Fabulous, expectation, advanced, pressure and lovely. These are all words I would associate with the “Shanghai Kid.” These past nine months teaching have given me incredible close insight into the world of kids growing up in Shanghai. There are so many sub-cultures that my anthropology degree has me constantly dissecting and categorizing daily observations. Education in Shanghai is constantly changing at a rate that I would bet is one of the highest in the world. There are shifts I have already seen in only eight months. It is an exciting industry to work in and I’m constantly looking at the differences/similarities to America and what additions I would make to strengthen different curriculums.
I will start by saying if it isn’t obvious, I absolutely love being a teacher and after working in Shanghai it’s hard to foresee teaching in any other country anytime soon. It is next level on all realms here. Shanghai is a unique city in China and an exception in many ways to the rest of China. While it has slowed, there is incredible growth in the income with and increasing amount of families in the upper-middle class. Families here really invest in their kids education.
“Not today, not tomorrow, but the day after I will quit English. Chinese people speak mandarin and we are in China.”
-My five year old student taking a stand!
What I see lacking in the overall education system is creativity and critical thinking. While I do see huge changes and an increase in awareness of how important creativity is, there is still not enough. It is still not widely recognized for how truly valuable it is. One of my most used phrases is “imagine that…” which kids often really struggle with. What do you imagine, what is real, can you just tell me? All responses I regularly get.
Kids here are in so many extracurricular activities it blows my mind! Especially since a large majority are focused on academics. Of course there are the typical dance, sports and musical activities. However, a large majority also goes to English class (aka mine), chinese pinyin class, chinese character class, STEM science class, robotics class, LEGO class. Their weekends are basically just like another day of school in many ways. It is also very common for kids to have private tutors for various subjects which is a pricey investment. The pressure on these kids is wild! It shows in their brilliance, but it begs the question how much is too much? Is there such thing if the kid is happy and healthy?
There is so much to learn about the education system which will continue for me as I transition to a new job this July! I will be a full-time Kindergarten teacher at a private school and am incredibly excited. I will start training and observations, help lead various supper camps this summer before having my own class this August. I will have a Chinese Co-Teacher and an ayi. I’m sad to say goodbye to my current students and schedule, but am looking forward to this new job! It will be a learning curve and change and I look forward to it!
Looks like I’ll be in Shanghai for at least two more years!