融时报》部分参与了中国家长们长达一周的学校考察之旅,此次活动是由提供入学申请建议的教育咨询机构Gabbitas组织的。家长们白天考察学校,到了晚上则参加由哈罗德百货公司(Harrods)、比斯特购物村(Bicester Village)的精品购物中心以及珠宝商爱丝普蕾(Asprey)等商家举办的零售活动。

Gabbitas的常务董事伊恩?亨特(Ian Hunt)表示:“这些家长都拥有极高的资产净值。为了子女的教育,他们连续十年每年花费30000英镑都不会有任何犹豫……他们一开始就普遍认为,中国教育过于按部就班、压抑孩子天性,我们则试图向他们展示英国教育系统运行的整体环境。”


英国教育大臣利兹?特拉斯(Liz Truss)上月刚刚访问上海,考察上海何以能在学生的数学、阅读以及科学教育方面取得令人羡慕的成就。而中国家长为了寻找好学校却奔向了相反的方向,这或许令人有点惊讶。

Wendy Le是一名来自广州的企业家,她有一个14岁的儿子在克罗伊登(Croydon)的惠特吉夫特学校(Whitgift School)就读。她也参加了学校考察之旅,为自己年仅三岁的女儿物色学校。


Wendy Le表示,自己对儿子学业的年度预算是50000英镑,在被问到儿子不在身边自己是否想念他时,她露出了惊讶的表情。“当然不会!”她笑道,“英国的学校有很多假期,因此他每年可以回家六次,这已经足够了。”


七橡树中学(Sevenoaks)的招生主管阿拉贝拉?斯图尔特(Arabella Stuart)表示:“我们不希望您的孩子来到一所全是中国学生的学校。我们希望学生能够拥有真正的国际化体验。”七橡树中学是一所男女合校的寄宿兼日间学校。



多所学校的校长向少数英国学生家长收取较低的每周寄宿费用,试图通过此举提高来自伦敦以及周边郡的学生人数。威尔特郡(Wiltshire)沃敏斯特学校(Warminster School)的校长马克?莫蒂默(Mark Mortimer)就是其中一员。






威廉?范伯根(William Vanbergen)出身伊顿公学,他创立了必益教育(BE Education)——这家咨询公司创立的初衷是帮助中国学生入读英国顶尖名校。



范伯根补充称:“除了取得优异的学习成绩以外,在我们学校就读的学生还能说一口流利的汉语,真正地理解中国,并拥有自己的中国朋友。如果他们将这段经历放在高盛(Goldman Sachs)的申请表中,将无疑使他们脱颖而出。”








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