Woman writing a review of an international school

ECNU Affiliated Bilingual School

Review 1)
Academic integrity of ECNU Affiliated Bilingual School
Effectiveness of administration at ECNU Affiliated Bilingual School
Academic and disciplinary support provided at ECNU Affiliated Bilingual School
Director's involvement in academics at ECNU Affiliated Bilingual School
Fair and equitable treatment by board and director at ECNU Affiliated Bilingual School
ECNU Affiliated Bilingual School has adequate educational materials on hand
Attitude of local community towards foreigners at ECNU Affiliated Bilingual School
Cost of living in relation to salary at ECNU Affiliated Bilingual School
Satisfaction with housing at ECNU Affiliated Bilingual School
Community offers a variety of activities at ECNU Affiliated Bilingual School
Availability and quality of local health care at ECNU Affiliated Bilingual School
Satisfaction with school health insurance policy at ECNU Affiliated Bilingual School
Family friendly / child friendly school and community at ECNU Affiliated Bilingual School
Assistance with visas, shipping and air travel at ECNU Affiliated Bilingual School
Extra curricular load is reasonable at ECNU Affiliated Bilingual School
Security and personal safety at ECNU Affiliated Bilingual School

I was employed as an Economics/Business teacher by the high school. Most of my comments apply to the high school only. The kindergarten, primary school and middle school seemed to be working pretty well.

I have mixed feelings when thinking back on my time at ECNUAS High School. Living and working there was really good in some ways. But it was also really discouraging and my most frustrating work experience. On balance, I am really glad to be moving on, because I can’t see that things will change anytime soon.

Some of the good points first. The pay is good and we were always paid on time. Having said that, I have not included a salary range because there is no salary scale. The school employs a mix of registered teachers, non-registered teachers and ESL teachers. Salaries are arrived at by negotiation.

The apartment was good and I enjoyed living in Anting. The school is 10 minutes away by bicycle, through a park. Roads have cycle lanes and there are lots of interesting paths to cycle on. I was also able to use my kayak in the river and canals. Water quality is poor, but I didn’t let it worry me.

People at the school were really great, Chinese, expat and students. My biggest regret in leaving is not working with the students to the end of their schooling. They work hard and try their best.

In the review I marked the school down on academic integrity because it doesn’t have any. Education was not a priority for the school when it started, and it still isn’t. The rationale for starting the school was to attract people into what had become a ghost town. The main funders are local government and the local business association. Go figure!

A vision for the school, if there is one, was never shared with staff. ECNUAS is essentially a Chinese school at primary and middle school levels. A foreign programme is offered in high school.

ECNUAS high school it is not a school as such. Education is not the desired outcome, and only lip service is paid to the student-centred IB Learner profile. The ECNUAS high school is a university prep programme. Preparing students for an overseas university is the main goal. If students pick up an education in the process, that is a bonus.

The school seems to have positioned itself in this way because of the demographic funders are trying to attract into the area. The school offering has been configured in this way because provides maximum parent appeal in the target market.

Because of this orientation, the focus is on teaching-for-the test. The school is assessment driven and nothing else matters. This is the antithesis of the IB philosophy, which is why I had trouble buying into what they were trying to do.

The first academic change they made was to replace IGCSE with a 12 month pre-DP programme. It is not enough preparation for students who have limited English and are accustomed to rote learning. But parents want it this way, and academic issues weren’t considered.

The school has failed to implement any kind of intervention that addresses the pitifully low English proficiency levels. The powers-that-be are not interested in foreign teachers’ ideas regarding this, or anything else. They seem to pushing the problem onto expat  teachers shoulders.

This is what frustrated me. In retrospect, I suffered under the naïve delusion that I would help establish a school along liberal pedagogical lines. This, after all, is what IB is about. But it turned out that the school had no interest in what I thought. I was expected to simply do my job.

Meetings were painful – simply a one-way series of instructions and explanations. No discussion or debate.  There was no collaborative teamwork. I made myself very unpopular by being critical of this. The result was that my contract was not renewed. I was not the only one.

I also marked the school down for academic and disciplinary support, essentially because there wasn’t any. Management didn’t get involved in high school academics at the teaching level, and it goes almost without saying that no support was forthcoming.

Student behaviour was generally good, but there were some behavioural issues. There weren’t any processes for resolving them and management didn’t want to be involved. There were also students who weren’t coping. Some form of supportive intervention was required, but these students didn’t get much support either.

Director’s involvement in academics also got only 1. Because the principal doesn’t speak English, she simply wasn’t able to get involved in high school academics in a meaningful way. She sat in on some classes, but there was never any feedback. In the two years I was there, pedagogy was never addressed by management. It wasn’t brought up by the high school head in weekly meetings with teachers either.

A lasting memory of this school will be of hidden agendas and decisions being made behind closed doors. The lack of transparency turned working there into an ordeal. We never knew what to expect.

The school is closely linked to the communist party, which accentuated the above effect. The prime function of one of the assistant principals is to liase with the CCP. Things would just happen, and teachers were expected to fall in line.

People in admin do their best, but frequently it is not what the school needs IMHO. The biggest shortfall is in technology. The school has Office365, but it doesn’t work. The IT manager has very limited English, so explaining requirements is difficult. He also does not understand the information dynamics of a school and is not able to think strategically.

Support for work permits and visas was good. There were some teething issues, but they have been mostly sorted out.

The school is well resourced and I always got what I needed to teach. But that doesn't mean the school functioned as it should. As I mentioned, the IT system does not enable collaborative work by students, and this ain’t gonna change any time soon. I suspect that money is also an issue because the principle ditched a plan to recruit only registered teachers.

An expat couple was initially employed to take the school through the IB authorisation process. The principal didn’t like some of their ideas, which involved going a more expensive professional route. So visa support was withdrawn and they were not able to return to China to complete their contracts. They were replaced with a Chinese head of school and high school management has become dysfunctional, to say the least.

Financial problems seem to have been alleviated by finding a new funder. He is chairman of the board but has nothing to do with running the school. The board doesn’t really know what is happening at the coalface. So no changes coming from there either.

What worried me the most about ECNUAS was being part of what is pretty much a big lie. I get that, like with any startup, a new school has to do some fake-it-until-you-make-it. But ECNUAS took this to a whole new level. The school projects an elaborately fabricated façade that is misleading to all stakeholders. The school has essentially lied to teachers, students, the IB authorisation team, and parents.

I found living with this lack of integrity really hard. I asked to be released a month early, to which the school agreed, and I expected to stay until the end of the month. But when I made it clear that I would be part of the  IB authorisation deception, I was told that I would leave before the IB verification visit. The mind boggles!

If you are looking for IB experience, decent pay, a nice place to live, good health insurance and nice people, you will be happy here. But don’t expect to be taken seriously as a professional. You will be on show for current and prospective parents. And your professional insights/opinions will not be considered.

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