China - Country Commercial Guide
Education

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country.  Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2021-02-03

K-12 Education 

A new generation of Chinese parents is increasingly open to Western educational concepts and increasingly capable of financing educational-related investments for children, teens, and young adults. These two combined developments are driving strong demand for international educational opportunities, skills-training programs, and tutoring resources for Chinese students before they reach college age. 

While the United States attracts a high number of Chinese K-12 students, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought uncertainty to Chinese demand for international study. A survey conducted by the Beijing Overseas Study Service Association (BOSSA) found that 73.4% of recruitment agencies reporting consultation volume has dropped in 2020. 

Training, Tutoring & Curriculum Licensing

Chinese children are provided with nine years of free, compulsory education from elementary to junior high school. However, parents routinely enroll their children in after-school tutoring programs to enhance their knowledge in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) subjects in the hopes of broadening their academic horizons. 

According to a Deloitte report on China education, personal training and K-12/STEAM will account for more than 46% of a $480 billion education market in China by 2020. These investments by parents also include spending on English language tutoring programs. Further, demand for tutoring programs geared towards infants and young children is driving a need for teaching methodologies and materials, curriculum materials, educational facilities and products, software, and brand licensing.

China’s after-school tutoring market from 2011 to 2021 more than doubled.

   China After School Tutoring Market; 2011-2021
China After School Tutoring Market; 2011-2021

*Estimates
Source: Deloitte

U.S. Boarding Schools & Student Recruitment

The United States annually attracts a larger number of Chinese K-12 students. In 2016, it was estimated that more than 33,000 Chinese students attended U.S. secondary schools, a number that grew from 22,000 over three years. Research undertaken in 2016 by the Institute of International Education shows that Chinese students made up 42% of all international students at U.S. secondary schools. In the same report, however, it appeared that student enrollments had begun to plateau. 

Through engagement with parents and students, it is understood that Chinese parents, particularly affluent ones, continue to show interest in U.S. K-12 secondary education as a key pathway to entering U.S. universities and colleges. In selecting a secondary school, Chinese parents are very ranking-focused. Also, schools with better connections or pathway programs to higher education institutions are preferred. For schools that are not highly-ranked or well-known, beginning recruitment efforts in China’s Tier 3 and 4 cities may provide opportunities to build initial name recognition in less competitive markets. 

International Schools 

According to research by ICEF Monitor, as of 2019, Chinese private schools and investors had partnered with 31 private international school brands, a segment expected to see increasing enrollments as China’s affluent families increase investment in their children’s educations. 

A 2019 report by TopSchools shows recent trends for China’s international schools. Over the past three years, the number of students enrolled in international schools increased by 19% year-on-year, and total tuition payments grew by 20%. As of the Fall 2019 semester, China recorded 821 certified international K-12 schools, which generated a market worth more than $11.6 billion despite a tightened regulatory environment. Median tuition for these schools varied from $15,000 to $35,000 per year. 

In addition, a study by ISC Research indicated that more than 245,000 students were enrolled in China’s international private schools in 2019, and cites an interest by affluent parents in providing their children with a private, bilingual education with a Western-style, “inquiry-led, student-led, collaborative learning” environment.

Trade Events

China Education Expo 2021
October (TBC), 2021, Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, & Shanghai

Web Resources

Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China

China Education Association for International Exchange

Higher Education

According to Open Doors’ Fast Facts 2019 Report, the United States is the top international destination for Chinese higher-education students. For the tenth consecutive year, China remained the largest source of international students in the United States in 2018/19, with 369,548 students in undergraduate, graduate, non-degree, and optional practical training (OPT) programs. This figure represents a 1.7% increase from 2017/18.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought uncertainty to Chinese demand for international study, as a survey by BOSSA recently found that 73.4% of recruitment agencies reporting consultation volume has dropped in 2020.

Chinese Students in the U.S.; 2011-2021
Chinese Students in the U.S.; 2011-2021

Source: Open Doors

Undergraduate and Graduate Programs

According to a publication from the Institute of International Education (IIE), during the 2018/2019 school year, 148,880 Chinese students were studying in U.S. undergraduate programs, and 133,396 for U.S. master and doctoral programs. Engineering, mathematics, computer sciences, and business are the most popular fields of study pursued by Chinese students. Liberal Arts colleges are also of interest to Chinese students for their diversified curricula, smaller class sizes, high student satisfaction, cultivation of critical thinking, etc. Visual and Fine Arts programs are seen as an emerging non-STEM subject of interest.

The recruitment of Chinese higher-education students is very competitive. When selecting a college or university, students and their families are very ranking-focused. Colleges and universities outside of the top tier should emphasize promoting the unique experiences offered to students, such as proximity to major cities, ease of transportation, proximity to natural resources, and unique student community groups.

Colleges and universities should also highlight career training and pathway programs, particularly those offered with corporate partnerships. Lesser-known and lower-ranked colleges and universities may want to consider China’s Tier 3 and 4 cities that could allow the development of name recognition in less competitive markets.

Community College Programs

U.S. community colleges and vocational schools are gaining popularity in China as they require fewer prerequisites for admission, have more affordable tuition and fees, and offer credits recognized by well-known four-year universities in the United States. U.S. community colleges and vocational schools looking to recruit students from China should focus on the unique experiences offered to students. These can include proximity to major cities, ease of transportation, proximity to natural resources, and unique student community groups.

To further establish an exceptional value – and to provide differentiation in a very crowded market – community colleges and vocational schools should highlight feeder programs and partnerships with higher-level and highly-ranked universities. Community colleges and vocational schools should also highlight the unique features of their skills training programs. Corporate partnerships, as well as apprenticeship and internship programs, are equally critical to gaining notice.

Trade Events

China Education Expo 2021

October (TBC), 2021, Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, & Shanghai

Web Resources

Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China

China Education Association for International Exchange

Education Technology

China represents one of the largest education technology (EdTech) markets worldwide due to a large student population and a growing middle class that places immense importance on education. A report by Deloitte estimates the market will reach $454 billion by the end of 2020, up from $300 billion in 2018. Over the past five years, forces driving growth of China’s EdTech sector have included:

  • High mobile internet penetration
  • Abundant venture capital
  • Increased education spending
  • Government policies

Recent policy in China has further enhanced growth of this sector. An article published by the Diplomat reported that the China Ministry of Education provided a boost to the EdTech technology sector when it postponed the Spring 2020 academic year as a result of COVID-19 and moved 278 million students to online learning.

Between 2011-2019, the value of China’s online learning market grew by nearly 500%.

   China Online Learning Market; 2011-2021
China Online Learning Market; 2011-2021

Source: Deloitte

K-12 Education Technology

The previously noted article from the Diplomat Magazine reported that according to China’s Ministry of Education, K-12 students make up 176 million of China’s estimated 278 million students. With such a large share of the student population, the K-12 education demographic also attracts the largest share of EdTech investments.

For example, a 2018 report from JMDedu notes that start-ups in the K-12 sector received 5 out of the 10 largest EdTech investments that year. Together these five investments equaled $1.5 billion. Importantly, the use of technology in the K-12 market is being adopted both for independent tutoring, by parents and families, and for in-person learning through major education groups and training chains, such as New Oriental and TAL.

STEAM Education

According to the same JMDedu report, EdTech investments are also being made into Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM)-focused “competency-based education” programs designed to teach coding or reinforce mathematical skills. Analysis by Deloitte estimates STEAM-related deals made up 30% of China’s EdTech investments in 2018, driven by student demand for these skill sets.

These developments were forecast in a 2016 report by Bloomberg (www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2016-12-20/china-s-tiger-moms-are-spending-thousands-for-stem-education-and-robot-classes-for-their-kids). That research estimated that by 2020, 50 million students in China would be studying STEAM courses, leading to the development of a $15 billion STEAM-learning industry. With 40% of Chinese college students earning STEAM-related qualifications in 2016, the article further predicted that by 2030 China would have as many as 200 million STEAM graduates by then.

This demand for STEAM education and training has seen the booming creation of training programs and startups offering out-of-school courses in coding, robotics, and 3-D printing, and attracted the attention of publishers, toymakers, and app developers. STEAM-related courses are not only in demand for older children and students. Rising middle-class incomes and fears of intense future competition for college admissions and jobs are leading parents to pay substantial sums for STEAM-related education for even young children and students.

Trade Events

China Education Expo 2021

October (TBC), 2021, Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, & Shanghai

Global Education Technology Summit & Expo 2021

November (TBC), 2021, Beijing

Web Resources

Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China

China Education Association for International Exchange