All said, Shanghai is pretty great for raising children

By Manav Keeling Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/13 18:13:41

Illustration: Lu Ting/GT

A new survey of 3,600 children between the ages of eight and 18 attending local schools in Shanghai was recently released, Shanghai Observer reported, revealing their satisfaction levels toward the social environment here.

Notably, the city received a 2.84 score (four being the highest), which suggests that many children think Shanghai is a "friendly" city for them. Among all categories, the highest scores were for family life (3.21) and safety and protection (3.13), while the lowest score was for participation (2.31).

The young interviewees also said they feel their rights in the family unit are not well respected, desiring more time and space to play, relax and interact with their peers.

This new survey comes at a critical juncture for Shanghai, which according to media reports has been struggling to encourage more local families to have a second child - and also struggling to temp more women into getting married and having children, which they are resisting in greater numbers in recent years due to a variety of socioeconomic factors.

From my perspective, Shanghai does indeed offer many ideal conditions to raise a child. First and foremost, the city boasts some of the most renowned educational institutions in China and even the world. Take, for instance, its famous mathematics education, which according to a new Global Times report has attracted droves of British teachers to come here to learn from.

There are kindergartens and primary schools in nearly every neighborhood, which helps reduce enrollment competitiveness, as opposed to the notoriously long wait lists in cities like Hong Kong. Yes, some Shanghai schools have more elite reputations (called "key schools") than others, but in general Chinese public education is very highly regarded.

Also found in pretty much every neighborhood across Shanghai are parks where kids can play. True, Shanghai lacks the intimacy and coziness of Western-style residential neighborhoods, but Chinese parks here are especially beautiful, clean and safe, making them perfect for after-school outdoor activities.

Then there are the neighborhood "youth centers," which are like extra-curricular learning halls that offer courses in all sorts of fun hobbies not taught in schools, such as martial arts, electronics, arts and crafts, singing and dancing and musical instruments. For kids who need to brush up on core subjects, these youth centers also teach reading, writing and arithmetic. The best thing about neighborhood youth centers are the discounted prices - a fraction of what private cram-schools charge.

Downsides to raising a child in Shanghai exist, if we are being honest. First and foremost, despite the fact that the municipal government has made big progress in recent years to reduce air pollution, we still get some smoggy days. The natural climate here is also a drag, with cold, rainy winters and hot, humid summers. As a result, students are often forced to stay inside their classrooms for days on end. That can take a toll on their mental and physical health.

The streets of Shanghai are also still unsafe due to the abundance of brazenly inconsiderate drivers, which makes riding a bike - or even walking - to and from school all the more dangerous for children. That's quite sad, and I really hope the government will crack down on drivers who don't yield to pedestrians.

Last but not least, according to the new survey, Shanghai children seem to feel that their parents don't let them have enough free leisure time, probably due to the competitive nature of the Shanghainese. This is extremely serious; kids need to be allowed to play (and that doesn't mean computer games), participate in team sports or simply hang out with their peers. If you want your kid to become a happy, well-adjusted adult, let them have their fun now!

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.


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