Principal's Perspective | 24-Oct-2018

Educational Learnings from Shanghai

UTS has developed a partnership with Number Two High School Affiliated with East China Normal University (HSEFZ), a state school located in Pudong. Recently, I visited HSEFZ with four S5/S6 students and visual arts teacher Janet Williamson. We stayed for eight days and our students lived in residence, and the focus of our visit was to participate in the 60th anniversary celebration of HSEFZ. Our visit also included attending classes, meeting with students, teachers, and school leaders, and participating in a school-organized conference on global education.

We have now sent students to HSEFZ, Shanghai on three occasions, and two groups of HSEFZ students have visited UTS. We hope to sign a partnership agreement to solidify our joint activities related to teacher and student exchanges and joint program and research endeavours

The visit provided an excellent learning opportunity for our UTS contingent. We observed classes, including AP classes, which are part of the school’s international program. We also toured the school’s new Innovation Lab and listened to student research presentations. Senior HSEFZ students have the opportunity to undertake an original research project and to prepare a poster presentation. We learned as well about their popular elective courses where students can study such subjects as Appreciating Ancient Chinese Poetry, 3D Animation, Looking for Life in the Universe, Artificial Intelligence, and Introduction to Game Theory, among a range of choices which emphasize inquiry-based learning.

During our stay, we also were invited to visit a new Grade 1-9 school affiliated with HSEFZ, which is located in the new Bund district of Shanghai, a newly established science and technology zone. This school just opened in September, and the vice-principal who oversees the school visited UTS two years ago. During a session with the Grade 6 class, we were extremely impressed by the students’ fluency in English.

China has made significant strides in educational reform, and Shanghai is taking the lead. In the 2012  round of PISA testing, Shanghai scored first in the world in Math, Reading and Science. Canada ranked 13th. While questions were raised about the PISA methodology, and whether all 15 year olds in Shanghai were included in the test, Shanghai results are exemplary.¹ In the newly introduced domain of creative problem-solving, Shanghai ranked third behind Japan and Korea. Canadian students scored above the OECD average but below Shanghai.²


Continuing a long tradition of valuing education as a route for social advancement, China today views education as a critical component of its reform initiatives. Starting in 1985, Shanghai was granted special authority to pilot reforms before they were implemented elsewhere. Shanghai was the first district in China to obtain 100% enrollment in primary and junior high school. Universal education in Shanghai includes the children of migrant workers from rural areas of the country, which accounts for 21 percent of schoolchildren in the city.

One area where Shanghai has taken a leadership role is in changing traditional assessment practices, including examinations which traditionally emphasized rote learning and memorizing content. In 1985, Shanghai educational authorities began to introduce exams that test the application of real-life skills. Multiple-choice questions no longer appear on the city’s exams.


To support these changes, teacher training and requirements for certification were augmented. Professional learning expectations now require teachers in Shanghai to complete 240 hours of documented professional development every five years.

Shanghai is definitely a global leader in education and our partnership with HSEFZ is extremely valuable to UTS.