George Lucas Educational Foundation

Shanghai's Improvement Plan for Schools (Education Everywhere Series)

In Shanghai, China, every low-performing school is assigned a team of master teachers and administrators to provide weekly guidance and mentorship on everything from lesson plans to school culture.
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Shanghai's Improvement Plan for Schools (Transcript)

Title: Shanghai, China

Liu Jinghai [in Mandarin]: In the past, our way of improving education was to send outstanding teachers and analysts to sit in the classroom and exchange ideas with the teachers, and to advise them. But as soon as we left, the teachers went back to their old way of teaching. The key is to make the change in the teacher's behavior a systematic and lasting change.

Title: Shanghai consistently rates as one of the highest-scoring educational systems in the world. Pairing high-performing schools with underperforming schools has thus far proven to be a successful strategy to bring greater access to quality education.

Yin Houquing [in Mandarin]: It's fair to say that Shanghai's public education system is very sound. But if there is a problem in the process of educational development, the problem is the disparity in performance between schools. In the process of development, many new schools have been built and they have encountered some issues. These new schools lack tradition, experience, and well-trained teachers.

Zhao Liangen [in Mandarin]: How could we improve this situation? We wondered if it might help to pair stronger schools with underperforming schools to improve performance.

Teacher to students [in Mandarin]: Have you all had the experience of lighting a candle? Once it's lit, it gradually burns down. So this is common sense, you can relate to it, you can understand this example.

Zhao Liangen [in Mandarin]: Essentially, the stronger schools will send a good management team out to the underperforming schools. The incoming management team works with the underperforming teachers and provides them with lessons and strategies based on their best practices.

Lu Lingdi [in Mandarin]: When we first came we really felt that the school had many, many weaknesses. The teachers came to the class very casually, they didn't have a class lesson plan and they didn't prepare much. The students didn't even dare to look at their teacher. They always kept their heads down, and they didn't have any self-confidence at all. There was no class management, no regulations, and no discipline.

Zhang Lige to teacher [in Mandarin]: When this one changes, this one has to be changed to "xxi." And another thing, you have to be more responsive and sensitive to students' questions. I know sometimes many students do not understand what is going on, so you have to help them solve their problems.

Zhang Lige [in Mandarin]: We come here once a week. We have an expert group and I am a math teacher, I discuss with other teachers how to conduct a class and make students understand what is being taught. I have several requirements when I sit in the classroom. Because the teacher and I prepared the class plan together, I want to see, and analyze, if we achieve our goal with the lesson plan.

Zhang Lige to principal Lu Lingdi [in Mandarin]: So I think she should have paid attention to being faster to answer the students' questions. I don't think this slow response time is her usual teaching style. She has been a teacher who has been really sensitive to students' questions, and her class has been making steady improvement.

Teacher to students: 100, 100, okay, very good, now let’s go on in the lesson. You read these numbers, I will show it to you.

Lu Lingdi [in Mandarin]: This is a gradual process. Some teachers can change significantly. Some teachers change slowly. But one year later, sometimes even half a year later, we find that some of the teachers, especially the young teachers, have progressed very quickly. The students now all keep their heads up, and they have self-confidence and the teachers have confidence too.

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  • Producer / Director: Stephen Brown
  • Director of Photography: Robbie Stauder
  • Second Camera / Audio: Joseph Rivera
  • Editor: Matthew Beighley
  • Consulting Producer: Nicholas Bray
  • Digital Media Curator: Amy Erin Borovoy
  • Executive Producer: Zachary Fink

Produced in partnership with the Pearson Foundation.

Education Everywhere Video Series

This series takes a look at high-achieving education systems and model schools around the world to see what makes them successful. This series is a co-production with the Pearson Foundation.

Shanghai, China Fast Facts

  • With a population of 20.7 million, Shanghai is the largest city in China and the country's business center.
  • Rapid economic expansion in Shanghai requires a steady flow of young workers who have creative problem-solving skills, and has pushed Shanghai to become a leader in educational innovation in China. Their evolution challenges the stereotype that Asian education systems are built for rote memorization of facts.
  • In 2009, Shanghai's average Program for International Student Assessment scores were the highest in the world on all three subjects tested: reading, mathematics, and science.
  • In China, about 24 percent of high school graduates (or their equivalent) go on to some form of higher education. In Shanghai, the average is over 80 percent.
  • High levels of student engagement are a legacy of the Chinese culture's emphasis on education; students in Shanghai classrooms are typically intensely focused on class activities, and there is no tolerance for inattentive students.
  • Among the many factors contributing to Shanghai's success is a districtwide program called Empowered Administration, where low-performing schools get long-term mentoring from high-performing schools or groups of retired expert educators.
  • Shanghai was the first city in China to require ongoing professional development for educators. Every teacher completes 240 hours of professional development within five years.

Watch more videos in the Education Everywhere series:

Or visit our global learning resource page for more resources.

Source: Shanghai and Hong Kong: Two Distinct Examples of Education Reform in China PDF report by the OECD.

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