Departing from the Beaten Path: International Education as Response to Barriers, Stress and Risk in the Chinese Educational System

Natalie Young, Ph.D. Student, Department of Sociology
| CSCC Conference Room, Fisher-Bennett 345

China represents an extreme case of larger trends in the internationalization of education.  In recent years, this has included the emergence of international schools for Chinese nationals in Mainland China.  What motivations do Chinese families have for enrolling their children in these schools, and what implications does this have for educational inequality?  To answer these questions, I draw on field research conducted at an international school in Beijing.  I argue that enrollment in the international school is a strategic response to features of the local educational system that introduce barriers, stress, and risk into educational attainment processes.  I contend that international schools may aggravate class inequality within China by giving under-performing students from wealthy Chinese families access to academic credentials and by providing an alternative route to elite education for average students from privileged backgrounds.  In addition, by enrolling in international schools, affluent families overcome institutional barriers created by the Chinese household registration system, barriers that remain in place for less privileged families.  Finally, international schools introduce a new dimension of horizontal stratification -- stratification by curriculum intensity -- to the educational market in China.