Education: Schools, Academies and Universities
Good news for the Suzhou expat community: there is a relatively big range of decent schools, academies and universities. Even better, most international schools and universities can adjust their education offer and level to different age groups, nationalities and curricular backgrounds of future students. There is also a variety of local Chinese schools that offer a foreign education system which we won’t include in this article.
In this section we are trying to give you an overview of international schools and universities in Suzhou that are experienced in educating expat/international children. Please bear in mind that some schools require monthly tuition fees which might strongly increase your cost of living. Besides giving some tips on children’s education, we would also like to encourage you to learn Chinese!
From our experiences, there are two different ways to learn Chinese: with or without Chinese characters. In Suzhou, many expats learn Mandarin at a private institute, often two times a week, two hours per class. Most of these academies offer pinyin courses, which means that they will teach you the Chinese transcription system by focusing on spoken language without the actual Chinese characters.
There are also courses that teach you all aspects of the Chinese language, if you would like to read and write characters as well. These courses are more intense as it generally takes quite some practice and time to learn the characters. Besides private classes, there are two universities in Suzhou that offer these courses. In comparison the price per hour for full Chinese classes at the university is much better than at a private academy. By taking such an intense Chinese programme, you will learn the language much faster and on a higher level.
If you would like to learn more than about 300 Chinese words, you should consider learning the characters. As some words in pinyin might sound similar, you’ll find them hard to distinguish from each other once you’ve had several lessons. However, learning Chinese characters takes time, so please consider carefully before you register. Intense courses usually take place up to five times a week, each time for 2,5 to 3 hours. Depending on other students in your class, the pace of your course might be relatively fast and homework might add up. But it is also lots of fun and really worth considering if you plan to stay in China for a longer time! From our experiences, life in China can be so much easier if you understand the language.