Best International Schools in Shanghai?

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    What do you think is the best international school in Shanghai and why? Take the online poll. Read what other people thought as well.



    What do you think is the best international school in Shanghai and why? Take the online poll. Read what other people thought as well.



    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…


    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.



    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 sparse, 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 enrolments 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.


    One comment to add – though the curriculum and activities are similar to the US, the student population is extremely diverse with only around 25% American passport holders (and many of these are children of foreign born parents – including quite a few with Shanghai born parents!!). I feel that my children are getting the same type of diversity that they would get at many of the other international schools – not an isolated gated school at all.


    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.


    I work at the SMIC Company, and can say that SMIC school is best value for the money.. Yeah, I’ve tried (and unsuccessfully) to get more funding for the school, but the school’s acceptance of other students rather than SMIC worker’s kids will bring more funding to the school and allow the school to thrive on its own.

    The teachers at SMIC are great.. they are dedicated, committed and come from top schools in the USA, Yale, Cornell, Harvard etc..and with pay less than the international schools!! I don’t know much about the other international schools though…. However, I do know that SMIC’s new administrator for the high school is the former dean of languages from Phillips Academy, Dr. Yuan Han. and his wife was a math teacher at Phillips too. btw.. Phillips Academy is the best private high school in the USA with graduates such as Oliver Wendall Holmes, JFK Jr., George Bush Sr and Jr., Dana Delaney, Peter Sellers, Bill Belichick and Francis Scott Key (yeah the school started during the revolution) How do I know this? Phillips is my alma mater (PA class of 1996), Dr. Han taught me Chinese for 2 years there, his wife , Ms. Huang taught me Geometry/Trig during my soph year, and Linear Algebra my senior year. How did they get attracted to SMIC then when other schools were offering them tons more money?, partially because of SMIC’s mission, partially because they are from Shanghai, partially because they are retiring from PA so financial burdens are less, and partially from lobbying from yours truly!

    I believe that SMIC school can only go up from here.. As it takes in more students, gets strong leadership from Dr. Han, becomes less dependent financially on SMIC Company, things are looking up.. and the tuition is a bargain.. so all i can say, take your kids there!


    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 apparently 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…


    Good review /profile/252-dandelion/?do=hovercard” data-mentionid=”252″ href=”<___base_url___>/profile/252-dandelion/” rel=””>>@dandelion

    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 memorising 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?


    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.


    It may not be the best yet but expats should definitely give Shanghai Livingston American School 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”.


    Someone is being far too kind. Teachers are what makes a school great and Livingston has assembled a top notch faculty that is delivering high quality, challenging instruction. The ESL program is as progressive as any I have seen in the United States.


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

    Most countries offer a high school 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 high school thank you).

    Several of the local school offer “exemplary 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.


    From my experience, colleges evaluate every application individually. If the student has what the college is looking 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 accepted to the top colleges every year. If SMIC does not offer enough courses, you always can take online courses from American colleges such as Standford EPGY or others which offer online independent study courses from high schoolers.

    FYI, the most important thing for college application is how you present the total package. A good counselor plays a very important 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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