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What to Look for at a School Fair?

October, 2019
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What to Look for at a School Fair?

Eight years ago, LittleStar Magazine organized the very first international Schools Fair in Shanghai at the grand ballroom of the Longemont Hotel Shanghai near Zhongshan Park. Held on Sunday, November 4th, 2012, the fair hosted 24 international schools, kindergartens and bilingual schools –most of the best schools in Shanghai at that time – with a standard booth for each: a long table and three chairs.

Only a few schools came more prepared with pull-up banners behind their chairs and delicate gifts and balloons for the kids. On the hotel screen, some school videos were played with colorful images of kids and activities at various schools, adding to the pleasant atmosphere of a pure education fair. Outside the ballroom entrance, a huge crowd of parents who came looking for the right school for their kids had already lined up to register before the doors opened. Everything was simple but nice, peaceful and full of joy.

Yes, that’s it, nothing too fancy or exaggerated.

How time flies… Seven years have passed and in about three weeks we will be hosting the 8th LittleStar International Schools Fair in Shanghai, with obviously a much longer list of schools, beautifully designed school booths, more teachers and principals on site, more school exhibitions and even kids’ performances arranged for the audience. Indeed, there is a lot to expect from the event!

To our common understanding, it is always good to see such improvement for a school fair with more and even better choices to meet the concerns of families in finding the right school for their kids. Yet the increased number of school choices and educational resources on site means it is definitely more work and often a much more complicated process for visiting families to narrow down their list of ideal schools.

So how to make the simple things simple and make complex things possible? Print

Let me give you some clues here about what to look for at a school fair:

See the whole picture. Usually, a big school fair like the LittleStar International Schools Fair in Shanghai is a congregation of about 50 leading international schools, international kindergartens and international bilingual schools and other international education organizations. Meeting every school and educational organization at the fair will broaden your horizon and let you be more open-minded about education

See the future. The steady development of international schools in recent years is a vivid reflection of China’s economic growth and growing demand from families for quality education for their kids. Come check out scale of the school fair, the proportion of different types of participating schools, the quality of participating schools, and you will have a better sense of the trends in international education along with what is more popular in the market and what is not. Education is about the future; education will define a child’s future.

See the different choices. The international school market is vibrant and rapidly growing, with new schools opening every year. Eleven new schools opened in Shanghai in 2019 alone at the same time established schools experienced a range of changes. Each year you will find some new and exciting school choices and different educational opportunities for your kids.  

See the attitude. Although the school fair is only a one-day event, a good school pays great attention to preparations and is very considerate about what they are going to present to visiting families: beautiful booths, well-prepared introduction materials, professional teachers and even principals on site to meet families and answer their questions. Though the effort might also include lovely gifts for kids, it is not about showing off, but rather true respect for families who are very likely to join their school community.

Feel the passion. Education is not a business, but a noble cause, although more and more schools are established with generous investment by rich individuals or successful enterprises. Talk to the school leaders at the fair, find out who is actually the founder of the school and if she or he is truly passionate about education and has a clear vision for the school’s development. If you don’t feel that kind of passion and love, then you know what they really want for the school.

See the team. A good school must have a quality team of administrators and teachers who are the guarantee for the smooth running of the school and quality education for students. At the school fair, you can usually meet with three to five representatives of the school or more, including school administrators and teachers. Get to know them and you will find out if they are the people with whom you can trust your kids.

Meet the experts. The school fair is also a networking event for professional teachers in international or bilingual education or other educational programs. Come with your questions, find the professionals and get that satisfying answers you are looking for.

Meet other families. Different families are looking for different schools or educational opportunities for their kids. When thousands of families gather at the school fair, it is easy and convenient to hear different voices, perspectives and strategies that can help solve your issues about the right education. After all, it is all about the future of kids and that is about love.

Justify your decisions. As shown in previous school choice surveys, a family will on average check out three schools before they make their final decision. The international schools fair provides a perfect opportunity for the families to meet all the schools in one day. So, if you already have a dream school in mind or a short list of schools, it is definitely helpful to double check them on the same day as easy comparisons can be made right then and there.

See who is missing. Forget about the admission and marketing pitches of a participating international school. As an elite international education organization, each school has the obligation to demonstrate its advanced educational concepts, quality educational programs and unique educational recourses along with its strong staff team and progress in education for the whole community. These elements are of great importance to the healthy development of all schools, local and international, public and private, old and new, big and small. It may be blunt but true to say that some schools are not participating because of their reality: only looking at the numbers in enrollment or because they are not ready with the necessary budget, personnel or materials. As a result, they practically miss out on your school list.

In a recent speech to families at the LittleStar International Schools Fair in Beijing, I talked about “Choice of School, Choice of Education”. The main advice I gave to all the eager families is that making a good school choice is only the first step in their kids’ education. It is the parents’ natural responsibility to seriously consider all the possible educational resources and opportunities, constantly evaluate if the education provided by the chosen school or organization is beneficial and fit for their children, and how that will define their kids’ future in the next five or 10 years.

That’s why LittleStar Magazine hosts international schools fairs in Shanghai and Beijing every year, and that’s why you should always come and check it out…


xing-speech-photoBy XING YANGJIAN

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of LittleStar Magazine, an English publication focusing on international school education in China since 2005.

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