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Tuition Fees and Costs of International Schools in Shanghai

FAQ on tuition fees, costs, discounts, and more when enrolling a child at a school in Shanghai
2021-05-25 12:00:00

Tuition — i.e. how much is this going to cost me? — is likely to be one of, if not the most, important factors to consider when choosing a school for your child. We won’t lie to you. International schools in Shanghai are expensive. According to a survey completed by ECA International, China was found to be the most expensive country in the world for international secondary school education. Ouch. Even Shanghai bilingual schools, the more affordable option, aren’t much cheaper! And once you’ve covered the tuition, the spending doesn’t end there. Here’s a rough guide to school tuition and extra costs. Note: Only foreign passport holders/citizens of Special Administrative Regions Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan can enroll at an internationally owned school in China. Bilingual schools accept the above in addition to nationals from China’s mainland.

What is the average cost for tuition at an international school in Shanghai?

What is the average cost for tuition at a bilingual school in Shanghai?

What are the payment terms, is it upfront per year or can you pay monthly?

In addition to paying the annual fee upfront (which is most often a good bit cheaper), most schools also give you the option to split your payments by semester — some schools have two, some have three — but not monthly. e.g. WISS charges 267,332rmb per year tuition for Years 12-13, which has a 3% discount if paid annually. If paid by semester, it's 137,800rmb each adding up to 275,600rmb total.

Do I need to pay an application fee?

Yes. This costs between 2,000-3,500rmb.

Do I need to pay a deposit to guarantee a place for my child?

In most cases, yes and upfront. But this often goes towards the price of tuition. Expect to pay between 10,000-75,000rmb.

Are prices fixed, and is it possible to negotiate?

This is very unlikely with international schools, no matter how much guanxi (relationship) you have —if you’re hoping for “mates’ rates”. However, if one of the parents is an employee at the school, many schools offer free tuition for one-two children.

Are scholarships or bursaries available?

Yes. A few (not all) schools advertise scholarships that can cover part to full tuition costs — these are usually reserved for prospective students who perform well academically. Bursaries are also known to be available which can help cover costs. To apply, families are required to give schools a full overview of their finances in order to calculate an amount that can be given.

Can you get discounts for siblings attending the same school?

Some schools offer 5-10% discounts for siblings. When visiting a school, mention how many children you intend to enroll in and ask whether the school can offer a discount. e.g. Dulwich, Harrow, Wellington, and YCIS offers a 5% discount on tuition if you have at least three enrolling, while Britannica, Hongqiao International, Shanghai Singapore, and WISS offer 5-10% discounts if you have at least two enrolling.

Are school fees tax-deductible for expats?

At the time of this writing (May 2021), school fees can be tax-deductible. Companies often allocate part of an employee’s salary as a ‘benefit’ e.g. housing benefit/living expense etc., which then reduces the amount of tax an employee should pay. However, major tax reforms are expected to go into effect on Jan 1 2021, that ends tax deductions for foreigners for education. If your current compensation package included education as a benefit, read more about how this new law potential impacts you. 

Are my children’s examination costs included?

More often than not, yes, costs associated with exams are included with tuition — check with the school when applying.

What are the costs outside of tuition?

Matriculation/capitol fee
: According to school sites we looked at, this one-off fee (of differing names) goes towards maintenance of the school building and more. In many cases this is non-refundable. “Why isn’t this included in tuition,” you ask? Good question… Expect to pay between 8,000-33,000rmb. e.g. Lycee Francais de Shanghai charges a one-off ‘construction’ fee of 30,000rmb per child upon enrolment. However, this does get refunded once the child leaves the school.

: Some schools charge extra for uniforms with some exceptions e.g. Dulwich, SCIS, Shanghai Singapore, and WISS. Expect to pay around 1,000-4,120rmb per year.

School meals: Most schools charge for school lunches: some per day, some per term, and some annually (unless your child goes to school with a packed lunch which most allow). Expect to pay between 25-35rmb per day.

Schoolbooks: In most cases, schoolbooks are included in the price of tuition — this does not include stationary.

Laptops/tech: Many schools provide IT equipment for children to use, however, there are places that require each student to have their own laptop or tablet device and insist on a certain brand being used which will require you to pay extra. e.g. Concordia require students to have an Apple laptop which they arrange for you. This costs approximately 8,000rmb.

Transportation: Most often, optional buses to and from school cost extra and are usually charged annually or each semester at a flat rate. Expect to pay between 12,500-19,440rmb per year. e.g. WISS charges 17,900rmb/year for the school bus but also offers 20% discount for families with 2+ children living close to the school.

EAL/Language Support: If your child doesn’t speak the language the classes are taught in, schools often provide additional support lessons. Some include these in the cost of tuition, but many don’t and charge them either as a one-off fee or annually until the student catches up to the rest of the class. Expect to pay between 5,000-20,000rmb.

School trips: If your child’s school offers them, mandatory trips are sometimes included in the tuition, while non-mandatory ones are most often not included. Depending on where the trip takes your child, and which school, these prices will vary a lot. e.g. Mandatory trips for high schoolers at SAS are included in tuition and valued at 5,500rmb.

Why do tuition fees between international schools vary so much?

There are many factors for this. Here are a few examples: * Some international schools are non-profit organizations not private owned, so the money that is received is poured back into the school. This helps reduce tuition costs. * Some schools are supported financially by their nation’s government, which helps reduce tuition costs. * Some schools are privately owned and designed to make a profit. * Generally speaking, the environment, facilities, and services at international schools tend to be of a higher quality. The higher the quality, the more expensive things get. Such as maintaining swimming pools, purchasing the latest I.T. equipment, paying teachers higher wages, hiring private caterers to produce school meals, regular building renovations etc.

Here’s a Snapshot of Shanghai International School Fees:

Early Years



Schools marked with * indicates that tuition fees are for 2020-21. Schools marked with ** indicates that they offer discounts for annual payments.