Wednesday, April 27, 2005

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A question that has been in my mind since I was a kid is, would I send my kids to public school in a foreign country? That question has become all the more acute since I started to consider living long-term in China.

Having gone to Spanish public school for so many years has cocktail party utility, but I blame it for my near-absolute lack of creativity and critical thinking. I just wonder if Chinese school wouldn't have the same effect on a kid but magnified a hundred times. And even if you think "American parents will mean that the child will be different from their classmates", well, no matter how much influence you think you have on your kids, the place that you send them for 6 hours of 180 days each year is going to have a strong influence on their mental development.

The other side of the coin is that not sending your kids to Chinese schools will isolate them from their surroundings in a much stronger way than it would in Spain because the written Chinese language is nearly impossible to simply pick up naturally. And I highly value the cultural education I got from attending a public school abroad, so it is important to me that my kids be culturally conversive (if not fluent) in the country where we live.

I've never had a very satisfying conversation on this topic. Last night I was at the Tanghui with John and Brad, and we were approached by another Shanghai weblogger, Pat, who recognized us from our pictures online. We got to talking about his family, because he is married to a Chinese and has a young kid. Then John asked him very earnestly if he was going to send his kid to school. My tired ears perked up, but we didn't get to talk about it because Pat intends to return to the USA by the time his kid is old enough for school (correct me if I'm wrong!).

A few days ago somebody posted a question to the ShanghaiExpat forums asking which international school in Shanghai was best. Since there were some conflicting opinions about whether international schools were worth sending kids to, I asked what the alternatives were. There has been no reply.

I wonder if a combination of taking year-long breaks from Chinese-style schooling, and home schooling instead would help to round out their education. I also wonder what issues other long-term expat parents would have with sending their kids to local schools abroad.

It's something to think about.

3 Comments:

At Apr 29, 2005, 2:03:00 AM, Anonymous kenny said:

I'm not sure if you would find any of these comments useful, but I have some experience of different educational backgrounds. I was born in HK, but emigrated to Australia when I was around 6 - went to a local primary school there, then came back to HK when I was 9 to study at a local Chinese school, and had to basically learn Chinese from scratch, not easy, but I think learning languages at a young age is definitely easier. As a result, I had the advantage of being able to converse in Chinese and English with equal fluency, in fact I don't really know what language I think in anymore. Having been through the somewhat carefree Australian system, the strict and regimented Hong Kong (and dare I say Far East in general) education system, and a private (or public as they call it in England) English boarding school, I would say that each has their own merits. Certainly I would have never been able to be fluent in Chinese had I not gone to local school, but I would have been converted into a cantopop loving automaton had I stayed.
So there you have it, each place has its own selling points, and I actually feel quite forunate to have experienced them all.

Incidentally, my life as an educational nomad hasn't turned me into a tree hugging hippy. I've become a well adjusted (I think) medical student in London.

 
At Apr 29, 2005, 9:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said:

Hi Micah,

At this point, we will probably go back when James is reaching Kindergarten, at the latest. I don't want him to be indocrinated with the Chinese educational system and I don't agree with the traditional methods used here. I can't afford an International school (yet), but he will be bilingual by then, which is one of the main reasons I want to stay, as well as the opportunities I can take advantage of here in China.
However, my wife really likes the US, and is pushing for the stability and homestyle which can be found.

Pat

 
At Apr 30, 2005, 3:32:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said:

I guess we're looking into this too. We live in the US & are thinking of going back to Shanghai before or when our son starts school. I'm from the US & started studying Chinese in high school & thought it was pretty tough to learn to read & write. I hope it will be easier to read & write when he is young. In Shanghai he'll have to study English at some point too, but the Chinese program in my hometown has been discontinued except in one high school. My husband grew up in Shanghaiand has a few complaints about the school system, but we're sure it has changed since then & it isn't likely our son would be boarding at school.

 

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