A new choice

By Chen Ximeng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/14 18:43:39

The demand for German-language based education in Beijing is growing

A student taking a class at the Swiss School Beijing Photo: Li Hao/GT

When Li Wenyan heard the news that the Swiss School Beijing opened recently in Beijing, she was very excited that her 5-year-old daughter, whose Chinese name is Li Luya, finally had a German-speaking school to attend.

"We want her to receive a Swiss education taught in German with Chinese language lessons so that in the future she can go to schools or universities in Switzerland having an edge with her Chinese skills," said Li, whose husband is from Switzerland. 

Founded by a partnership between WAB and the Association Swiss School Beijing, this is China's first school to be funded by the Swiss government. It offers a German-language education based on the Swiss curriculum under WAB.

"I think that there is an increase of demand for German-language education. There are lots of Germans and lots of expats from German-speaking countries in Beijing. The automobile industry and the pharmaceutical industry contribute greatly to that," said Courtney Lowe, director of WAB.

Lowe said that some of those families are very interested in international education, which tends to be equated to an English-language medium of instruction.

However, those who want to maintain their German might move back to Germany or Switzerland, so having German-language education would be an attractive option to satisfy their needs.

Swiss School Beijing is not the only school providing German-language education in Beijing; there are also several schools including Deutsche Botschaftsschule Peking (German Embassy School) and British School of Beijing (BSB) that offer education or programs to cater to the growing demands of parents and children from Germany, Switzerland and other German-speaking countries as well as returning Chinese parents and children.

German-speaking education differs from English-speaking education in that it is focused on gaining a deep understanding of the German language with a German or Swiss curriculum, as well as being geared toward better preparing students to continue their education or being admitted by German-language universities in German-speaking countries.

A corner of the classroom of the Swiss School Beijing Photo: Li Hao/GT

An integrated education

Luya has been attending Swiss School Beijing for over two months. Li found that she likes the school very much.

"All the classes are taught in German, and we have seen that she has made progress in her German-language skills. What impressed me most is that in her music class she was taught the children's song "Two Tigers" both in German and in Chinese. It was quite interesting," said Li.

As a section of WAB, Swiss School Beijing also shares the WAB resources. For example, the school's students take Chinese class with WAB students.

"Since Luya is of Chinese heritage, it is also very important to learn Chinese at the school," said Li. She is also impressed with the co-building between WAB and the school, which helps her benefit from being in a multicultural environment, she said.

Now the school has one class of eight children aged from 4 to 8. The tuition for a student is from 162,000 yuan to 191,400 yuan ($24,395-$28,823) a year. The school provides scholarships for students from Switzerland. It currently offers Kindergarten, Primary 1 and Primary 2 classes, and will roll out an additional class as well as a French-language education in the coming years.

Sami Yosef, the head of Asia research of ISC Research, a UK-based company that provides data on the international school market, said that Nord Anglia Education, which opened British School of Beijing (BSB) in Beijing, also introduced their German program to target this segment as it is an important expatriate population in Beijing.

"German expatriate numbers are considered to be stable by the international schools in China, particularly in Beijing and Tianjin. Volkswagen, Mercedes, Bosch and Airbus bring many German families to China, predominantly on two-year contracts," said Yosef.

In 2013, BSB launched its German primary school (GPS) for the native German-speaking students to study core subjects in German, following the Thuringia curriculum, while integrating into the English curriculum with non-core subjects and a variety of school activities.

Yvonne Duennebier, head of GPS, told Metropolitan that they follow the Thuringia curriculum in maths, German, humanities, science and art in order to guarantee a smooth reintegration into the German school system.

"As we have students from different German federal lands, we can adapt the teaching to some special requirements in German Klasse 5 for children who are aiming to go back to Bavaria," said Duennebier.

"We use the secondary curriculum with the matching materials and books for German Klasse 5. Here, we provide the level of the "German Gymnasium" standard with differentiation of levels, if needed," she said. 

The British School of Beijing Photo: Courtesy of ISC Research

Going to a German school 

Angie Wang, a 39-year-old woman married to a German, has her two daughters studying at Deutsche Botschaftsschule Peking. Eva Lorenz, 7, is in the primary section and Ida Lorenz, 4, is in the kindergarten.

Wang said that their family wants their children to receive an authentic German education and go to German universities in the future.

"The school is like an island moved from Germany, which provides a pure German education and is almost not influenced by the local policies," she said.

She thinks that the biggest feature of the school and German education is its rigorousness and emphasis on developing children's natures from a young age, through which process their talents are gradually discovered.

When they go to the high school, they can decide whether they want to go to German universities or vocational institutes.

Almut Hennings, the principal of Deutsche Botschaftsschule Peking, told the Metropolitan that their school, which was founded in 1978, is one of the largest German schools in Asia. They offer education "Made in Germany" from kindergarten to Abitur (a qualification granted by university-preparatory schools in Germany) at the highest level for more than 700 students from over 30 countries.

She said that their school teaches according to the German curriculum. English and French are taught as foreign languages. Chinese language is taught as an intensive course starting in the sixth grade.

"Our students receive schooling in an international and global environment and acquire outstanding German-language skills, which allows for easy admittance and transfer to schools in Germany and acceptance to German universities," said Hennings.

She added that since the language of instruction is German, mastery of this language is a prerequisite for admission. The vast majority of children who attend their school come either straight from Germany or have attended other German schools around the world.

"Although the parents of our students are primarily expats, we are receiving more applications from Chinese professionals who return to China from a longer stay in Germany and whose children were either born or grew up in Germany and speak German fluently," she said.

Students from the Swiss School Beijing put on a performance at the opening ceremony of the Swiss School Beijing. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Making a choice

Parents and stakeholders give their suggestions on how to make a choice regarding German education in Beijing.

"I think it depends on their long-term plan. The Deutsche Botschaftsschule Peking is very suitable for us," Wang said.

 "We want them to take German education all the way through. If we move to Germany one day, they can also connect well with the schools there."

She said that once parents make the choice, they should integrate into the school. Some parents who are returning Chinese tend to compare it with other international schools and think that the school should also add more Chinese classes so that their children can better adapt to the environment.

However, strictly following the German curriculum, the school does not teach Chinese as a foreign language as they do English and French.

Duennebier suggested that schools like theirs are suitable for parents aiming to provide their children with an international education with a high English input without losing the requirements of state schools in Germany.

"When talking to parents we always underline the positive as well as the more difficult sides of schooling a German child in an international school. And normally, the parents see the enormous advantages for their child being educated in an international environment abroad even if the whole German curriculum is not covered," said Duennebier, and added that they are considering an expansion in Shanghai.

Hennings said that her advice would be to start learning the German language from an early age. Unfortunately, their school does not provide German classes to the general public, but there are other schools or institutes in Beijing, such as the Goethe-Institut, that offer language classes to both children and adults.

Li also has her concerns.

"As the school is newly opened and in its early phases, it is small with children of mixed ages. I can accept it while Luya is young. But when she turns seven, I would prefer that she enters a bigger class of children around her same age," she said.


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