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Doris

Best Shanghai International Schools ?

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That's a big call if you are relying only on hearsay. 

Yes, there are international schools in Shanghai that don't offer value for money. But there are at least two or three that would just about match the best schools on offer in the U.S. or Britain. As mentioned above, these are ones that people move their kids to after unsatisfactory experiences with various institutions. 

Yes, there are some spoiled brats. But as a general rule I am far happier for my daughter to be friends with the kids at local international schools here than many I have encountered back home. As a generalisation they are higher academic achievers, with stable family backgrounds, and a more mature worldly outlook. 

My two yuan worth anyway...

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Just now, Doris said:

What do you think is the best international school in Shanghai and why? 
 

Just out of curiosity, did you decide on a school for your children? We have a 13 year old that we have just enrolled in Dulwich. Did you visit this school, and if so, what were your thought on it? 

It seems to be a hard call, deciding where to send them and taking all other things into consideration, like where to live etc. 
Cheers

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As an experienced teacher in Shanghai (at the SMIC Private School) with familiarity with many of the other international schools, here is my breakdown of schools with truly western curriculum (to the best of my objective abilities) 

Best Overall (Puxi): Shanghai American School (SAS) - Puxi Campus 
There is a reason why this is the most difficult school to get into. They have a large waiting list because this school is the nearest thing you can get to a well-rounded, American curriculum. The management and facilities are top-notch. With a sprawling campus, SAS feels like a unique American retreat isolated from the rest of China - not unlike the gated communities for expats in the middle east. If you want your child to emulate the exact same lifestyle as he/she had in your home country (especially USA) and price is not an issue, then this is your first choice. 

- drawbacks - 
Price: USD20,000, distance from city center, long waiting lists, "wild" upperclassmen 

Best Overal (Pudong): Concordia International School 
A great management team with that creates a positive, structured curriculum. Much smaller than SAS, the school has a excellent facilities, and the entire campus (a beautiful, quaint office-building architecture) is hooked up to wireless Internet (all students are required to purchase a laptop for classes). It is a Lutheran based school, so there is more moral structure for the students (student uniforms, strong values educations). Smaller class sizes also help individualize learning. Also based upon an American curriculum, they offer nearly all the standard electives and college counseling as SAS Puxi. 

- drawbacks - 
Price: USD21,000, distance from city center, a relatively new school with a limited tradition of academic excellence for colleges (not that they aren't building one) 

Best Value: SMIC Private School 
A even mix of experienced and young, well-educated admin and staff (Yale, Stanford, Northwestern, UPenn, Cornell, Oxford, Harvard), small class sizes and the lowest price among schools using British or American curriculum (around USD6000, including 'management' fees). Has a unique bilingual structure with a completely American and completely Chinese curriculum under one roof (each student chooses one, but not both). Short waiting lists and a more sheltered social life. 2006 Middle/High School principal was Dean of Foreign Language department at Phillips Academy. *Finally, it has an award-winning student newspaper, the only true newspaper among int'l schools in Shanghai (okay, that's my bias: I was the faculty advisor!). 

- drawbacks - 
Distance from city center, functional but sparce, spartan campus and facilities. limited activities and electives. No academic tradition for colleges (first graduating class will be in 2006). Chinese-style cafeteria foods and small student population often has high schoolers in constant complaint. High faculty turnover rate. Sheltered student social life. Only accredited in China as of now (Chinese govt ceased giving new int'l school licenses in 2002) 

Others - 
Best Location: Yew Chung International School (YCIS) Gubei Campus 
Best Chinese Language immersion - SMIC Private School/Shanghai High School-International Division (SHS-ID)/YCIS 
Most Beautiful Campus: Shanghai American School (SAS) Pudong (next to the ocean, but very, very far from city center) 
Best Academic Tradition: SAS Puxi 
Best Athletics and Activities: SAS Puxi 
Biggest: SAS Puxi 
Smallest: Livingston American School 

Worst (Objectively, really): SHS-ID 
My experience with SHS students is this: It has too many apathetic local teachers and little to no supervision on the students. Students can go there for 8 years without basic English skills. Non-existent college counseling and planning. This is where excellent students struggle to create a college path by themselves, good students become average, average students go bad, and bad students commit crimes. Really. My understanding is that the management is purely Chinese aparitchik, and all the money from the large International Division used for its excellent Chinese track. Oh, and foreign students are not allowed into the Chinese track. You can get a good immersion in Chinese here, but only because so many 'international' students don't speak English at all. Meanwhile students learn how to sleep in class, ditch school, go nightclubbing, and worse. 

One Last Note 
On a personal level, I did graduate from what many consider the best international school in Asia - The Taipei American School. Great location in the heart of the city, top-notch academic reputation (5-10 Ivy League/Stanford enrollments a year). To this day they only charge around USD$14,000 per annum. And it is in a much more expensive country, with much less competition from any other int'l schools. So why do most of the Int'l schools in Shanghai charge so much? And all nearly hovering around USD20,000? It's almost like a backroom conspiracy, if I were prone to believe in that stuff. You would think someone would start to drive the market value down.

Of course I think SAS Puxi is very international. I'm not saying that it's like an US army base school or anything. It has wonderful diversity. However, my reference to its isolation is based upon the actual layout of it campus in relations to its surroundings (especially if your look at its Pudong campus). 

I think the larger issue is that for nearly all the int'l school students in Shanghai, they lead a privileged, expat life devoid of any meaningful interaction with locals, apart from those who do menial labor around them. The only way to avoid this is to send the child directly to a local school; otherwise the supercilious attitudes adopted by most expat kids will remain. 

Regarding SCIS Changning: 

I must again reiterate I am trying to be as objective as possible, but my familiarity with elementary schools is far less extensive. (I taught high school). I will only say that the Changning campus is actually also very close to the center of the city, but it doesn't offer upper grades at this campus.

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As a student, I attended Chinese local schools, Taipei American School, and Shanghai American School... My opinion is that if you have a younger child (non-high school), a local school would not be such a bad option. It is a great way to become immersed in local culture and learning chinese would be quick. But I think parents who are concerned with their child's education should keep in mind that local school teachers/admin may not be very helpful towards an expat child... When I attended local schools, there was a general kind of "let's beat the little American kid" type atmosphere and I got the feeling I wasn't being treated and taught the same way other kids were... 

If you are looking for a semi-international school, there is actually a little-known school called SHS (Shanghai High School). I don't know much about it but apparantly it is a local school with an international division..? 

But I must say, Shanghai American School is hands-down the best intl. school you are going to find in Shanghai. The quality of education is no doubt better than any other intl. school... No question better than US public schools... Now I sit in a US university classroom while other students struggle and think "Hey, I learned this in 11th grade..." 

Concerning the fact that intl students lead "a privileged, expat life devoid of any meaningful interaction with locals"... I think this has nothing to do with what school you attend but what your attitude is... If you want your child to understand and learn about the culture, for godsakes don't be living in China and get them to take French language classes! In addition, the school makes a huge effort to teach students about chinese culture. 8-10 graders get "China Alive" trips each year visiting and learning about places as close as Beijing and Nanjing to as far as Guilin, Xinjiang, and Urumuqi.

There are also high level Chinese classes available for students who want to keep their mandarin up to scratch... All I can say is SAS has prepared me very well for life after high-school as well as giving me a fun and challenging high-school experience...

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I've also heard that for younger children the local schools aren't that bad, but you should take your children out before they get into the older grades and start getting too serious about memorizing stuff and not asking questions. What age do you think is best to quit the local schools and send your children to int'l private schools like SAS? Third or fourth grade maybe?

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I have y kids at SRIS and I am very happy there. And so are they. 
Academically speaking, it ranks amongst the top british schools. And I am not just talking as a happy mother. they post the SATS results (tests taken at the age of 7, 11 and 14 by ALL kids in the UK-government organised AND corrected) on their website and the kids' scores are much higher than the average UK scores! In spite of the fact that over 30% of all children are non native speakers! 
Most british schools in Shanghai do not even take part in the official SATS testing as they are afraid of the outcome.

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It may not be the best yet but expats should definately give Livingston a look. This may be the best up-and-coming school in the city. It is very small, which allows the excellent faculty to provide a significant amount of individual attention to its' students.

If you are looking for an American education and you are a non-native speaker, Livingston has one of the most progressive ESL programs around. There are six different levels of ESL instruction in the middle and high school alone. The American population is small (about 10%) but Americans can get a college-prep environment. The new administration is all about academic rigor and excellence for all students and what a difference one year can make.

If you have looked at this school before and did not like what you saw, you should go have a second look. Significant curricular changes have really made this a fine academic institution. Whether you are an expat looking to have your children learn English in an American environment or an American wanting a strong academic program for your children this is a good alternative to the "big boys".

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Homeschooling + local school classes if you can afford the time. 

Most countries offer a highschool equivalency course (or rather year by year k-12) complete with study guides and teacher's guide for homeschooling. You'll need to take certain exams with local qualified notary or officials (for supervision) and send them home for evaluation but you'll probably have better control over what trash goes into your kid's brains (they can do that easily themselves without a rich expat highschool thank you). 
Several of the local school offer "examplary classes" that allow foreign participations. 

It'll round off your kid and make them know that they are not really living in China... but a small bubble resembling China as expat kids (well, replacing it with a bigger bubble that, while is very close to China, is essentially filled with middle-class Chinese). 
It would also likely not make them into the typical "expat brats". 

For expat friends, there are plenty of children's activities for expats only... sports is a great option. 

Some from personal experience, some from listening to others, but I believe in it. Also, it'd be much cheaper this way... again provided you have the time to homeschool.

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My kids go to SMIC now. One of the middle school one is enjoying great time at the school, but the school really offers too less stuff in high school. I have a choice of sending them to SAS, but is it worth USD 20,000? Does college application really depend on the school, or is it how the student does? They are enjoying their time in SMIC and have gained great popularity there already. Tough choice ain't it? Any tips?

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From my experience, colleges evaluate every application individually. If the student has what the college is loooking for, he is in. The high school name does not mean much excluding the top IVY League feeding private schools in New England area. Here, I assume you are thinking of American colleges. I have a son in college. The high school he went to is just an average school in the States. However, one or two outstanding students always get ccepted to th top colleges every year. If SMIC does not offer enough courses, you always can take online courses from Amercian colleges such as Standford EPGY or others which offer online independent study courses from high schoolers. FYI, the most improtant thing for college application is how you present the total package. A good counselor plays a very improtant role. Of course, the parent can be an excellent counselor as long as you have time to do the search and understand your child well. Anyway, this is my 2 cents from playing the counselor's role for my son. 

Thanks for everyone. I have learned a lot from this forum. My family will move to Shanghai next spring/summer. I am searching schools for my middle school child now.

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I know some folks at Concordia. They seem to range from good to excellant educators. The buildings are really very good with really nice athletic facilities.

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Colleges are all different in the priority of what they are looking for - SAT scores, grades, course work, extra activities, application essay, etc. Each school has a different ranking of these items. For course work they like to see that the student took the most challenging path offered at their school - recognizing that not all schools offer advanced classes. If you can't take AP classes but take the highest level offered and do well in the class, then it should be ok. 

Where SAS really shines is in college counseling - they lead the kids through the whole application and college selection process. Colleges visit throughout the year and kids are very well informed.

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I agree with expatmom completely. The order is usually GPA, SAT, activites, and then essay/interview. For all schools I visited, the most improtant factor is GPA with the evidence of taking the most challenging courses offered at school. If you can show you extend yourself to take online advanced course not availabe at your school, that is a plus. My son took a EPGY advanced math course after AP Calculus BC at school. His college did accept the EPGY credit, that is a bonus for time and money saved. The book Making it into a top college by Howard Greene, and Matthew Greene is a good guidebook. 

PS Hi, expatmom. Did you receive my email?

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I found Concordia very cold. It didn't feel like a school at all. It was so quiet!!! It felt like we were in an office building not a school. The person that gave us the tour was very matter of fact and dry. There were no pictures or drawings on the walls and the kids were soooo quiet. It was really quite wierd. It was like the life was sucked out of the school... 

just my experience, that's why it is so important to visit the school before you choose. 

P

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Does your company offer a look-see trip where you pick a house and schools? This is the best option - to work with the relocation agent to find both things that are relatively near each other and also near work. Since you are coming from Australia I think the grade levels may be mixed up - don't they start the school year now instead of August/Sept? I imagine the schools will be aware of that. This may be a difficult time to relocate since the schools are fairly full - which is why a good relocation service could help. We used FPD Savills and they did a great job - setting up school and house appointments and negotiating our housing contract.

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Hi All: 
My husband is very likely to relocate to Shanghai in the middle of this year, therefore my family will be in the city after July . Dose any one know a good map in internet of Pudong area? My husband will be working in Pudong , so ideally we will live in Pudong , thus so as the kids school. We would enrol our kids into British school, but I heard the BISS is bit far to travel from the expat residential area. OR dose any Australian out there can shad some light on schools in Shanghai similar to the Australian education system. Any comment would be much appreciated.

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We looked into schools and finally settled on YCIS (Yew Chung International School). SMIC is a school made up of 50% (I believe) students whose parents work for SMIC, and I wasn't that into the idea of sending our kids to a school run by a corporation unrelated to schooling.... But from the website it looks ok. There are better options. Also, a great option is Shanghai Community International Schools (SCIS). We looked at this one, and it was very beautiful, very friendly staff, and kids from all over the world. The reason we ultimately chose YCIS over SCIS was because YCIS is a bilingual school, and the location is better for us. Both were great. 

My advice to you is to plan 1 or 2 days when you get here to go look at all the schools you are curious about (I would say to look at atleast 3 schools). All the international schools are quite expensive, but if you're coming on an expat package they should give you some allowance for this. 

Last, you also have the choice of some local schools (and there are some very prestigious schools that allow foreigners) which is great for Chinese immersion, but we decided against this due to the high academic demands and the very long hours (7:30-4:30 for primary school, + 2 1/2 hours of homework per night!) 
Good luck to you! 

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Another option not mentioned before is Shanghai United Bilingual School (aka Xiehe Bilingual School aka Shanghai United International School) - it is a Chinese school with a International track in Hongqiao and they are talking about opening a campus in Pudong in the next year. They have a low teacher student ratio (9:1) because they have a Chinese native speaker and English native speaker teaching every class. They also offer pullouts for CSL and ESL so the kids have the opportunity to catch up with their peers if they aren't fluent in both or either. It is an IB school. And much lower price than it's big name counterparts.

I've been to SUBS/SUIS/Xiehe (they've recently changed their name, and I'm not sure which one is official) for a visit. It had a small school feeling, with a lot of attention paid to the individual needs of the children. They boast that they combine the best of Western and Eastern teaching methods by having a Chinese and English teacher in all classes at all times. And, unlike YCIS (which also does this with the teachers) they actually teach subjects in English and Chinese, instead of teaching subjects in English and Chinese in Chinese. I also have a friend that has had her kids there for 3 years, and they are quite happy with it. They are older children (10-12 years) and they are both bilingual now. 

Currently, we have our daughter at a local Chinese kindergarten, which is much more play oriented (ironically) than YCIS. YCIS just didn't pay careful attention to detail and was not attentive to her individual needs. She started halfway through the year, and so she was behind and they just threw her in and expected her to just figure it out. There was a lot of damage done because of this sink or swim attitude. But, that said, I know several people who really are very happy with YCIS. It all comes down to everyone is different. It didn't work for us, but that doesn't mean it is a bad school.

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I'm always very curious over one thing - for a school to get top notch teachers, they probably have to pay top-notch salaries. How do schools which don't command high fees pay their teachers? They must have some secret that my company does not...hmm...

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Yes, that's true. In logical terms, you are abolutely right. But it is really much more complex than that. 

I think some reasons the REALLY expensive ($20G/year) international schools charge so much is because: 

a- they can because what other choices do parents have when they feel so out of place? Plus, to attend these schools, you HAVE to have a foreign passport, which means that most of the people who attend receive an education allowance that covers all or most of the tuition. 

b- they generally build new facilities (as I said, SUIS is a Chinese local school with an international branch, which means it is not a western facility) 

c- they import teachers so they have to pay them a lot more, packages etc... whereas the bilingual schools only import about 1/2 of their teachers, and the other 1/2 are local and don't receive packages. YCIS is an exception to this, although they may import many of their Chinese speakers as well since they are a Hong Kong based school, I'm not sure. 

I'm sure there are plenty of other reasons, and I'm not an expert. I am only making observations. It seems a very bad idea to assume that just because the school is expensive that they pay their teachers well, and that because they pay their teachers well, it means they are top notch. It is not always as it seems. 

It is my opinion that quality teaching doesn't necessarily have to do with how much you are paid, the facilities you are teaching in, or what country you come from.

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i have to fully agree with Jingster - that just because some international schools pay their teachers well, doesn't mean they are top notch, nor does it means that the kids are getting a reasonably good education. 

It would be not be wise for anyone to assume that low salaries means the teachers in that school is of low teaching standards.

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Right, he schools that charge the highest fees dont always have the best packages for teachers as they may be driven by shareholder input rather than educational input. some schools are run as purely profit making enterprises for large companies with their fingers in many areas of business. as education is a growth industry and large amounts of money can be made in very short spaces of time my advice would be to look for schools that have been around for a long time and have proven track records. it is important to remember that if you are here for short term stays maybe less than 2 years, your children will have to attend a school that will have a curriculum similar to the next place they will go to allow for continuity otherwise they may end up repeating some things and missing others.

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Just wanted to let you all know we ended up going with Shanghai United Bilingual School (SUIS/SUBS/Xiehe) in Hongqiao (Puxi side), even though it is quite a commute for our daughter. They will be opening a campus on the other side of the river near Jinqiao (Pudong side) next summer. So, one year of bus rides, but I think it is worth it. 

For those of you trying to decide which school is right, let me just say a few things from experience (Much more experience than I would have preferred!): 

* Try to find a school as close to the working parent's office. Be very open and consider all options (International Schools, Bilingual Schools, Local Schools, and homeschooling). The simpler your life here the better. (I wish ours could have been!) 

* After you find your school, THEN choose where to live. In our case, we are all commuting for 9 months before we can move because we did this the other way around. 

* Do NOT choose a school based soley on their website. In some cases the websites are very far from true, and in others, the websites don't even show you how good a place really is. You need to GO SEE any school you are considering, and make sure it is during school hours. And talk talk talk to the teachers, students, staff. At Chinese local schools in particular, make sure you are dropping in unannounced to get a real feel for what it is like. 

* Question the high prices at the International Schools, and don't be afraid to ask for tuition reductions/ financial aid/ (discounts!) These schools are making a lot of money, and they are not Harvard (no one is leaving with a degree, that's for sure!!)

* As per bilingual schools, be very aware that there are 3 main approaches to a Chinese/English bilingual education: 

1. Chinese with ESL (English as a second language) - We didn't want full immersion in the Chinese program because our daughter (a native English speaker) would have 1-2 hours of ESL classes everyday. Of course, one school told us they would move her to a higher class, but then she would have been in English class with children 3+ years older than her - not appropriate for a 1st grader. However, if your child does not speak English OR Chinese, this is probably a good option. ($2000 per year, and less) 

2. English with Chinese classes - For us this didn't put enough emphasis on Chinese. We plan to live here for 5+ years, and having Chinese language skills is very important to us. This may be a good option for those students only living here for 1-3 years. But again, only if your on a nice expat package, because these are extremely expensive. ($21,000 and up) 

3. 50-50 English and Chinese - for us, this was the best option. In our daughter's school, they have 1 Chinese teacher and 1 English teacher for every class all day. This is really special, and it's at a much lower price than any other schools.. They put a lot of emphasis on creativity, and individual progress... And it's an IB school. Unfortunately, for now, SUIS is the only school quite like it, but I can see that this is definitly the future for schools here in Shanghai. As expat packages thin out, there will be more and more demand for places that offer quality without the ludicrous prices. ($8,000 per year, approx) 

: ) 
Just wanted to say thank you, to all of you on this website that have added opinions, and I hope this info I'm providing is helpful to others too! Please ask questions on this post, rather than sending a message, I'm watching this forum, so I'll see your questions/comments.

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've read all the posts in this thread and found a few that mentioned YCIS but could anyone share personal experience or observation with YC-Pudong? 

My husband works in Shanghai without an expat package so the inexpensive SMIC Private School sounds very attractive but its location is too far out. YC is closer to our future apartment and they seem to put relatively more effort on teaching students the Chinese language, which I like. 

We're from the US and my children have been attending (and enjoying) the local public school. 

I know that YCIS is based in HK and HK is influenced by the UK. Is YCIS very different from other American-Curriculum based international schools? 

YCIS in Shanghai (both Pudong & Puxi) follows an international curriculum based on the UK National Curriculum for England & Wales with an intensive Chinese programme attached. It offers PSAT and SAT testing for its own students only. 

Hope this helps

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Hello all,  
I'm not new to SH, but new to this forum. 

I'm a homeschool mom. Let's put it this way, all kids are unique and different. Some fit better in school, some fit better in a school system. The more important thing is that the children grow up learning. It's for their well-being, is it not? Education is not a "one-size-fits-all" thing. 

There are many of all who homeschool for various reasons, finance is just one of the factors, not "the" factor. But yes, we have families whose husbands (or wives) are teachers in our group. For some, the fees are still too high after subsizing from the school (each family has their problems and financial situation, so let's not talk about the standard of pay packet here.) For others, their kids are working at a different pace from the schools already when they came here. And schools are not flexible enough to accomodate them - age, grade, subjects... that's something that's unique in traditional system - the inflexibility. Some of us travel from country to country. Sending kids to school for a short period of time and then pull them out when it's time to travel is just not a good choice. 

What do you do when your kid does better in a home environment than in school?  Do you put the child in a school system because everyone perceive it to be "the" right way? Or is it a "face" issue because the parent works in the traditional education system?  I think that's one question our parents who are teachers face, each and everytime they meet a prospective client, despite the schools they come from.  

I have a friend who had a different problem. Her child cannot fit in the homeschool environment, not matter how much she wants to homeschool. She struggled with herself for a while, and finally decided to send her child into the traditional school system and the kid is doing well there so far. 

So, the point comes down to - all kids are different, it has nothing to do with the occupation of their parents. 

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