In order to learn first-hand about work and life in the city-state of Shanghai, China, Senior Associate Gez Hayden spent two weeks in September speaking with school leadership teams and teachers there. He shared some details with us about the 11 Search Associates (SEARCH) member schools he was privileged to visit.
International schools Dulwich College, Shanghai Pudong, and Concordia International School enroll foreign passport-holding students only. Because of its Lutheran foundation, Concordia actively seeks practicing Christian teachers. Its facilities and resources are world class, and its teachers are very well taken care of. Like Concordia, Dulwich Pudong is a part of the early wave of international schools that have launched in China.
Gez visited SUIS Pudong, Shangyin, Hongqiao, Wanyuan, and Gubei—all located in Shanghai and all of which enjoy outstanding facilities and the commitment of a dedicated international and local staff. Despite belonging to the same parent group, Xiehe, these schools do not offer an identical “brand” of education. They range from stand-alone schools for foreign students only, through blended-curriculum schools for mainly Chinese nationals, to schools with dual Chinese and international streams located on the same campus. While some are K–12, others are for primary years only. Some follow a U.S.-style curriculum, and others offer very well-established International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes. Most students in blended and international SUIS programs seek higher education outside China, and university placement statistics are very strong. It is not surprising that the parent group Xiehe is well regarded and very well-known among international and Chinese families living in Shanghai.
Vanke School Pudong and Fudan Vanke Experimental School—both bilingual schools principally for Chinese children—are purpose-built and very modern. The campuses and facilities are impressive, and the international teachers employed there speak warmly of their institutions, both as a workplace and as a reliable, concerned place of employment. Teachers occupy school-provided accommodation or are offered a housing allowance to rent accommodation off campus. These schools seek patient teachers who are excited by the idea of educating host-country children and their families. It is significant that many teachers working with the Vanke group complete several contracts.
The Qibao Dwight High School is also a new, purpose-built campus, boasting excellent resources and facilities. It is part of the Dwight group of schools, a family-owned group with roots in the U.S. The original Dwight School was the first in the U.S. to offer a three-programme IB continuum, and the group it spawned now has several schools around the world. Qibao Dwight is a high school only for Chinese students. Governed jointly by a board comprising Dwight and Shanghai education experts, the school boasts excellent facilities. Its head of school formerly worked at the Johns Hopkins Centre for Sino-American Studies in Nanjing, and is fluent in Mandarin. The salary and benefits package at Qibao Dwight is very generous. One example: teachers whose children are not of high school age can choose another school for them—from a range of very good, nearby international schools—with tuition paid by Qibao Dwight.
One of China’s famous top schools, Shanghai High School, along with its International Division, is located on an extremely large campus—very unusual for a school in this densely populated city of well over 20 million inhabitants! The campus, which dates back as far as the Qing Dynasty as a place for learning, contains its own small forest and two preserved historic buildings containing an art gallery that showcase the work of the school’s many IB Diploma art students. Despite being named “High School,” the International Division currently enrolls 3,000 day students with foreign passports from Grade 1 to 12. Teachers enjoy state-of-the-art facilities and a lavishly-appointed and equipped campus. They live in school-provided accommodation, both on and off campus.
During his visit, Gez also met individually with 40 teachers—both registered and prospective SEARCH candidates —living and working in Shanghai, to discuss and consult on career plans and related topics. Not one candidate interviewed cited air quality as a major concern! The common factor in all these meetings was that Shanghai is a super, exciting city in which to live and work. Served by a comprehensive subway network, and an English-language ride hailing app called DiDi, foreign teachers have easy access to the city’s attractions, Asian and modern, and to its sophisticated and cosmopolitan night life and leisure infrastructure. It is a safe and fascinating home for singles, couples, and families.