Would You Put Your Kids in a Host National School?

..I’ve been offered a teaching position in China. The job comes with a great salary and a super benefits package. I’m ready to accept the offer but I am concerned about my two children. They have never lived abroad and 95% of the school population is local Chinese students.

My kids are 10 & 12 years old, flexible, adventurous and accepting. Still, I’m worried that a move like this could be too challenging for them.

Have any of you parents been in a similar situation? Did you accept the position? How did your kids handle it?  I realize all kids handle things differently but I’d love to hear any and all perspectives.

Thanks in advance for your help and support.


China Bound??

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20 thoughts on “Would You Put Your Kids in a Host National School?

  1. Do not accept a job in China if it is not a truly international school. I am mom of a teenager and I cannot wait to leave despite there are 20 to 30% of foreigners in my school

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi – I have two teens in a similar situation. One has thrived but the other not so. She feels very ‘different’ and often excluded due to the language barrier. She enjoys the school but finds it difficult socially.
    I think (like anywhere) it depends on the cohort and personality of your children.
    It is hard to be in a minority group anywhere, but not impossible!
    Good luck in your decision


  3. I agree with the majority. Its a huge risk to take for the kids at a critical point. There are plenty of jobs in PYP / MYP schools at the moment in China and beyond. I would hold out for something that will be more inclusive, and likely more rewarding for you too.


  4. If their math/science/physics/chemistry skills are not legitimately among the very best (for foreigners)…they will be totally at a loss, although (one could argue that) numbers are a universal language. The benefit of picking up Chinese can often be outweighed by the bullying issues, mentioned quite often. IB (PYP/MYP) programs are the best matches, but often come with the highest price tags (even for teachers, who are often charged at least 50% tuition). They will get lots of opportunities to practice English with Chinese classmates, but I fear their immersion into Chinese language might not be ideal unless it’s a very well-regulated school with smaller class sizes than you’d typically get in a public/government middle school, high school of university.

    My son is 3, half-Chinese, half-American/white, so he gets along really well in his KG program because he’s the only “mixed blood” kid and he gets a lot of special attention from teachers and students alike, but it also can go to his head and make him feel entitled a bit. At least that’s my concern. He’s been learning Mandarin/Chinese from the very beginning as his 1st language, because of the grandmother. My wife and I both teach him English, she probably speaks to him half and half in both languages because her Chinese is much more “nationalized” than the local/Wuhan dialect the grandmother communicates in.


  5. International schools regularly welcome all sorts of children from wherever – so many times, new students are the only child of a particular type: nationality, language, culture… As teachers, we welcome this and make a safe and welcoming classroom.
    Why would it be ok for other people’s children, but not for our own?
    If it matters, I’ve made this choice with my children. They thrived.


  6. You don’t say if this is an international school or national school in China – it makes a huge difference. What is the language of instruction – this is crucial. The city you are in will also be relevant, is there a large enough expat community for your children to find friends outside of school?


  7. I think that nothing shapes and teaches young minds better than travels.
    Kids are flexible, adaptable, curious and adventurous.
    The system might be completely different, not as much as the programme is concerned, but because of student – teacher relations.
    Having said that one thing had occured to me: in an international school the kids will have international / domestic teachers, will they not?


  8. If you think your kids will benefit and feel comfortable being thrown into an non-English environment, I’d say go for it, provided you support them by providing them the maths, sciences, social studies and of course Language Arts they’ll need, all in English so as not waste their time.

    Trading a “great salary” for your children’s education may have some benefits, but it would be better to work for a great school that actually provides your children with a great education. To be sure, they are out there. Your children will be competing against them for the rest of their lives. Is your great salary going to give them the edge they need?


  9. I am in the same boat…but am only looking for short-term contracts. My son is 11 and has loved his experiences in Peru and Italy. He is learning Mandarin slowly, on his own, so yes,I feel it will be a big hurdle for him and lots of tears but I do not expect the local school to actually teach him science, history, math etc. I will homeschool him the rest when we come home but he will have his math sheets and busy work while he is in the Chinese classroom


  10. I think your kids are probably too old for this to be an easy transition, and China not the easiest of countries. In Japan, my daughter went to a Japanese nursery school for two years which had a couple of other foreign students and that was fine, but kids I know who went into the Japanese system later had a very hard time. And apart from spoken language they will need to master literally thousands of Kanji. Even worse than in Japan where they also have the phonetic hiragana to help.


  11. My children went to a fully international school in China and had a great experience. However my experience with Chinese schools where the majority of the students are locals is that they are usually far from the kind of education I would want for my children. While I want them to maintain their Mandarin, every class is essentially an ESL class, at the expense of other areas of the curriculum. There are a few exceptions that I know of, but do your research on whether target language is a requirement at school, and seek feedback from teachers at the school. If the school is Chinese-owned, I would rule a red line through it straight away as they would expect very different things from their program – and their teachers – to what I would expect.


    1. I agree with Shannon. The Chinese school system (curriculums, approaches to teaching and learning, etc) will be VERY DIFFERENT from what you are probably used to. I would look into an international school in China that uses the PYP/IB curriculum, which is recognized worldwide, and offers more balance. I’ve worked in Vietnam at a school that had a large population of local kids and few expat students. I saw how difficult it was for the expat kids to make friends with kids who only spoke Vietnamese.


  12. My son had two horrible experiences in overseas schols. .. and one no so bad. If the language of the playground is not English, they will be excluded and bullied. He lost two years worth of “learning” and had to repeat a year. Living overseas was WONDERFIL and he misses it now we are home but I had to pay HUGE fees to place him in the true American International school when I taught at the school for locals. It cost me half my salary!


  13. I taught at Chinese high schools and universities [2008-2012], where the level of spoken English was quite high. If our now-grown children had been of high school age, I would not have seen major problems for them. However, our older daughter and her husband later joined us in China – at a different city – to teach at a prestigious high school, taking their 5-year-old daughter. There were problems [the kindergarten opening a year later than promised, overvaluation of used household goods for duty purposes, air pollution, etc.] but our granddaughter did adjust and adapt for three years. I would still vote “yes.”


  14. Our experience was in Cairo in a school that had both British and American curricula. Many of teacher in in the American school were local and spoke often in Arabic. !00% of the students were Egyptian except the hand full of international teachers’ children who were primarily American, British or Canadian. I’m afraid it just wasn’t a good fit for us. As a teacher I was faced with a much different learning style and my two boys, 10 and 12 at the time, suffered from many of the same issues as described above. In addition, the national students were very tight and would never accept the boys and even would bully them to a great degree. We left after one year. We were fortunate in China though. A large percentage of the students in both of the schools we attended were Chinese but they were much more accepting and friendly, almost innocent. Plus, there was a equal part of the student body that was from all over the world. This is what we are now looking for, a diverse student population that really defines an INTERNATIONAL experience.


  15. Hi, I’m in India with my 2 sons aged 12 and 10. Despite the school portraying itself as ‘international’, basically it’s got an international curriculum, but all the students (apart from mine) are Indian and several of the teachers are also Indian.

    My 2 have lived in NZ, Panama and Qatar and are also very adaptable but the differences here have been huge. It’s cultural as well as all that goes with it. Often the children speak in Hindi, which excludes my two, as do some of the teachers.

    I’d advise you to look into what’s available outside of the school. Despite checking, it’s been hard for them to carry on with their normal UK sport commitments and after this year, we’re leaving and moving on to a more sport focused country that will allow them to do more of what they’re used to.

    Yes, they’ve picked up Hindi; yes, they’ve made friends; yes, they’ve adapted but along the way they’ve lost out on a great deal.


  16. Here is an issue you probably haven’t thought of yet: you need to ask the school what is their policy regarding use of the “target language” during the school day. If such a policy is not enforced on the precincts of the school, your child may be subjected, on an almost daily basis, to verbal bullying and ridicule that the international teachers are unable to control. This was my experience in a terrible school in Egypt that I recently left. Although your child may not understand what is being said about/to him/her, s/he will be able to recognized it for what it is, and feel ostracized and hurt. On the other hand, if the school does have a good language policy–as most IB schools do–then this problem will not exist, as it did not, in the good Indian schools in which I worked.


  17. At my last school in Foshan, China, a few western teachers’ kids were placed in classes mostly taught in Chinese (even though English was promised) and the kids were lost and didn’t take it very well. And that was just part of the problems at that school. Make sure you read reviews of your prospective school before signing.


  18. I have lived in China for 8 years now. I tend to agree with the above comment. Yet it also depends what city you are going to. Some schools may be harder to adjust to given what cities they are in. You may also want to do a little research into the Chinese education system as it really can be a meat grinder experience for children that have had no experience of it before. Seriously Chinese pedagogy is a world away from what you or your children may have ever experienced before.


  19. I would be very cautious. They are likely to feel isolated and China is already not an easy move. We did 6 years in China, at a very International school, but would not go back and would certainly not take the kids to a 95% local student school.


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