Skip to main content

Beijing education and international schools guide

One of the first facts that you learn about Beijing international schools is that they cost a fortune, but be grateful, it is only the second most expensive place on the planet to educate your child – Shanghai schools cost even more!

Currently, the population of Beijing is running at over 20 million people but the number of truly international schools is remarkably small – surprising, considering the number of expats who work in the city. Maybe, the cost of the schools, the totally different culture and even the pollution (they’re working on it but Oxford Street is the Antarctic, by comparison) are reasons why so many families choose to keep their children safely ensconced in schools at home.

A couple of the famous English names, Dulwich College Beijing and Harrow International School Beijing have set up shop and the global educational giant Nord Anglia Education has taken over the British School of Beijing but there are not nearly as many international players, as in cities, such as Singapore and Bangkok. It waits to be seen as to whether Covid 19 will change this pattern and a lot will depend on how the international schools handle the practical problems of running large schools under new rules. However, one poll showed two thirds of parents intending to re-enrol their children when the schools opened again, so it looks as if it’s business as normal.

International Schools

Chaoyang District – Beijing’s Chelsea

Chaoyang District is the upmarket choice of expat families as it is the place where you can work, shop and party, as well as having most of the better international schools on your doorstep and your embassy around the corner. The crème de la crème of prestige addresses is in the Chaoyang Park neighbourhood, as there is a rare patch of green at its centre, complete with pagodas and Chinese gardens, maybe encouraging to any Brits, who yearn for London parks.

This is also home to a large number of the schools, most popular with expats, which include the British School of Beijing Sanlitun, Canadian International School, Harrow International School Beijing, Western Academy of Beijing and Yew Chung International School of Beijing. Your choice will probably depend on the curriculum that you want your child to follow and also whether they can fit your little, or not so little, darling in. The International Baccalaureate programmes are currently very much in favour and almost all international schools offer the IB Diploma, even if the remainder of the curriculum is English or American.

The size of the schools can be daunting to parents used to student numbers in three figures but the mainly, brand new, architect-designed campuses are specifically arranged to deal with the hordes. There are some exceptions to these huge numbers, such as the Sanlitun junior campus of the British School but anything under 1,000 students is unusual. Even the International French School (formerly the more charmingly named Lycée Francais de Pékin), one of the oldest foreign schools, only just stays under the thousand mark.

Shunyi District – suburban Beijing

To the northeast of Beijing, Shunyi Central Villa District is a true suburb (think Chinese-style) and is very popular with expats, particularly as it is in-between the city and Beijing Capital International airport. If you can afford it, there are grand neo-classical villas but there are also cheaper options, leaving enough in your pocket to afford a round of golf on the Jack Nicklaus-designed course. If Chaoyang is Beijing’s Chelsea, Shunyi is Beijing’s Sunningdale.

Naturally, this is a Mecca for international schools and the British School of Beijing Shunyi, the International School of Beijing and Dulwich College Beijing have all opened their doors here on eye-catching and surprisingly green campuses. The choice of school will, again, depend on the curriculum that you are looking for (often the one that will allow your child to transition most easily to schools or universities elsewhere) but in Shunyi, the schools have more to offer in terms of sport and space for parents, who want the traditional extras that their children would have at home.

Bilingual Schools

It is unlikely that families without at least one Chinese parent and with children who have some familiarity with the language (both spoken and written) would consider sending their offspring into such a foreign environment for formal schooling. However, the more adventurous do send their children to bilingual kindergartens, partly to pick up the basics of Mandarin but also to absorb the atmosphere of their new environment and, hopefully, make friends with Chinese children.

Naturally, these kindergartens gravitate towards the areas where expats settle, so Chaoyang is home to some of the most discussed (around the dinner table) options, including:

Beanstalk International Kindergarten - offering an international curriculum (taught in English) and a fully bilingual one

Etonkids International Kindergarten Lido  Montessori based, with either a 70% English and 30% Chinese programme or one targeted at Chinese families.

3e International Kindergarten - teaching half the day in English and half in Chinese

International Montessori School of Beijing - on three campuses and accredited as a Montessori International School

Ivy Academy - offering an English language programme devised in collaboration with Harvard

Sanlitun Kindergarten - a local public kindergarten that accepts foreign children

The Children’s House - a Montessori school, offering classes taught in English as well as in Chinese with English-speaking assistants in every class

Some kindergartens belong to groups that provide a bilingual education for older children, the most well-established, probably, being Beanstalk International Bilingual School (BIBS). The students are mainly Chinese but they also enrol other nationalities.

Some genuinely bilingual schools are considered by expats and amongst these are Beijing Aidi School, which is a school offering a range of curricula options including, American, Australian, English and Chinese and Beijing Huija, another bilingual school that also contains a number of foreign students. Possibly, the one in this category that expats tend to favour most is Yew Chung International School of Beijing, which accepts students from the age of three to eighteen.

Amongst schools less likely to be considered by expats but with small elements of foreign students are Beijing World Youth Academy and  Beijing City International School.

For more information on these schools, please go to each school’s individual entry on the GSGI database or The GSGI article 'Best schools in Beijing considered by expats'.

And finally…

The population goes on growing and the international schools go on expanding in ever more glamorous facilities (paid for by parents, via the cost of the school fees) but at least the pollution is better than it was.

Most popular Good Schools Guide articles


  • Special educational needs introduction

    Need help? Perhaps you suspect your child has some learning difficulty and you would like advice on what you should do. Or perhaps it is becoming clear that your child's current school is not working for him or her, and you need help to find a mainstream school which has better SEN provision, or to find a special school which will best cater for your child's area of need. Our SEN consultancy team advises on both special schools, and the mainstream schools with good SEN support, from reception through to the specialist colleges for 19+. Special Educational Needs Index

  • Uni in the USA... and beyond

    The British guide to great universities from Harvard to Hong Kong. We tell you how to choose, how to apply, how to pay.

  • The Good Schools Guide International

    Corona Virus As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, The Good Schools Guide International offers the following guidance:  Determine the global situation and that of individual countries on government mandated school closures by accessing the UNESCO information on this link: https://en.unesco.org/themes/education-emergencies/coronavirus-school-closures.   For updates on the medical situation, go to  the World Health Organisation website at https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports.  If you wish to contact one of our GSGI listed schools to discover their current status or any plans for alternate learning strategies, please go to our database to find email and phone numbers for each school https://www.goodschoolsguide.co.uk/international-search. If your company makes you brexit, The GSGI should be your first…

  • Schools for children with performing arts talents

    At specialist music, dance or performing arts schools, the arts aren't optional extras. They’re intrinsic to the school curriculum. Students are expected to fit in high level training and hours of practice alongside a full academic provision. It's a lot to ask any child to take on, but for those with exceptional performing ability this kind of education can be transformative.

  • Finding a state grammar school

      There are currently around 163 state funded grammar schools located in 36 English local authorities, with around 167,000 pupils between them. There are a further 69 grammar schools in Northern Ireland, but none in Wales or Scotland. Almost half of these are in what are considered 'selective authorities' (eg Kent and Buckinghamshire), where around one in five local children are selected for grammar school entry based on ability. The others are areas such as Barnet or Kingston, with only a few grammar schools. How to find a state grammar school Word of warning: not all selective grammar schools have…


Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
 Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,000 schools
 Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

The Good Schools Guide subscription

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

The Good Schools Guide manifesto for parents