Shanghai Schools Answer Your Questions

By 2020-02-27 19:17:39

Beth Roulston

It’s a challenging time to be a parent or even an educator in Shanghai these days. With so many sudden changes taking place it’s hard to keep track of which info circulating in group chats is fact and what is fiction. 

We took a collection of questions posed by our readers to Concordia International School and the Western International School of Shanghai to get their feedback on what families can expect in the months to come:


How will this time away from school affect student learning, knowledge and understanding of essential material?


Concordia: As Douglas Reeves, author and founder of Creative Leadership Solutions, says, learning should be designed so that it is rich and meaningful and not simply cover a curriculum. Our first lens at Concordia in response to adapting learning to a new environment is to ask, “What is enduring and essential? What will students need to know and be able to do to be prepared for the next unit, the next grade, and for life beyond school?”  Students should still be able to learn essential material to be prepared for future learning and life.


How relevant is the e-learning to the students’ usual learning? 


Concordia: The concepts and skills students are learning will certainly be relevant, though some of them may be different than students’ typical learning. For example, we value collaboration in the pursuit solving problems at Concordia. The skills necessary for effective face to face collaboration are different than the skills needed for online or asynchronous collaboration. While we prefer being in charge of the type of collaboration, we ask our students to use during various stages of learning, we also realise that e-learning still provides opportunities to practice valuable skills.


Will the assignments being set during this period add to the students’ final grade?


WISS: Our assignments reflect our normal curriculum, which has been adapted to the WISS Online Model. Students are encouraged to complete what they can, and all work contributes to understanding the student better when providing feedback and writing reports.


What methods can parents use to encourage children to study effectively at home?



Environment: Create an environment that invites learning.  For younger students, establish a space where they have room to be at the “right size” table and chair or on the floor, depending on what they are learning. Ensure materials like paper, crayons, pencils, books have a “home” and are easily accessible. Minimise outside distractions like radio or TV playing in the same room – except for learning videos or podcasts.   

Schedule: Divide learning into meaningful and manageable time slots by creating a timetable with your child. Plan learning time within the day, and then schedule specific activities/subjects within that timetable for your child. Provide them with opportunities for choice. Keep in mind their age and how long they may focus on one thing. Even for older students, a five-minute break after 20-30 minutes can be beneficial to allow a “brain break” before re-engaging with the material.  

Reflection: At the end of the day make time to reflect on what went well and keep that in mind as you make plans together for the following day.  

Interaction: Model interest in your child’s learning and the material. Sharing nuggets of knowledge or experience you have with the content will help them to remain engaged.

Independence: For younger children age 8 and under, start the session by learning with them, then tell them they get to work independently for xx minutes (5-20 min) and you’ll come back to see how they are doing. Over time, students typically improve in their self-regulation and can manage their focus for longer periods, within reason depending on their age.


Will senior student exams be delayed or cancelled, and if so, how will this affect university applications?


WISS: Our proactive approach to university guidance has resulted in the vast majority of our candidates’ applications and work for university offers being completed already. In the meantime, we are in constant communication with the International Baccalaureate’s offices in both Singapore and Cardiff and do not anticipate our final examinations to be compromised. Should the situation change and exams be delayed or cancelled, universities across the globe have indicated that they will have more flexibility with students in China regarding their admissions criteria.  


What can students with pending applications do to ensure university acceptance?


WISSOur students are in excellent shape with their university applications. Before the outbreak, all documentation for the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, China (including Hong Kong)  - all of which have application deadlines in January - were successfully submitted. For application deadlines that are upcoming in the spring and summer, we will continue to monitor the situation and ensure that all the necessary documentation is submitted in a timely manner. 


Will summer vacations/ term breaks be shortened or cancelled?


WISSOnce we learned that the campus would be closed, we immediately converted to our WISS Online Model to provide meaningful learning opportunities for all students (3 years old through to Grade 12). We are following our school calendar with the intentions of supporting our students during this time instead of creating a large gap in learning.


How much time should older students ideally be studying and revising each day during this period?


WISS: The assignments are not to “keep students busy” but adaptations from our curriculum that have been restructured to be delivered through the WISS Online Mode. Generally speaking, students should be working the comparative amount of time. Some students might move through the day quicker while others who are new to English may require more time.


How much time should the youngest students ideally be spending on their e-learning each day?


ConcordiaFor children of this age, we prefer the term ‘home-based learning’ as some learning and plans will be delivered online whereas other learning activities should still be rooted in the real world. For example, as young children explore the letters in their name, they may write those letters with a crayon and then look for those letters in their house; making a note of each time they see it and where. Preschool or pre-kindergarten will likely spend up to one-two hours, whereas kindergarten would spend up to two-three. 


Will the school be cancelling future student sports team events?


WISS: We are waiting on guidance from the SMEC for when we can resume classes, activities, and events on campus.

Considering the number of TOEFL exams being cancelled, what can non-native English learners do to ensure no delays to their university acceptance?


WISS: We are lucky in that all students who planned on taking the TOEFL or IELTS exam successfully did so prior to the outbreak, and as an international school the vast majority of universities waive this requirement for our students. However, if there should be a need to take an exam to show English proficiency, many universities around the globe have approved self-administering the online Duolingo test. Families can find information at Be sure to check in with each individual university regarding requirements.


In worst case scenario, i.e. schools are to remain closed indefinitely, what options will be available to families?


WISSThe school is in constant communication with the IBO office in Singapore. At present, the IB has granted IB schools an extension with regard to their candidates’ submissions. They are now surveying schools to establish a plan of action should international schools remain closed. Some of the contingencies being discussed pertain to the May Examination for the Diploma and Career-Related Programmes and include possible deferment to the November session (free of charge) and relocation to specially commissioned exam centres. Decisions have yet to be taken.