BEIJING - The Chinese super rich are banking on foreign education for their teenage children as an investment.
Going overseas for a university degree has always been an option for the children of the wealthy, but now parents are sending their children overseas for secondary education also.
The United Kingdom is their first choice with the United States second, according to the Chinese Luxury Consumer Survey 2014, published by the Hurun Report, which polled 400 parents who each had at least 10 million yuan (S$2.08 million) in disposable income.
For undergraduate study, the rankings are reversed with the US topping the list, the UK second and Australia third.
In terms of secondary education, Canada is the third most favoured destination.
"We have been keeping a keen eye on overseas education as it indicates a trend in emigration," said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of the Hurun Report.
"It is common practice for the rich to send their children overseas as a first step before they move to the country themselves when the children finish their education."
Zhuang Qian, a book retailer from Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, enrolled her 15-year-old daughter at Harrogate Ladies College in the UK in 2013.
"I want my daughter to receive a better education in etiquette and practical abilities than she would normally get in China," she said.
Tuition fees for the boarding school are nearly 10,000 pounds (S$21,100) a term, including accommodation.
"I think the cost of my daughter's education is a long-term investment and will eventually get returns when she is able to find a job she is really interested in and good at," Zhuang said.
Cheng Wei, owner of the Shanghai Beizhili Tire Sales Co, sees company revenue hit about 300 million yuan every year.
He sent his daughter Cheng Sijia to study at Smithville District Christian High School in Canada three years ago when she was 16. Tuition fees were about C$20,000 (S$22,840) every year, while living costs were about C$15,000.
"Canada is safe, politically stable and enjoys a multilingual environment. Many Asians have gone there, and there is no racial discrimination," Cheng said.
Teng Zheng, deputy general manager of the Shanghai CIIC Education International Company, a consulting company for overseas education, sees a shift in attitudes on the subject.
"Nowadays, a growing number of Chinese students are going abroad to receive an education, and their motives have changed.
"In the past, many parents just blindly sent their children abroad. But now, their requirements are more precise, and they pay greater attention to school rankings, majors, location and the local environment," he said.
Teng confirmed that the UK, North America and Australia are the most popular destinations. "Generally, engineering, economics and business studies are the most popular among Chinese students. But for students who plan to emigrate or stay after graduation, they think more along the lines of the local employment market," he said.
Yu Ran, Cheng Yuli in Shanghai contributed to this story.