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Teachers Forum
December, 2000

Focusing on Student Success
in Shanghai, China

An Interview with
Liu Jinghai
Liu Jinghai

Mr Liu Jinghai is principal of Zhabei No 8 Middle School, Shanghai, P R China. In this school, located near Shanghai railway station, many children enter with low levels of achievement. Mr Liu Jinghai focuses on student success. He believes that every student can attain some measure of success, and he manages his school in order to achieve that aim.

Question: What were the main actions which helped you to set up opportunities for successful learning in your school?

Zhabei No 8 School, Shanghai

Answer: I believe that every head teacher should have a dream. I believe that all students have the potential to be successful, that they really want to be successful, and that they have the ability to be successful. Certainly they have the ability to achieve in a number of ways.

As a school principal, I have to help teachers to have this belief as well. During my time as principal, this has been the most difficult change to make. Everybody finds this difficult and I think that this is difficult in all countries. I think that the teacher is the key to educational change, but teachers need self development and growth in self esteem, in order to make changes in school practice.

Q: How did you build change in your own school?

A: First I studied learning disabilities. I found that really every student can learn something despite their disability, background, or location. Encouragement plays a big part in helping students to learn. My project, which focused on school success, had four main attributes:

  1. "Low" which stands for starting at a low level, which combines what children already know, however small, with new ideas.
  2. "Small" stands for small pace. Students start to learn easy things and gradually more difficult content is added. In this way they build confidence and become self-motivated.
  3. "Rich" stands for rich content. Teachers learned to spend more time encouraging student participation. During lessons, student activity can occupy up the two thirds of the class time.
  4. "Fast" stands for fast feedback. Teachers need to tell students how they are performing. This fast feedback turns abstract progress into concrete outcomes, arouses student interest and allows teachers to find existing problems among children, so they can adjust speed, improve effectiveness and avoid missing important ideas.

Q: What has changed since then?

A: This project was good but we found that students became too reliant on teachers. So we then observed lots of really good teachers and found that they made students do more and more independent tasks. I call this experiential learning. Children need lots of trial experiences in order to learn. Teachers help students to learn, students try by themselves to learn, and in the end students really do understand. Actually this models the process by which I found out what to do in my school, as well. I think that the strength of the East (focus on knowledge) is the weak point of the West (focus on process), and vice versa. We need both knowledge and process in order to learn. In my school I think we have achieved a good balance, and I believe that all children can be successful … and all teachers!

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Last revised December 1, 2000
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