Reply To: Foreign Expat Kids in Local Shanghai Schools?

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What about the local schools? – A Shanghainese friend of ours tried to encourage us to enroll our children in the local schools. Her children (half Chinese/half American) had been in the local schools for many years before transferring to Concordia for high school. The kids spoke Chinese at home and were fluent. When the mom left the room, her son said to my husband, “You can do that but your kids will hate you for it.” I’m sure other people will recount better experiences though.

At many of the international schools, children without any Chinese or Asian ancestry are rare. Many of the children hold foreign passports but speak Chinese at home (or Japanese or Korean).

Where do the Taiwanese kids go? – SMIC has a large Taiwanese population. The kids have Chinese every day – which is great. On the downside, they are not allowed to speak Chinese outside of Chinese class, so there aren’t many opportunities for the kids to just absorb Chinese around them.

Will the kids be bullied? I don’t know about bullied but profoundly aware that they are different. My young daughter asked if she could shave her legs because her classmates gave her a hard time about having hair on her arms and legs. They occasionally call her “whitey.” It’s nothing terrible and I consider it character building and will help her to be sensitive when she’s back in the majority, but it’s there.

I have been told that the best way to get your kids to learn Chinese is to bring them here as young as possible, hire a Chinese ayi, and encourage the kids to spend time with and speak with the ayi.

Also, remember that every day your kids will be out of their element. A new home, a new town, a place where they are constantly aware that they are different. You might want them to be at a school that knows how to deal with that. The Singapore school might be a good alternative or Ping He – the Chinese school that is the choice of locals with the money to afford private school.