China’s economic rise has been well documented, there are now over 350 million ‘middle class’ Chinese citizens and with growing levels of wealth come changing priorities. Already worth RMB 1.6 trillion (US$240 billion) in 2015, China’s education market is projected to nearly double to RMB 3 trillion (US$450 billion) by 2020. For the Chinese citizen their priority is now receiving and providing for their children a more quality education in fiercely competitive modern China.

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International Education in China

Chinese society is highly competitive and education has become a key way to mark one’s status and level of achievement in a society obsessed with the Chinese notion of ‘face’. That is the importance placed on being regarded as successful.

I would suggest we are now in ‘golden age of international education’ in China.. here is why.

1)      A Rapidly Growing Education Market.

The growth of China’s education industry is world leading. Investment cases grew from 190 in 2014 to 270 in 2015, that’s an increase of 42 percent, whilst the amount of mergers and acquisitions of IPOs rose by 165 percent and 76 percent, respectively.

Amid this background we can see an increasing number of international schools, colleges, universities and online tutoring platforms entering the market. All signs point to continued growth with a growing middle class and a changing society that is more education-centric than ever before.

2)      Changing standards and expectations

As GDP rises and the middle class grows the first priority in any developing nation is education. We have witnessed a real change in the expectations of the market. The Chinese, domestic education system is often considered to be ‘out of date’ with its emphasis on drilling and route learning.

In-fact the state are supporting such a shift, their encouragement of overseas education is interesting with more relaxed visa policies than ever in the country’s history. It is well documented that the parties wider goal is to improve their citizens education in order to shift from a manufacturing based economy, to a tertiary and service based one.

International education has become part of this movement because it is associated in China with innovation and creativity.

3) Chinese spending rises in-line with market growth

Surveys regularly show that Chinese families prioritize spending on education ahead of any other area, even above real estate and retirement savings. The McKinsey Global Institute projects the country to spend 12.5 percent of its overall consumption growth on education for those under 30 over the next 15 years.

4)      Education reflects status

International education; particularly European, American and Australian is considered to be more innovative and creative than it’s Chinese counterpart. It is also part of a general trend; the Chinese have become more open minded to foreign products and services

Chinese society is highly competitive and education has become a key way to mark ones status and level of achievement in a society obsessed with the Chinese notion of ‘face’. That is the importance placed on being seen as successful by an individual’s social group.

An ‘international’ education reflects this status and is fundamentally associated with quality. The discerning Chinese citizen has often been let down by poorer Chinese standards and in their eyes a foreign education is increasingly the answer.

5)      The Emphasis on English Language Learning

This is paramount. English is now compulsory in all schools in China which has fuelled further private English schools and classes. It has also acted as a conduit for the connection with native speaking schools, establishments and courses. The English tutoring business, both online and in terms of face to face lessons is currently in vogue with the Chinese looking to ‘top up’ their English skills.

6)      More Young Learners

The Chinese state last year lifted the infamous ‘one child policy’, parents can now have two children without being penalized. This could effectively double the number of young learners in a wealthier society pre-occupied with quality education. Estimates suggest in the next two years 150 million Children will be born.

The phenomenon of the ‘little emperor’ is worth mentioning.  As a result of the single child policy two sets of grandparents, parents, and other uncles/aunts would all focus their attention on a single baby. As a result you have a whole generation growing up with more funds invested into their education and a focus on the famous slogan; ‘one child but of better quality’. This has helped the education market grow with whole families investing collectively into their Children’s future.


See also :

  1. UK Education market & Chinese Students
  2. Chinese outbound Students
  3. Education in China 
  4. The Education Market in China


So how can you capitalize on these changing attitudes, greater receptivity to quality and focus on ‘international’ services in China?

You need to develop a positive reputation and increase your visibility on the Chinese internet, it is a very different proposition because of the ‘great Chinese firewall’, this has basically cut the online sphere in China off from the rest of the web.

Therefore in order to be successful and generate student leads you need to be active online and use the best platforms in China.

1)      Visibility on Baidu

Being highly visible on Baidu is step one. The Chinese will likely turn to Baidu (which dominates with 70% of all online research), to search for schooling options. Here you must be appear in the natural search results, the most serious and qualified candidates are generated in this way.

You build your presence here with an SEO campaign by creating content, featuring backlinks, having an optimized Chinese website and through link building. Baidu, like Google, rewards fresh content.

Paid advertising is also effective, especially in conjunction with SEO. This can be PPC or banner ads.

2)      Social Media in China

The Chinese use social media as a news portal far more than we do in the west. WeChat, the largest platform with over 750 million users is actually known as the ‘WeChat Times’. It is important to have a presence here with an official account, parents of young children and prospective university students particularly rely on WeChat to browse for information.

You can also have customer services using WeChat’s messaging service. Official accounts function more like ‘mini sites’ for the prospective parent or student.

WeChat is an important platform to share quality Chinese articles and content.

3)      Forum Reputation

Educational forums are popular in China, people will visit to research education options and discuss with others, the Chinese still have this more collective mindset, they need to validate their choices with other like-minded prospects.

The best forums for education are Baidu Tieba, Zhozhui and QQ.

Another point is that these forums in China are visible. This is important as Baidu’s ‘Tieba’ will often appear before an official website in the natural results, it is obviously prioritized by the company. In the west we think of forums as outdated but in China they are still very important for online research and decision making.

4)      Quality Chinese Content

Creating the best Chinese copy in Mandarin which is engaging, concise, to the point and on message is no easy task. It is however vital for all Education businesses as you need to produce articles for visibility and to engage with Chinese internet users. Content should be informative and fresh. You need to establish yourself as an ‘expert’ in your field of education services.


The education market is clearly very lucrative but barriers for entry remain a problem. The Chinese internet is cut off from the rest of the web so regardless of your reputation in your home country you will need to start over again to win over the hearts and minds of the Chinese learner.

These barriers for entry do however present an opportunity. Due to the difficulties and higher initial costs many education businesses do not expand here, even when currently demand appears to be outstripping supply. It takes a strong commitment for growth but the Chinese market surely pays dividends for the adventurous educator.


We are a specialist marketing agency based in Shanghai, China. For more information about the market or our services please get in touch.

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