9.4 million – that’s how many Chinese students who recently took China’s infamous gaokao (高考) exam.
China’s notorious gaokao exam, or ‘National Higher Education Entrance Exam’, has been labelled the world’s toughest school exam, and for a good reason.
A two-day-long process exam for students in China, the gaokao exam is (usually taken in the final year of secondary or high school) not only determines which university a student will go to, but can also set the course of his or her life.
The stakes are high, and acing this life-changing exam is crucial (and brutal) for Chinese students, as China’s best universities only select one in every 50,000 students.
This means an incredibly intense competition to secure placement in China’s top colleges and universities, and a whole load of pressure on Chinese students that is beyond fierce.
In this survival of the fittest scenario, it’s no wonder that 2016 saw 664,993 Chinese students heading overseas to the US, UK, Canada, and Australia for higher education instead of sitting for the gaokaoentrance exam.
That’s an 8.9% y-o-y increase, which propelled Chinese students to account for 33.5% of total international students in higher education in those countries in 2016.
The growing Chinese quest for an international education
It’s such overwhelming pressure that has seen more and more Chinese parents seek alternative curriculums that is less stressful and more enriching for their children, and the answer they have found is international schools in China, which were once limited to only foreign children of expatriates in the past.
But it’s also more than just finding schools that give less academic pressure on their children – far-thinking Chinese parents are increasingly choosing to send their children to international schools from a young age because it’s also the best way to prepare their children ahead for their future studies abroad.
Over 80% of Chinese high net worth individuals (HNWIs) intend to send their children for an overseas education.
In fact, as more and more Chinese grow in terms of wealth – particularly amongst the mainland’s fast-burgeoning wealthy upper-middle-class and middle-class population – Chinese parents become increasingly discerning about where to send their kids to provide them the best in Western education, and subsequently, improve their chances of getting into elite overseas schools and universities.
4 underlying trends in key markets
1 US sees Chinese parents keen on early-years education come to the fore
The latest trend, though, shows that American elementary schools (or primary schools) and high schools (secondary schools) are rising fast in popularity with Chinese parents as well. Chinese elementary students in the US leapt from 500 in 2011 to 2,450 in 2015, while Chinese students in American high schools soared from 17,914 to 46,028 over the same period.
Applications from mainland parents have been increasing fast, as many believe are adhering to the growing mentality that by giving their children maximum immersion into the US curriculum from an early age, it would hone their English and boost their chances of scoring into top universities in the US.
2 UK a hotspot for Chinese students’ postgraduate plans
The 2015-2016 fiscal year saw 91,215 Chinese students heading to the UK for their higher education, making them the largest group of non-EU international students in the UK.
In fact, there are more Chinese students enrolled in UK postgrad degrees than British students, and it’s because UK postgrad degrees are typically one year long, offering a shorter, cheaper, and more intensive experience compared to other countries, which makes it a popular choice with Chinese students.
3 Australia’s Vocational Education and Training (VET) a huge draw
As of March 2017, there are over 140,000 Chinese students in Australia, accounting for 30% of Australia’s international student population.
That’s way ahead of the next-largest population – India, the second-largest group, only make up 11%, followed by Malaysia, Vietnam, and Nepal who each account for 4% of foreign students in the land down under, respectively.
54% of international students in Australia enrolled for higher education in March 2017, followed by 23% who enrolled for VET.
In part, this can be credited to a growing demand from Chinese students who are keen to get a skill-focused education, plus the chance to apply for the 457 visa – Australia’s Temporary Work (Skilled) visa, which offered a pathway to an Australian Permanent Residency (PR) after two years.
However, the Australian government recently axed the 457 visa in April 2017, and replaced it with an entirely new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa, and this may somewhat impact the Chinese VET trend.
This is because the new TSS visa will have tightened requirements, such as an IELTS (or equivalent) English language proficiency score of 5 and a minimum two-year work experience in their selected occupation, as well as 216 fewer skilled occupations to choose from.
More importantly, the new TSS visa will offer Permanent Residency (PR) after three years, and ONLY to applicants granted the Medium-Term stream visa of up to four years, compared to the previous 457 visa that offers PR after two years to approved applicants.
All these new changes could potentially render the VET to be somewhat less attractive in the eyes of Chinese students, but only time would tell.
4 Canada high schools and universities both in focus
Like in the US, Chinese children studying in Canadian high schools have spiked – total respondents applying for secondary schools
in Canada doubled in 2016, and this could be attributed to the steady decline in the Canadian dollar against the RMB in 2015 and 2016.
Lower required scores on IELTS tests for Canadian schools relative to the US and Canada, as well as affordable costs are also compelling factors, and this explains huge increases in demand for school places in Toronto and Vancouver that, incidentally, are also proven hotspots for property investors from China. What’s more exciting about Canada for Chinese students, though, is the fact that the Canadian government has made significant changes to
its points-based Express Entry immigration system, which enables people with skilled work experience immigrate to Canada.
Leverage education in your pitch for better success with Chinese
Education trends like these are helping to shape demand for both overseas education and property, and with the total number of Chinese heading overseas being supported by a range of fundamental attracting factors, it’s essential to factor education into your China marketing strategy.
One way to do so is to detail local education options with your listings, and we’re not just talking about colleges and universities. Seeing as the ages of Chinese students going overseas are dropping younger and younger each year, educational offerings for students of all ages are all within Chinese buyers’ sights.
From nurseries and primary schools to secondary schools and even vocational schools, be sure to highlight them so long as they are within the vicinity. At the same time, be sure to give prospective clients as much information as possible, including past awards, credentials, and Chinese student population, to name a few.
Another tip is to keep a list of contacts at local schools, because visiting Chinese buyers will often want to check out the school campus and facilities, as well as enquire about entrance requirements and qualifications.
By compiling a list of contacts from local schools and universities ahead of time, you can utilise it as part of an enhanced personal service to help your Chinese clients on their quest for an international education for their children.
Last but not least, do your best to help Chinese ride the wave of education-related demand. Considering the flow of outbound Chinese students is seemingly relentless, this makes for a huge potential market of tenants for Chinese property investors.
So, don’t forget to educate your Chinese clients on how they can harvest a steady stream of tenants with well-placed investments in education hotspots, such as London, Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York.