Expat families moving to Shenzhen face the challenge of finding the right school for their children. Parents may need to weigh up the affordability of international schools and compare it to the feasibility and fit of public schools.
Public schools in Shenzhen
Following the education system in China, public primary education begins at age six. Six years of primary school are then followed by six years of secondary school. Shenzhen offers both academic and vocational high schools.
While expats can access public schools in Shenzhen, generally few parents choose them. The language barrier poses a problem, particularly for older children. Additionally, the pace of state schools is rigorous and there is heavy emphasis on rote learning.
Chinese parents care deeply about the academic performance of their children, while expat families may find the academic pressure excessive. As such, state schools may not be the best fit for families who prefer a more relaxed educational philosophy.
Private schools in Shenzhen
Private schools are another option for families with children moving to Shenzhen. These schools usually follow the Chinese national curriculum and have the same high academic expectations as public schools.
Some private schools in the city offer a bilingual curriculum. Expat parents considering this option are recommended to read through any potential school's language policy carefully to ensure that their children will have the support they need.
International schools in Shenzhen
International schools are by far the most popular option for expats in Shenzhen. These schools offer a diverse range of curricula and language options for foreign children.
Most international schools in Shenzhen teach the acclaimed International Baccalaureate curriculum. Expat families will also find schools that offer country-specific curricula, such as the education systems of Japan, Canada, the UK and the US.
Places in international schools are often limited, and expats are advised to apply to schools well in advance, if possible.
Nurseries in Shenzhen
Preschool is not compulsory in China, but many daycare, nursery and kindergarten options are available. Young infants who can generally pick up language easier than older children may do well in a Chinese preschool or a kindergarten with a bilingual programme.
Early education that follows programmes such as Montessori can also be found, while some preschools are part of larger international schools.
Homeschooling in Shenzhen
Some expat families may prefer to homeschool their children. However, parents should bear in mind that homeschooling is not formally recognised in China. In fact, homeschooling is entirely illegal for Chinese citizens, but as foreign citizens, expats fall into a grey area.
Expat parents who plan to homeschool their children are strongly advised to consider the schooling options carefully and get in touch with local homeschooling organisations and support groups. It is worth noting that homeschooled children aren't allowed to write the local school-leaving exam, meaning they will be unable to apply for entry to Chinese universities.
Special-needs education in Shenzhen
While special educational needs are identified as an area for development in schools in China, support is often limited. Most support for students with severe difficulties is separate to mainstream schools.
International schools may offer specialised services, though the extent varies. Educational psychologists, support teachers and counselling may be available. However, schools may lack resources for students who need significant support.
We recommend consulting each potential school individually. This process can be tiresome but will offer the most accurate information.
Tutors in Shenzhen
Hiring a tutor helps expat children integrate into a new schooling system and home environment in Shenzhen. Tutoring provides students with extra support outside the classroom – both online and in person. Adults, too, can hire a tutor to learn Mandarin or Cantonese, for example.
There are many resources online and platforms to search for tutors, including TeacherOn and Preply. Quick searches on these portals can identify tutors who specialise in a specific curriculum or subject area.
Are you an expat living in Shenzhen?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Shenzhen. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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