China's first overseas 'public school' to be the model for country's 'education going out' strategy
Published: Sep 10, 2020 10:13 PM
For Chinese families with children in Dubai, this September, the biggest news is the opening of a special new school. 

The Chinese School Dubai, the first full-time school providing Chinese courses with the same textbooks used in China, opened and welcomed its first 200 pupils on September 1 after a preparation of half a year.

The school is not just an attractive option for Dubai's Chinese parents, who often express wishes for their children to grow up into "dragons and phoenixes," like millions of Chinese parents around the world. The school is also the first shot of China's efforts to promote the advantages of its education system and provide education opportunities for overseas Chinese.

After around one week of running, the Chinese School Dubai has performed a good start.

The opening ceremony of Chinese School Dubai photo: Courtesy of Chinese School Dubai

A perfect solution

"The temperature tester screen at the school hall is so cool!" "Our teachers are very nice!" "I made a new friend in school today!"

Every day, Zimu, who is about to celebrate her seventh birthday, has something new to share about her school with her mother.

The Chinese girl grown up in Dubai was enrolled into the Chinese School Dubai. She started her new semester on September 1.

Zimu was considered a "confident and focused" student in her previous school based on the British education system. But maintaining the child's Chinese skill is always the concern of Zimu's mother, who works in children's art education.

"We have seen the development of China and have confidence in China's education. We know the importance of Chinese language," the mother said, adding that despite the language, the parents also want their children to know about Chinese culture and history.

Zhou Ya, another Chinese mother, echoed the idea. "Chinese-style basic education suits Chinese families more," she said, adding that her son Bao Hafu in fifth grade has got used to the school very soon. The teaching language translation from English to Chinese is not a barrier for him.

Chinese 'public school'

Yin Liping, headmaster of the Chinese School Dubai, took part in the conception of the school from February.

"The school received great support from Chinese education ministry, Chinese Consulate in Dubai and Dubai's education department," Yin told the Global Times. "Without the support, the school could not be opened in such a short time."

Its opening day was attended by important figures, such as Ni Jian, the Chinese Ambassador to the UAE and Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, son of vice president of the UAE. 

Yin was dispatched by the Affiliated High School to Hangzhou Normal University. In March, 27 teachers selected from schools in China arrived at Dubai to start their two-year assignment.

To echo China's "education going overseas" politics, the Ministry of Education asked the education department of Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province to build up and operate the Chinese School Dubai.

The Chinese School Dubai now has 201 students, from first to fifth grades of primary school. It plans to have 800 students in the future, covering primary school, middle school and high school. The school rents a venue, but its own campus is expected to be built.

Yin shared that Chinese School Dubai is open to children of different nationalities.

The opening ceremony of Chinese School Dubai photo: Courtesy of Chinese School Dubai

"The school (in Hangzhou) has about 600 students from Xinjiang, so I have some knowledge about Islamic culture," he said.

Aside from using Chinese textbooks and courses, the school has other features of schools in China, such as the group exercises and eye messaging.

The school also meets the requirements of education department in Dubai. The schedule, textbooks and syllabus were reviewed by local education authority. Students are also taught about culture and laws in the UAE, and there are adequate English classes.

Going out

The Chinese School Dubai is one of the first trial Chinese schools overseas supported by the Education Ministry. 

There are more than 2,000 Chinese schools around the world, but currently we are the only one that provides full-time courses in Chinese systems. We imported the textbooks and courses from China and brought excellent teachers, which is a great advantage, Yin said.

"It will become a trend that more schools will build up Chinese schools," he said, noting that the Chinese School Dubai will serve as a model for the following ones. "We want to be opening, iconic and leading."

Not just the Chinese community, but the education sector in Dubai has expressed enthusiasm with the school.

According to local media, Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Director-General of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) said "The beginning of the new school academic year has brought with it a new educational paradigm as well as a new phase in Sino-UAE relations. The inauguration of the Chinese School Dubai not only facilitates quality education for students but also serves the broader community."

Previously, China has built smaller "sunshine schools" overseas, which provide education based on China's nine-year compulsory education syllabus to Chinese children living abroad whose parents are dispatched to work in foreign countries. Several Chinese embassies in countries such as the US and the UK have sunshine schools.

A statement published in December 2019 by the Ministry of Education urged accelerating the building of Chinese-featured international schools overseas, which could help provide Chinese education to children of Chinese citizens working abroad and overseas Chinese.

It mentioned three different modes. For instance, current Confucius Institutes or sunshine schools could be developed into Chinese international schools. Domestic education institutes are encouraged to independently build full-time Chinese international schools.

Aside from Dubai, Chinese international schools are also in Brazil and Malaysia.