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April 14, 2014

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Parents praise high school scheme

THE decision by the Shanghai Education Commission earlier this month to allow 21 high schools to offer an international curriculum has been well received by local parents.

At the 11th Shanghai Education Expo, which ended yesterday, the 11 public and 10 private schools were inundated with requests for literature and questions about how the new system will work.

Gu Jidong, the father of a 14-year-old girl, told Shanghai Daily he was delighted with the decision.

“Parents want their children to have the best possible education and that often means sending them abroad. But at the same time, they worry about their child’s safety and how they will cope on their own,” he said.

Thanks to the new scheme, Gu said he has now given up looking for a foreign school and will instead make his selection from the 21 local schools.

“They are all top schools, and I believe the education my daughter will receive will be just as good as she would get overseas,” he said.

“And the best part is that the tuition fees are a lot less than I expected.”

Each of the participating schools was selected following a strict evaluation process, the education commission said. Among the courses available to students are the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program, Advanced Placement and A-levels.

The cost of the international curricula will range from about 1,500 yuan (US$240) per semester at public schools to more than 55,000 yuan at some private institutions.

Zhao Mingxia said she hopes to find a place at a public high school for her 15-year-old son because of the lower cost and the fact it will be easier for her to communicate with the teachers as she cannot speak English.

“High school is a turning point for teenagers, especially boys,” she said. “So it’s important there is good communication between teachers and parents to help the children mature both mentally and physically.”

According to the education commission, all of the participating schools will release details of their recruitment plans by the end of this month and begin pre-admission tests in May.

Staff from Shanghai Shixi High School attending the expo told Shanghai Daily that they plan to recruit about 50 students for two international curriculum classes starting in the fall semester. The cost of tuition at the public school will be 1,500 yuan per term.

“We received a lot of calls and visits from parents after the announcement (by the education commission),” said Su Hua, an IB math teacher at the school.

Parents are more open-minded these days and are embracing the idea of international education, she said.

“Some moms and dads told us their children don’t fit the current Chinese system. So it’s good that they have options and can chose the best teaching style for their offspring, rather then just pushing them harder and harder.”

Students following the international curriculum at Shixi will receive intensive English-language training to prepare them for the learning environment and will be introduced to some pre-IB courses in the 10th grade, Su said.

They then spend two years studying IB courses, including one semester — at an additional cost of US$23,000 — at the Verde Valley boarding school in Arizona in the United States.

While promoting the international option, Su said students must think hard before making their decision as they will find it hard to pass the local college entrance exam after studying IB courses.

“We want students who are interested in IB courses to apply for overseas universities,” she said.

The school has about 20 teachers, including five from the US, UK and Canada who will teach the IB classes. It is also seeking to cultivate more local teachers so they will be able to lead the international program, Su said.

While children have the option to follow an international curriculum, the education commission ruled that they must also study the Chinese language, ideology and politics, history and geography.

“Students should never lose touch with their roots,” said Pan Weiqian, director of the international division at Shanghai International Studies University Xiwai International School.

The private school, which will seek to enroll 180 students this year, aims to provide a mixed Sino-foreign education that helps young people develop their potential through “interesting and inspiring courses,” she said.

The cost of tuition at the school is 55,000 yuan per semester. The high price is necessary to enable the school to recruit good quality teachers from overseas, many of whom are paid between 25,000 and 30,000 yuan per month, she said.


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