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Asia

An Island Flooded by Light

When a German moves to Shanghai as part of the job, he or she might be encountered with all sorts of bureaucratic hurdles but at least he or she doesn’t have to worry about schools for the kids. The German school there provides high-quality education for toddlers to seniors.

The German School in Shanghai

The German School in Shanghai

Shortly after 7.30 the first lot arrives. The young Chinese man directing traffic in front of the school frowns lightly, pats his suit and proceeds to wave bus after bus into the correct parking spaces.

'Safe is safe' is what people at the German school said to themselves when they decided to make sure that the school’s 850 odd pupils had a danger-free journey to school. Every day, a whole fleet of modern bright blue buses makes its way through the chaotic streets of Shanghai, transporting children to and from the school campus to their homes in the so-called compounds.

The 11-year-old Agatha -- one of hundreds of Germans in Shanghai -- explains what a compound is: "It’s a district where there are only houses. There’s a wall around the district which is guarded. Only foreigners live there practically."

German school expands

The Chinese metropolis, with its roughly 20 million inhabitants, is booming and plans to become the financial and economic centre of Asia. More and more high-rise buildings are blossoming all over the city, the office towers in Pudong district are an indication of growing self-confidence. Many multinational firms have set up their headquarters here. Their need for managers, engineers and developers continues to increase. The experts come from all over the world -- and more and more from Germany. This is why the German school in Shanghai is expanding like no other German school in the world. There are five times more schoolchildren than five years ago.

Andrea Leffmann teaches the younger pre-school classes: "In terms of work it’s similar to in Germany and yet it’s very different too. Because the children have other challenges than in a more stable social environment."

Leffmann adds that the children do not have much space to run around in Shanghai where there are few parks and green spaces. They have to get used to everyday life in China, make new friends and get used to the fact that they’ve left Germany behind. Most German families only stay in Shanghai for two to three years. Some children are sad when their friends leave but then they make other friends too.

Newcomers welcome

Newcomers are very welcome at the German school in Shanghai says one of the teachers Ina Gauk: "At the beginning, what struck me in particular -- I even got goose pimples -- was the friendliness and openness of the schoolchildren. They were very warm and I never noticed any arguments among them."

The headmaster Manfred Lauck explains that the school is like a German island, a piece of home: "Here they do everything that in Germany they would do in after-school clubs or music schools. They even spend their free time with friends here at the school. We don’t have to but we like offering afternoon activities for the children. They also are part of education in its widest sense."

At the end of the school day, the children climb back into the buses which bring them back to their compounds. Chinese cleaning ladies and kitchen helps cycle home. And the young man who directs traffic in front of the school puts down his flag for the day.

  • Date 24.07.2008
  • Author DW Staff (as) 24/07/08
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/LsRm
  • Date 24.07.2008
  • Author DW Staff (as) 24/07/08
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/LsRm