Wealth Blog

Nearly a third of China’s super-rich favour British schools

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 January, 2014, 9:24am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 January, 2014, 9:25am

Last week’s Hurun Report, which tracks the changing foibles and fads of the seriously rich in China, tells us not only their preferences in luxury shopping and travel destinations, but other things besides. Top of the list of bizarre objectives is sending their kids to expensive elite boarding schools in Britain.

Pity the kids

Following on from yesterday’s blog on the subject, I can only assume that mainland parents believe the glossy brochures where the sun shines and don’t bother to go over and visit the schools in person. If they did, they would see that unless a Chinese kid’s English is brilliant, they are going to be put in a form a year or more below their age group to compensate. They face an uphill struggle: lonely and speaking a foreign language, stuck in a class with younger kids and cut off from peers their own age. On the other hand, isolation is probably a good incentive to learn English fast. In some schools, such as Queens in Taunton, Somerset, they have special houses for Chinese pupils, where English is taught as a second language to bring them up to speed. With several Chinese kids together, they will at least have kindred spirits. But if they just hang out together speaking Chinese they learn little English.

Poor mixers

Chinese kids tend, from my observation, not to assimilate well in pool of precocious privileged British kids. But why would they? Would a little English Lord Fauntleroy do well parachuted into a snooty school in Beijing? It’s sink or swim but it must be a nightmare of cold and loneliness for many Chinese kids.  

Overseas education is hip

The Hurun report shows the United States is still a top choice for college and university, with 36 per cent of those surveyed picking the America as their priority choice for tertiary education. An amazing 28.7 per cent said that the UK is the best choice for pre-university, i.e. high or secondary school education. The pupils getting shipped off to British boarding schools tend to be the children of the super-rich: with the average starting age being 16. If their English is up to speed that should give them two years to A levels. And then, their parents hope, Harvard.

Two thirds of Chinese want to emigrate

So much for love of the motherland and faith in China’s education system – first chance they get, China’s rich parents follow the kids overseas. Two thirds want to ditch China and head for pastures new, rising from 60 per cent last year to 64 per cent in this year’s survey. This was “driven mainly by the number of super-rich who have already emigrated,” says the report. Ah, the sheep factor. One reason they want to do so is greater ease in getting their children a foreign education, apparently, which includes both private boarding schools and third-level education. This makes it sound like the parents head off first, leaving the kids behind in China, then the kids follow later. Not only is the US their top destination for their children’s schooling, Uncle Sam remains the top emigration destination, with Europe and Canada next.


When I visited the Chinese suburbs of Markham and Scarborough in Toronto, they seemed like suburbs of Tai Po, albeit stuck in a 1991 time warp with awful weather. No one spoke English, and the shopping precinct sold the Hong Kong newspapers. A Chinese friend was extolling the virtues of Vancouver to me today, saying the best thing was she didn’t need to speak English for three days. Everyone spoke Chinese. So I expect if the unfortunate mainland kids sent off to British and American schools can’t master English they shouldn't’ worry – wherever they are, China is coming to a suburb nearby, soon.