On average, teachers in Shanghai spend only a third of their time teaching - with most of their time being spent on training, preparation and working with mentors.
There are "stringent" requirements to enter the teaching profession, which is seen as a prestigious job, and even though teachers can be dismissed, the study found this rarely occurred.
"One of the most impressive aspects of Shanghai's education system is the way it grooms, supports, and manages teachers," said Liang Xiaoyan, who works with The World Bank and is also a Harvard-trained education specialist and lead author of the report ‘How Shanghai does it’.
Clearly defined education goals are also set out. For example, by the end of the second grade, a nine-year-old Shanghai public school student is expected to know 2,000 Chinese characters and be able to write half that number.
The report noted Shanghai utilizes an innovative model to bring the worst performing schools closer to the top ones. Known as ‘entrusted schools’, this system involves high-performing schools providing management and professional support to poor performers, in the form of joint management and teaching teams.
"The city government backs up this arrangement with substantial financial transfers based on performance," the report said.
In terms of academic excellence, Shanghai’s schools achieved scores of ‘advanced’ or ‘established’ – the two highest ratings – across key assessment areas including the quality of teaching, school autonomy verses accountability and financing.
The report aimed to explain why Shanghai schools have topped the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests in reading, mathematics and science for two consecutive periods. The latest rankings are scheduled at the end of this year.
However, the report noted there is a negative aspect to this overall excellence. At a time when Australian schools are looking more holistically at childrens’ welfare, the report said Shanghai schools required a "healthier balance between academic excellence and students' social and emotional well-being". It’s typical of Chinese schools for eight year olds to have two hours of homework each night, leaving little time for other activities.
The World Bank, which provides financial and technical assistance to developing countries, has named Shanghai as home to the world’s best public schools. The reason for this success, according to the World Bank, is the standard of teaching, which includes a system of constant teacher training and upgrading of skills.