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 definitely 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.