Shenyang, China Report of what it's like to live there - 03/19/21
Personal Experiences from Shenyang, China
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
During the 2019-2020 year, we had a child in 9th grade and a child in 11th grade.
3. What years did you live here?
4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
Yes, there are about 4 or 5. We chose STIS because it actually HAD high school students and was large enough to offer high school sports (basketball and volleyball).
Admissions & Welcome:
1. Are the admissions and placement procedures clearly stated to prospective families, either on the school website or through other means of communication?
Somewhat. If you’re new to China, adjusting to using WeChat instead of Google is a bit challenging. Also, this school is called STIS in some places and others it’s called Shenyang Yuanjian International School. It’s not easy to find a website to get complete information at this time.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
Amazing welcome and they really integrated my children well, including one who had homeschooled for the previous 6 grades. I have other friends who expressed similar feelings for their elementary age son.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
Communication was lacking in every way. However, the administration has changed since we departed.
2. Aside from school fees, are there required expenses such as uniforms, laptops/tablets, musical instruments, or field trips that parents are expected to cover? What are the approximate costs?
Not that we recall, but laptops and musical instruments were not provided. There was not a band or orchestra, either.
Academics & Resources:
1. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
There is a computer lab that was acceptable, but not remarkable.
2. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?
The high school students need their own laptops and they need to take them to school. Classrooms rely heavily on electronic means.
3. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
STIS probably has good athletic facilities for Shenyang. They have a large gymnasium, a full-size soccer field, a playground, ping pong tables and fooseball table. On weekends, youth baseball, youth American Football, and a youth baseball team use the facilities for practice. We didn’t try basketball but the football and baseball coaches were delighted to have new players.
4. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
5. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?
No. I think they tell you that AP is available, but you’re really going to have to do all that work on your own if you want to sit for the exam.
6. Are students generally challenged appropriately by the curriculum? Please describe any particular strengths or weaknesses in this area. Do you have any thoughts how the curriculum is applied and implemented at this school?
No. We were incredibly underwhelmed by the quality of the education. After COVID, one child wanted to stay in the US for boarding school and the other wanted to homeschool to make sure they were college ready.
7. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
8. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
Art and photography. I believe there was a drumming circle, too.
9. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
10. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
I think an advanced student would not be sufficiently challenged here.
11. What services are provided for speakers of English as a second language at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
I don’t know specifically, but at least half of the students speak English as a second language. They all appeared to be content with their services.
12. What extra-curricular activities (including sports) are available at this school? Have your children participated in these activities? What activities do you feel are missing at the school?
Basketball, volleyball, newspaper, and yearbook. Note: we were only on site for three months before AD/OD due to COVID so there may be opportunities we simply missed due to the world being on fire.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. What is the climate for LGBT+ kids at this school? Are there resources they can draw upon? Does there appear to be any exclusionary behavior?
My children are not aware of any LGBT+ students at this school, which is not uncommon in China.
2. What is the climate for children with special needs? Is there a general attitude of inclusion for children with special needs?
One of our students was borderline special needs. I think the teachers tried to be sensitive to his particular needs but ended up causing him some significant problems that carried into the next year by being overly permissive and awarding B’s for D effort/performance.
3. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
Again, there aren’t many Chinese students at STIS (if any) due to government restrictions on attendance. However, there was a particular contingent of students that tended to band together due to the ease of communicating in their native language. Otherwise, the students of varying nationalities blended together well.
4. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.
1. What letter grade (ranging from A, excellent, to F, fail) would you assign to this school based on your overall experience? Would you choose it again?
C. The school is a great size for Shenyang (about 20 high school students) but in our experience, we found the teaching staff to be sub-par. There was one literature teacher who had high standards and didn’t tolerate nonsense. She was actually my daughter’s favorite teacher because she had clear expectations and actual learning occurred in her class. You know a school is inadequate if a very mediocre student doesn’t want to return for lack of actual challenges....
2. Please describe some of your child's/children's highlights and challenges during their time at this school.
COVID happened while we were here and virtual school was an absolute mess, as was to be expected. So factor that challenge into my opinions.
3. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!
It’s important to realize a couple of things about Shenyang: 1) The schools typically are not in high demand because locals aren’t allowed to go to private schools (or maybe just a select few are allowed). You can literally show up to post on Monday and have your child in school by Wednesday. Don’t sweat trying to get early acceptance anywhere, just get to post and visit each school to see how your student feels there. 2) The expat community is so small in Shenyang that the vibe in a school can vary wildly from year to year. STIS may have had all the high schoolers in 2020, but 2022 they may have none. 3) No, you’re not crazy, you really cannot find current info online about the schools in Shenyang. They have websites that simply grow outdated because China uses WeChat for everything.