Sylvan Learning makes big push into China

Sylvan Learning is making a big push into China, expecting to open more than 200 tutoring centers over the next decade.

The Baltimore-based education company, which operates more than 750 centers in the United States and nine other countries, is growing fastest internationally as it meets demand for tutoring, test-prep and STEM courses in English in places such as Vietnam. Sylvan currently operates three centers in Hong Kong, but none in mainland China.


The company has formed a partnership with franchisee Bo Jiang, the owner of a for-profit high school in Shanghai that specializes in an arts curriculum, Sylvan CEO John McAuliffe said Tuesday. The franchisee plans to begin opening Sylvan centers in schools, beginning with for-profit and international schools at various grade levels.

Sylvan plans to tap into China’s large and growing population, where large, structured classes are the norm.


“Many of the kids that go to the for profit or international schools have a desire to come to the U.S., U.K. or Australia,” for college, McAuliffe said. “All of our curriculum is English, and there’s a demand for children to learn English over there… People in private schools are looking for something different for their kids so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.”

China now accounts for nearly a third of the international enrollment in U.S. colleges, though the administration of President Donald Trump is reportedly looking at restricting student visas for people from China in certain fields.

Most recently, Sylvan has been expanding in Vietnam, where a franchisee operates six centers. The company announced in 2016 it had signed an agreement with a Vietnamese investment group to expand its STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs to English-language schools there.

The company also recently opened a center in Saudi Arabia.

“As we’ve expanded globally, we realized all parents have the same desire for their students,” said Georgia Chasen, Sylvan’s vice president of franchise development. “Sylvan can help kids be inspired by their academics, build confidence and create life path.”