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A stage where students can learn

MY good childhood friend Karen has recently been relocated to China by her international company to take charge of a project for the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai.

She was most concerned about her nine-year-old son's education and got even more worried after reading an analysis in the Overseas Chinese News of the problem of the children of overseas returnees coming to Shanghai schools.

Apparently, children of overseas returnees who come back to China temporarily or permanently with their parents are facing problems with learning in a different cultural environment.

Born in Western countries, they have to leave their familiar environment. On the one hand, it is true that studying in an international school and learning American or British curriculum will help those children smoothly receive further education if they go back to their overseas birthplace years later, but the limited social circle will confine the children's development and separate them from Chinese language and culture.

On the other hand, although studying in a local school will enable the children to become immersed in Chinese culture more quickly, teaching methods and the children's language levels are problems that cannot be ignored by parents.

Clearly, such a predicament results from conflicts between Chinese and Western education systems and ideologies. In fact, the approach to learning, rather than culture or teaching contents, concerns returnees most about their children's education.

System needed

Chinese-American Nobel Prize winner Dr Chen-Ning Yang once talked about Chinese and Western education, and how Western education attaches importance to depth, breadth, flexibility and enjoyment through motivation, while Chinese education lays emphasis on strictness and rigidness. Therefore, is there a system that can meet the needs of the children of such returnees?

I decided to visit the Shanghai United International School (SUIS) for Karen. By coincidence, the students' show "Peter Pan" was going to be performed then. With the experience of working in educational circles for many years, I know a good way to understand the educational ideology, curriculum provision and teaching outcomes of a school is through its students' activities. Thus, I was glad to pay a visit to SUIS.

SUIS is a harmonious campus where the East meets the West. The show had not begun yet, and everybody was preparing stage props. The admissions manager Cindy told me that this show was one of the activities that exhibited the international students' learning outcomes.

Students made use of their after-school time to prepare scenery, rehearse the play and practice it through and through. Just then, an actor dressed like a pirate came by. Actually, this guest star was Principal Roger, Cindy said.


After learning that I had come for the information about admission, Principal Roger invited his Chinese partner, Principal Zhang Hong. Seeing that I was a little confused, Principal Zhang smiled and explained that SUIS was managed by both Chinese and foreign principals, which ensured the harmony between East and West from the administration and supervision authorities.

The two principals said that SUIS attaches great importance to the cultivation of students' overall qualifications which can be seen in the curriculum provision where "Units of Inquiry" leads the PYP program, reinforced through the subject-specific teaching and profound International Curriculum of England and Shanghai amended curriculum.

Flexible curriculum provisions can satisfy the individual learning needs of students of different nationalities and abilities. Besides the normal core subjects, SUIS requires every student to participate in extracurricular activities and sports. This is important because competition, success and failure are everywhere in both sports games and real life.

Likewise, the arts are a part of the curriculum, with drama and talent shows. During the planning, rehearsals and performances, the communication between teachers and students, teamwork among students, time-keeping, quick response, and even self-discipline can fully reflect survival skills in real life.

The wide range of extracurricular activities is popular among students, extending their potential and enriching their experience. These are skills and abilities which will by no means be achieved or mastered by only reading books or taking classes.

The show began, with a cluster of Chinese and Western students speaking both Mandarin and English fluently. Peter Pan appeared with a full mouth of pearl-like teeth, wearing clothes made of leaves and tree sap.

We could easily see that the students have made great efforts and tried to rise to the occasion, learning from each other in this exciting show. Theater is the best testimony to a school's education and demonstrates the East meets West method where students gain a good command of Chinese and English and accept multi-oriented cultures behind languages.

I'd like to convey to you, with a thankful heart, the message that "take your kids to the school where East meets West and where children flourish while acquiring the essence of East meets West education."

For more information about SUIS (999 Hongquan Road, Minhang District), call the Shanghai Admission Office at 3431-6025, or e-mail to


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