back to home

New Regulations for International Divisions in Shanghai

The Shanghai municipal education commission issued guidelines last week that may significantly impact how public high schools operate their international divisions (Chinese here). Essentially, the guidelines state that public high schools may no longer charge fees that are different from the fees charged to students who are enrolled in the traditional coursework in preparation for the gaokao. Based on the article, this will affect 18 high schools in Shanghai with international divisions (private schools, however, may continue to offer the international programs, but the article states that they will have to submit a proposal and get approval from the government going forward).

If implemented, these guidelines will significantly impact the economics surrounding international divisions. Tuition for the international divisions is many times the amount of the “local” track (according to a Global Times article the tuition for the international division is usually “40 times” the amount of the tuition for the traditional curriculum). As a result, these divisions have become a huge profit center for the schools and a large growth market for the educational companies who provide foreign teachers and educational curriculum.

So what is going to happen? It may force a restructuring of international divisions as public schools look for ways to cut costs (greater emphasis on online learning?) or phase out international courses altogether. Or the “international” classes might be shifted to “after-school” hours. While the new regulations seem wide-reaching, regulations surrounding school fees change regularly in China (some members of InitialView management have their children enrolled in local schools and see this often). It is also not necessarily the case that as goes Shanghai, so goes the rest of China. In fact, other provinces often look at what's happening in Beijing and Shanghai and see opportunity in doing the exact opposite.

What do you think? Email us at or find us on Twitter (@initialview). Bonus points for opinions to the contrary. We're working on a translation of the above article; let us know if you would like a copy when we're done.