But when Wycombe Abbey, a girls' boarding school in Buckinghamshire, opens its doors in China in September, it will be not be launching a replica.international schools in china Wycombe Abbey International in Changzhou near Shanghai will be co-educational, and will teach a hybrid of the Chinese and English curriculums within an English-style boarding school environment. Alongside international GCSEs and A-levels, pupils will follow a Chinese curriculum in mathematics. And it won't be serving international students or UK families in China. Around 90% of the students will be local Chinese.We're catering to the insatiable demand in China for an English-medium education," said Wycombe Abbey's headmistress Rhiannon Wilkinson, who has also taught in Hong Kong and Brunei. "But we are also responding to a need for an English-style education system and Chinese methods," she said.International schools were once a virtual foreign enclave within the host country, a preserve of internationally-mobile expatriate families working for multinational companies. Now more local families are using international schools, where they study A-levels and International Baccalaureates from the UK and Advanced Placement programmes from the US, as a springboard to getting places in UK and US universities. Some parents also want their children to rub shoulders with an international elite and build contacts for a future career.Another motivation is to escape the relentless drudgery and ferocious competition of a local school system based on rote learning and geared only towards exams. "Families are worried about the pressure of the system on their children," said Ms Wilkinson. There are now about 8,000 international schools around the world, teaching 4.26 million students, according to research by the International School Consultancy.From less than a dozen such schools in each country a decade or so ago, Thailand now has over 172 international curriculum schools, half of them following England's national curriculum. Malaysia has 142, Japan 233, and Singapore - which makes it difficult for foreigners to enrol in local schools - around 63. Myanmar could also become a hotspot - Dulwich College will open there next year. Hong Kong which had 92 such schools in 2000 now has 171. Demand, particularly from local wealthy families is such that virtually all the leading international schools in Hong Kong have waiting lists, says ISC director Richard Gaskell, who is based in Bangkok. Only South Korea has seen a retraction, with some international schools struggling to fill places. But the big story is China. From a dozen schools 15 years ago, China has some 530 English-medium international schools, catering for 326,000 students.According to ISC Research, between 2010 and 2014 the number of international curriculum schools in Shanghai alone increased almost 40%, currently educating over 71,000 pupils. From a concentration in Beijing and Shanghai which together account for half the international schools in China, schools are spreading to other cities. Malvern College is in Qingdao and Chengdu. Dulwich College has expanded from its flagship schools in Shanghai and Beijing, to Suzhou and Zhuhai. Wellington has set up in Tianjin. "A local authority such as Jiangsu province knows that if they put in a top brand school like Wycombe Abbey, they can attract more people into the area," said William Vanbergen, chief executive of BE Education, an education consultancy which brokered Wycombe Abbey's entry into China.
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