Concerns with International Schools in Shanghai

A good number of parents encounter many challenges with their kids trying to adjust to life in international schools in Shanghai. Being aware of these problems and knowing which questions to ask can help ensure that your child gets the best education.

Alcohol Abuse

Unfortunately since China does not have a drinking age, alcohol abuse is common amongst teenagers no matter which school you choose. Here are some tips on how to handle the challenges.

  • Don’t forget that children need to be respected and sometimes teens have to learn through trial and error
  • Find a counselor if you feel there are emotional problems as there may be other underlining issues.
  • Give your child time to adjust to the new life; you cannot force them to love their new school.
  • Try not to over react; this may force them to try worse substances.

For some helpful advice on these issues you can visit

Unruly Behavior

Most international schools are “for-profit” so the administrator’s decisions are highly influenced by profits making teachers and faculty less empowered. In some schools troublesome students are unlikely to be expelled or punished if it may result in a loss of tuition.

  • You will want to get a copy of the student’s code of conduct.
  • You should also ask how strict the school is on enforcing the rules, when’s the last time someone has been expelled…etc


 Remedial Assistance

If a child has trouble in a subject there may be little help offered by the school. The majority of international schools do not have the resources or training to deal with children with special needs.

  • You should ask what type of tutoring programs they have for kids that fall behind.
  • How many hours a month are they available
  • If none are available will the school help find an English Speaking teacher for the subject.

 Academic Qualifications

If a school strongly stresses it’s extracurricular activities and not academic, it may be an attempt to divert attention from a substandard academic program. International schools in Shanghai are not bound by law to any enforceable academic standards.

  • You should ask questions such as; how they execute the curriculum?
  • Do they measure progress of their kids compared to kids outside of Shanghai?
  • You may also want to look over example textbooks or handouts to check the materials that will be taught in Class.

Non Academic Activities

Some international schools spend a tremendous amount of time on non academic activities, for example a Christmas play. These productions are made in order to please the parent, but in the process the child’s education suffers.

  • Ask the school if the Christmas play, and other productions included in your childs class
  • If so how much class time will it take up?
  • Is it mandatory for the students to participate or do the students volunteer.

School style

Some schools are extremely rigorous while other schools are more relaxed. Some of the more relaxed schools will give children an enjoyable experience at the cost of a quality education.

  • Ask parents of students there in order to get a look on the insight of the student life.
  • Ask how many hours of homework there will be a week.
  • For smaller kids, what type of activities will be held, will the kids have a recess?


Many “for-profit” schools have very relaxed admission requirements with this means that kids of a wide-range of academic abilities are admitted as long as parents are able to pay tuition.

  • Ask if there are any admittance tests for new students.
  • Are the tests used to separate the kids by education levels, or are the kids put in classes solely based on age.
  • How will the school handle a kid that is behind the rest of the class, and has a negative impact on the class environment?
  • Will behaviorally problem students be dealt with sternly, or kept around for tuition sake.


 One of the other worries that parents have is how well will their child make friends. This depends greatly on the schools you choose, since the cultures in many schools are different.

  • You should look at the schools demographics, if the students are dominantly Korean or Japanese, your child will have a harder time due to language and cultural barriers.
  • Does the school have a dress code, if not do you notice distinctive clothes in certain groups of students. If so the school may have strong cliques, which may be hard to enter.image
Adrienne black top - small

Adrienne Farrelly is one of Shanghai’s most experienced expatriate Property Agents helping expats find new homes since 1994. You can reach her at  +86 13122 810 421 or Connect with her on Skype at shanghaiproperties8. Shanghai Properties



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