International Education

As of January 2015, the International Schools Consultancy (ISC) listed China as having 481 international schools. ISC defines an 'international school' in the following terms "ISC includes an international school if the school delivers a curriculum to any combination of pre-school, primary or secondary students, wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country, or if a school in a country where English is one of the official languages, offers an English-medium curriculum other than the country's national curriculum and is international in its orientation." This definition is used by publications including The Economist. There were 177,400 students enrolled in international schools in 2014.

2013 Nicholas Brummitt, managing director of ISC, reported that there were 338 international schools in Mainland China as of 2013, with 184,073 students. Slightly more than half of the international schools are in the major expatriate areas of China: Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong Province, while the remainder are in other areas. Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou have the most international schools while significant numbers also exist in Shenzhen and Chengdu.

Many international schools in Beijing and Shanghai, in accordance with Chinese law, are only permitted to enroll students having citizenship in areas other than Mainland China. This is because Mainland Chinese students are required to have a certain curriculum, and schools that do not include this curriculum are not permitted to enroll Mainlanders. Mainlander children who hold foreign passports are permitted to attend these schools. Students from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan may attend international schools for foreigners. As of 2014, 19 international schools in Beijing are restricted to non-Mainlanders. There are also schools using international curricula that accept both Mainlander and non-Mainlander students.

By 2004 increased international business operations resulted in an increase of foreigner children. Many of the original post-1949 international schools used International Baccalaureate and North American curricula. By 2004 many international schools in Beijing and Shanghai using the British curricula had opened. The number of international schools in 2013 is an increase from 22 international schools in 2001, with a total of 25 times fewer students. By the 2010s many Mainland Chinese parents began sending their children to international schools which accept Mainland students to increase their children's chances of going overseas.