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  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 5:16am
LifestyleFamily & Education

China’s wealthy increasingly attracted to Britain's elite secondary schools

London education consultancies advise parents on exclusive schools

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 September, 2013, 3:20pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 September, 2013, 4:24am

A decade after Bo Guagua, grandson to a revolutionary hero and son of fallen Communist Party leader Bo Xilai, became the first Chinese to attend Britain’s elite Harrow School, agencies promising access to Britain’s top independent schools are expanding rapidly to cope with rising demand from the growing pool of high-net-worth individuals from China.

The London-based education consultancy Gabbitas opened its first office in Shanghai in 2009. Four years later, it also advises well-off parents in Guangzhou, Wenzhou and Dalian on how to get their children into secondary schools once reserved for British and continental European aristocracy.

Within five years the agency plans to open another 12 branch offices, said Sofie Liao, director of Gabbitas in China. Schools like Eton and Harrow “are getting more and more enquiries from Chinese families,” she said, anticipating annual growth rates of 10 to 15 per cent.

Liao’s biggest challenge is to lower parents’ expectations, she said. Parents “have to be realistic,” she said. They “tend to think, you register with Eton and then you need to pack your luggage and go there next year.”

These schools “have royalty, they don’t care how much money you have in your bank account or how many listed companies you have,” Liao said.

She said parents are signing up their children to join the UK’s exclusive schools at a younger age to increase their chances of being accepted. “The youngest students we have are pre-prep school age, two to three years old. They have to wait another 11 years before they can get in.”

“It’s a very long selling cycle,” said Jazreel Goh, director for education marketing at the British embassy in Beijing, adding that such agencies are unlikely to be challenged by the average Chinese rivals.

“The market is a very niche and specialised service. The bar for being a good boarding school agent is set quite high – you have to have the network of boarding schools and you have to know which might suit the applicant,” she said.

Goh estimated that there are about ten professional boarding school agencies in China. The trend she has seen is more upper-middle-class parents signing up with agencies to send their children to the UK.

Students from China, including Hong Kong, make up by far the largest group of foreign students studying at British independent schools, according to a census in January this year surveying more than a thousand schools by the British Independent School Council. Among the 25,912 foreign secondary school children in Britain, 9,623 or 37.1 per cent came from China.

Hong Kong still leads the ranking of new intakes, but could be overtaken this year by the mainland. Last year, new intakes from Hong Kong entering British independent schools fell by 5.3 per cent to 1,821, while new intakes from the mainland increased 5.4 per cent to 1,746.

Several parents sending their children to British schools are hesitant to speak publicly about their experience of sending their children to British elite schools. “Education is a very personal family matter. It’s a very low-key, but important investment,” said Goh.


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Poor kids and parents. Just think that the thoughts they bring home from the UK might get labeled 'interference in internal affairs'. What a waste of money and effort.
"China’s wealthy increasingly attracted to Britain's elite secondary schools"
That's a misleading title to get more clicks. Given those "elite secondary schools" would need to make sure they can get those kids into Harvard or the equivalent afterwards, I doubt they can guarantee such prospects. Besides, Britain may want to improve the food quality in the canteens of their boarding schools.
Meanwhile, in the UK, US, etc. parents are increasingly seeking to enrol their children in the schools that have not 'sold out' and bumped up numbers with overseas students. As one parent said to me: "Why would I send my children to that private school? Most of the children are now from overseas. It won't help my child with opportunities in this country as much as the other schools will."
all hail mao! praise the party and all its glory! china is harmonious and perfect... don't let those foreign devil voices tell you otherwise!
Before long, China's top political and business leaders will probably communicate in English with each other. How sad it is for a civilisation that has lasted five millennia against all odds!
Another absurd rumor. Party elite keep their children in China so they are not exposed to counter-revolutionary thought. Only counter-revolutionary running dogs would send their princelings and princesslings to foreign schools. China has all the learning resources that any proper Party member to be will ever need.
So Bo Xilai is definitely a counter-revolutionary running dog then for sending Gua Gua overseas from age 12.


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