Chinese parents keen to enrol their children in international schools but reluctant to pay the exorbitant tuition fees in the mainland are turning to Thailand as an option, a trend that has bolstered the local property market.
Peggy Wang, a mother of a 10-year old girl and six-year old boy, is one such parent who opted to move to the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, where annual tuition fees at less than 60,000 yuan (US$8,732) are a quarter of the 240,000 yuan her children’s Beijing bilingual school had charged.
“The teachers in the Beijing school change frequently, but in Thailand, teachers have families there, so the faculty is stable,” Wang said. “In Beijing, my children have to take extra English classes after school in the absence of an English-speaking environment outside class, but not in Thailand.”
She plans to send her children to international schools in Bangkok when they get older, where fees will rise to about 100,000 yuan a year. To prepare for that, she has bought a 31 square metre flat in Bangkok for 650,000 yuan, in addition to the Chiang Mai villa she lives in and a flat in Pattaya.
Wang is among a growing group of Chinese parents disillusioned by the costs of local international schools and the rote-learning in public schools in the mainland, and looking towards Thailand as a destination for education and investment.
According to Chinese international real estate website Juwai.com, the volume of enquiries for Thai properties in the first half of the year exceeded that for all of 2017, with Thailand rising from No 3 last year to become the top destination for Chinese buyers. It said it had received purchase enquiries amounting to US$962.2 million since the beginning of last year.
Monthly tuition fees of US$2,744 at Shanghai international schools are currently the world’s highest, according to the International Schools Database. Beijing is second most expensive at US$2,519. By comparison, fees in Bangkok and Bahrain are US$1,032 and US$422 respectively.
Education is a common factor driving Chinese overseas property investments. Anxiety over the shrinkage of domestic wealth under a depreciating yuan, high inflation and shortage of viable investment options are other reasons. Next to traditional investment destinations like US, Canada and Australia, Thailand has its advantages – it is geographically closer to the mainland and less expensive.
Chris Deng, a businessman from eastern China’s Nanjing city who shuttles between China and the US, bought a 35 sq m flat in central Bangkok for 1.3 million yuan this year. He said he planned to send his daughter, now two years old, to a local kindergarten, and possibly primary school in Thailand.
“I want my kid to grow up in an international environment,” he said.
Deng said he considered his Thai investment as part of a global portfolio that includes property assets in the US and other mainland cities.
“In Thailand, I can get a 5,000-6,000 yuan monthly rent. In Nanjing, I get a similar rent for my 100 sq m home, which is now valued at 5.6 million yuan,” he said.
An annual yield of close to 10 per cent was the major draw for Jennifer Wu, a 25-year-old Chongqing native to invest in Bangkok. Wu bought a 28-sq m flat for 566,000 yuan, via Uoolo, an app that helps Chinese buy properties overseas.
“I heard that universities there are good, which could be an option for my future kids,” she said.
Wang said parents who can afford the higher fees for mainland international schools would prefer to pay them as sending their children elsewhere usually require a parent giving up a career to move overseas with the child.
“But living in Thailand hasn’t changed much for my children and me. Each time when we land in Beijing, they kept asking me, when we could get back to Thailand?”