Hohhot’s International Schools

And by that title, what I really mean is lack of international schools.

I occasionally get asked this question via wechat or email, so I’ll put what I know about schooling options for international kids in this post.

  • There are many 幼儿园you er yuans (preschools/kindergartens/whatever word your country uses) with “international” in their name. Don’t let this fool you. I don’t know any of them that have even one international student. The name just means that they either supposedly adhere to some kind of international curriculum or they have a foreign teacher or they teach an English class.
  • There’s also Honder International School.They actually have a lot of international students, most of whom are university level or higher. I think they have a high school, but to my knowledge there aren’t any foreign students in that part of the school (some of you who teach there comment if you know otherwise).
  • I haven’t personally known any Western families here who have sent their children to local schools. I have known of some one local parent/one foreign parent families who have but most of those ended up returning to the other parent’s home country. I’ve known a couple Japanese families who have used local schools, but their children could speak fluent Mongolian and went to Mongolian local school. I’m sure there are Outer Mongolian families (or one parent Outer/one parent Inner Mongolian) who use local schools, I just don’t know them personally.
  • I’ve been told there is only one local school with the official permission to accept foreign students (other than universities): 呼和浩特市民族实验学校 the Experimental School on the southwest corner of Xing An and Da Xue Lu. They do have foreign students…Buryat Russians and Mongolians. (again, no Westerners) Although the school does have a number of foreign students, the methods, curricula, scheduling, and all other aspects of the school are like a typical local school.
  • There’s a school called 英伯恩国际学校 Ying Bo En that now has a you er yuan and I’ve heard they have plans to partner with and move one location out to Tai Wei ski slopes/golf course and incorporate those sports into their school programs. Again, it has international in the name because they supposedly follow a British model, but to my knowledge they don’t have any foreign students and no full time foreign teachers. Also, you can expect the school fees for this school to be proportionate to the housing prices at Tai Wei (10 million RMB/house).
  • All the families I know in town currently either homeschool or don’t have school age children. Some of them cooperate for their homeschooling for interaction with other kids and for special classes and projects.


Do you think Hohhot is ready for a true international school? Did I leave out any vital information in this post? Leave us a comment.




  1. Guanghua says:

    Hi, Jill.
    This is one of my favourite articles in this blog. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, from the perspective of my own kids’ preschool education(or early childhood education) as well as business opportunities.

    My son is five now. He spent one year in a nei da kindergarten before he stayed in the Park Ave. ECC(early childhood center) of Auckland for half a hear. Now he gets back to nei da kindergarten. The difference between two education systems is big. I prefer western styles, not for learning English nor knowledge but for the essential qualities kids should acquire at this age.

    From Park Ave. ECC, the most apparent changes that I found in my son are confidence, creativity, sense of individuality and social skills. Before arriving in Auckland, he was shy in a spotlight. Now he is thrilled in a spotlight. He is more willing to start a conversation with peers and knows how to get along. He loves painting and making handicrafts much better than when he was in nei da.

    A typical kindergarten here emphasizes teaching knowledge to kids in a very traditional style, with teachers lecturing kids. While I personally prefer western style, with kids playing by themselves a lot more and learning skills via playing in a casual way. I am not sure “Humane” is the right word to describe such style of inspiring young souls. But I really feel the natural growth of my boy in such style. Whereas in nei da, being disciplined and organized is much more important. This is also good for kids but sometimes it curtails creativity, individuality and social skills.

    I always think that “if only there was a western style kindergarten or international school here “. More and more parents here are thinking about this too. Both my son and daughter attended Gymboree in wei duo li guo ji(维多利国际), which offers early childhood courses to kids. The fees are expensive but the center is always crowded.

    Yes, I think Hohhot needs a TRUE international school, not just for foreigners, but also for local people. There is business niche.

    • weibaili says:

      There may be a market for it, but I think there are too many obstacles to make it a reality anytime soon. First, there’s no large employer bringing in foreign families. Second, the registration process would be horrible as it requires the business registration process as well as approval with the education bureau. Third, my guess is that until there’s a large employer bringing in foreign families and paying high salaries, the foreign families currently in town wouldn’t be able to afford the tuition on a university teacher’s salary. And lastly, most of the families I know in town currently choose to homeschool out of principal as much as out of necessity.

  2. Guanghua says:

    Besides foreign families, there is potential need for local people. Especially those young parents who are in their 30s(we call them “八零后”) are very keen on the western style of early childhood education. Talking about business registration, it is supposed to be much easier as required by the central government. Local agencies are good at this because they know know-hows and so-called “潜规则”. Another reason making you feel difficult in registration is that it is rare to have foreigners running a business here. That may result in excess caution and bureaucracy. Anyway, business registration should not be an obstacle if the business is registered by local residents. It is rather a technical issue. Concerning the approval with education bureau, it is just a routine of approving a newly opened kindergarten or early childhood center(like Gymboree here).

    • weibaili says:

      I realize that there is a desire for international school among locals, but I think it would be too hard to register as a WOFE and I don’t see any international entity or individual wanting to partner without a good number of foreign students. So I think the problem is that it then becomes like the schools I mentioned in the article…just a local school with international in the name. I mean, if it’s registered by and invested in by locals with only local children, is it truly an international school?

      • weibaili says:

        Oh, and I think Gymboree is a franchise or branch which makes their registration easier and my guess is that they are not approved by the education bureau. That’s the main reason so many English schools and early education centers want to hire foreign teachers but can’t: they’re not approved by the education bureau to do so, because they are registered as an entity other than a school. That’s why so many foreigners are working without a proper work visa, because their places of employment don’t have the proper authority to hire them.

  3. Hello, I’m John.
    American 59y/o residing in Thailand.

    I teach live online English to Chinese through a Chinese company.

    I prefer a small company. (2-3 people) You recruit and I’ll teach. You collect the money and send me my share.

    Would you consider this?

  4. Bucktooth says:

    I have to disagree with you on the registration process for a couple of reasons. First, while there are service agencies that will help you, our experience is that they get you through the process, but they may not have always followed the rules. What this means is that somewhere down the road it catches up with you and you lose your school. (We have friends in Shanghai and Shenyang whose children went to large international schools who suddenly found out they couldn’t get any more visas for teachers….) So if you do use a registration company you better still make sure they and you did everything right.

    Secondly, it is not easy to get approved by the education bureau. I’m not sure what it would take for a foreigner to get approved, but even the locals I know with big “schools” and well connected are still taking 1-2 years just to get the approval from the Education bureau.

    Could it be done? Yes. But you better do it right.

    I do agree there would be a lot of locals who would like to send their children to that school. We have lots of Chinese friends who are thinking about different options for their children’s schooling.

    Of course, for a truly international school the fees would be astronomical. It seems they usually they are at least $20,000 per year and up. That is 120,000+ RMB. There are certainly people in Hohhot that can and would pay that, but a lot of the people who would like an international education really can’t afford it… including the majority of the foreigners with kids in town.

    Getting an truly international school with international standards would be great, but it would seem pretty daunting. Best wishes to you if you do start one though.

    • Preston Decker says:

      The other problem you’d be looking at is that while there certainly are Chinese people with the ability to pay 20,000+USD for their child to attend school here, that’s also enough money to send their child abroad to study (I have a friend who found an American high school with a tuition of only 15,000 USD a year). So you’d be looking at foreigners (most of whom only stay for a few years), and Chinese parents who are willing to pay for a foreign education but want to keep their children close to home. Practically speaking, that might mean the school could only be K-8, as by high school, I think many parents, both Chinese and foreign, would be ready to send their child abroad.

      As others have said, this doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it certainly wouldn’t be a walk in the park.

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