In 2016, the World Bank released a report called “How Shanghai Does It”. It explored exactly how the education system in Shanghai attained such impressive PISA scores. The conclusion? Strong student performances were due to good financing, a well-recruited and thoroughly-trained workforce, regular assessments and balanced management systems. The problem that parents face, then, is a paradox of choice.
There are hundreds (thousands? millions?) of schools in Shanghai, and the international sector can seem particularly daunting: big promises, a dizzying array of syllabi and potentially prohibitive fees. There are some less-expensive options across the city, though, and plenty of high-quality schools in all districts. This is the SmartShanghai guide to getting an excellent international education for a less terrifying price.
*Keep in mind these prices are only guidelines; often the schools are reluctant about making the exact figures public.
Tuition: About 25-30,000rmb/semester
Aiju is particularly popular with Xuhui expats for several reasons. It’s well-located on Anfu Lu, for one thing. It also has a strong focus on the arts curriculum: art, dance or music classes feature daily. Perhaps the biggest draw here is the range of language options. Students are grouped based on their most comfortable language: there’s at least one English, one Chinese and one French class in each grade.
Syllabus: Exclusively Chinese
Tuition: About 3,000rmb/semester
Unlike most of the schools on this list, this isn’t an international school. Qisehua teaches the Chinese curriculum from grades 1-5. Understandably, this might seem a bold option for expat parents, but there are obvious benefits to being taught Mandarin to native proficiency. Culturally, there will also be many key differences to international schools: expect a much more distinctively Chinese routine, and very different pedagogical techniques to Western-styled schools. It’s pretty conveniently located, too. Their website is here.
Syllabus: Chinese and IB PYP
This school has a fairly inaccessible website unless your hanzi reading skills are on point. The English language version doesn’t really work. There are three streams: one each for Chinese, bilingual and IB PYP classes. Tuition fees also vary according to which program you choose, and the streams occupy different campuses in Xuhui. The address listed in the link above is for their bilingual and IB curricula. For Chinese curriculum, they are on Guilin Xi Lu in Xuhui. Their website is here. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for the international stream.
This senior school merges east and west on all fronts: it’s a joint venture from Qibao and Dwight high schools, it’s bilingual, and it accepts both Chinese and international students. There are day school and boarding options, too. It isn’t the cheapest option on the list, but the marketing is persuasive. It’s also one of the few dedicated high schools in the city; most others are all-through, or start at Grade 6. Their website is here.
Syllabus: Lots! British (Cambridge IGCSE), American (AP), Chinese and the “double diploma”
Tuition: 28-30,000rmb/semester (plus accommodation fees of 5,000rmb)
This all-through (elementary to senior high) boarding school celebrates its 20th anniversary next year. It’s clearly well established, too. With over 2,700 students, around 10% of whom are international, Gold Apple is among Shanghai’s largest private boarding schools. Their website is here.
Syllabus: Various options (see above)
Tuition: 14-40,000rmb/semester (top fees for students in the C stream)
Affiliated with Fudan University, this Minhang school specializes in bilingual education for non-Chinese speaking students. There are four streams. Class A is an intensive Chinese language course aimed at non-Chinese speaking students. Class C focuses on bilingual English and Chinese classes for both Chinese and international students, and Classes B and D are for “domestic students“. The school opened in 1996, and its mascot is called Happy Rat. Fun! Their website is here.
Syllabus: iGCSE, AP, IBDP
Tuition: About 35-40,000rmb/semester
Another of Fudan University’s partner schools, FDIS covers a wider age-range than Fudan-Vanke, meaning fewer changes if you’re planning to stay in Shanghai for the long haul. There’s a pretty large campus here, too, although it’s a little way out of the city center. They promise small class sizes and a range of curricular options. Their website needs a bit of work, though.
Syllabus: IB PYP
Syllabus: Either Chinese with added English, or Cambridge (PYP, IGCSE) then A Levels
Syllabus: IGCSE and IB
Tuition: About 140-170,000rmb/year
Syllabus: Chinese, but “with the advantages of an international school system”
Syllabus: Mixed (Chinese, Canadian BC and “SUIS EMW”)
Tuition: About 89-110,000rmb/year
SUIS have a number of campuses across the city, each of which focuses on a different age group or syllabus. There are primaries (Hongqiao, website here), secondaries (Gubei, website here) and all-through campuses (Pudong, website here), and each caters to different needs. Gubei teaches the IBDP and the iGCSE/A level curricula, for example, whereas Pudong focuses on iGCSE/A level in the international stream and a Chinese curriculum (with added English) in the “premier” stream. The campuses also have different facilities: an observatory in Pudong, a gym in Gubei, or a relocated ancient Chinese house at Wanyuan. There are campuses outside Shanghai, too, and rumours of plans reaching as far afield as Guangzhou.
Syllabus: Largely American (IBDP, AP, SAT, PSAT)
SHSID covers most bases for students looking to study abroad. As well as the IBDP, it also offers AP, SAT, PSAT and TOEFL qualification options. There are two campuses: Xuhui and Pudong. Despite the name, it does also offer primary classes, and there’s a campus in Pudong as well as the Puxi location listed below. Tuition fees are slightly lower for younger students. Their website is here.
Syllabus: IB (PYP, MYP, DP), Hong Kong / Taiwan / Macao exam preparation, SEC diploma (for entry to Chinese universities)
Tuition: 72-76,000rmb/year, depending on age and additional requirements.
Like several other schools on the list, JCID is an all-through school (including kindergarten) with boarding and day options. Classes are taught in either English or Chinese, with a focus on ensuring international or Chinese university entry. JCID claims to only recruit foreign students – the single school on the list to do so. They also stipulate that students must be “healthy”. Their website is here.
Syllabus: US (AP, SAT, ACT) and Chinese
Tuition: 54-62,000rmb/semester for the English Track; the Chinese Track is half the price until Grade 9.
Anyone familiar with the World Scholar’s Cup will know that it isn’t always the best barometer for educational standards. Having said this, SMIC cleaned up at the latest global round in Beijing. If you’re planning on sending your kids to this comparatively academically-rigorous school, bear in mind that their constant medal-winning will provoke some serious eye-rolling from kids at other schools. They’ll probably be too busy counting trophies to notice, though. Founded in 2001 by the Semiconductor Manufacturing International Company, it hosts over 2,700 students on both US English and Chinese “tracks”. Their website is here.
Syllabus: Chinese (including the Zhongkao / Gaokao) and IB
Tuition: Primary, about 50,000rmb/year; Middle, about 60,000rmb/year.
SSED’s Pudong campuses offer both Chinese and integrated programmes, largely to Chinese students. It’s a boarding school with a large main campus (plus several other smaller locations) and connections to various overseas schools. Like several other schools on the list, it was founded by a company: the Shangde Education Investment and Development Company opened SSED in 2006. According to their website, “many of our average students [have been] admitted to top universities“. Well. Their website is here. Email them at email@example.com.
Syllabus: iGCSE and IB
Tuition: About 35,000rmb/semester
The international division here was established in 1999, although the school itself has been active since 1958. It’s part of the international Lemania Group of private schools and sits in the Zizhu International Education Park in Minhang, which seems pretty well-equipped. The school allows students to pick subjects from six different streams, then take these through iGCSE to IB level. Their website is here.
Syllabus: iGCSE and AP
Tuition: Primary about 60,000rmb/semester; Middle, about 65,000rmb/semester; High, about 110,000rmb/year.
Xiwai merges different English language curricula, teaching Cambridge courses initially and the AP to senior students (although the website states that the management are working on introducing A Level and IBDP). Like several schools on the list, XWIS owes its existence to private investment: it was jointly founded by Xiwai Investment and Management Company and Shanghai International Studies University. It sits on one of SISU‘s campuses – a fair way out from downtown, in Songjiang. There are boarding and day school options. Their website is here.
Looking for more schooling and education options across all categories? See our Education Directory for dozens more schools in Shanghai!