My name is Susheel Singhal and I am one of the founding faculty members at BASIS International School Shenzhen. I originally joined BASIS as a founding Physics teacher at BASIS Independent Silicon Valley in California, U.S.A. In 2015, I moved to Shenzhen along with my wife and two kids (currently 5 and 13 years old), when BASIS opened its first international school outside the U.S. Initially I came here for only two years, but now it is almost the end of my 5th year. So, you can imagine how much I like and appreciate the school and life in Shenzhen.
I make this statement on behalf of my FAMILY.
Our Social Life
When I moved to Shenzhen from Silicon Valley, the transition was not as smooth as we were expecting. We were under the impression that being an international school, the majority of the student population was international students with a higher level of English proficiency than the local Chinese, which were expected to be the minority of students in the school, and so our kids would be well-adjusted to the school and not the only expats. However, the situation was just the opposite. Almost all students at the school are Chinese with a lower level of English proficiency. For the first few months, my elder son, Rhythm, felt very isolated with no friends and no social life. It was very challenging and a major concern for us as parents. Our stay in China was dependent upon how Rhythm and Vihaan felt living here. In addition, since my wife is a homemaker, it was equally important for me to think about her social life.
Soon, Rhythm started making friends and they started inviting him to their birthday celebrations and to their homes during the weekends for quality time. My wife, Shweta, also made a few local Chinese friends who speak some English, and Vihaan found company in his age group of kids as well. Toward the end of the first school year, the story had completely changed. All of my family members were happy and well-adjusted to life in China, which was the most important factor for me to stay in China longer term.
Over our stay here of almost 5 years, we have found that the local Chinese people have a really positive attitude toward the expats. They are very helpful, friendly, and respectful. Whenever we go to visit places, locals generally talk to us, take pictures with us, hold my younger son in their lap, and seem to be very friendly.
My wife feels more secure and safe here than in California, as well as in my hometown.At present, both my kids love the school and their friends. My elder son, Rhythm, has joined the basketball team along with his classmates and is very happy. My wife has also made some good Indian friends here in Shenzhen too.
As I said before, the transition was not as smooth as we expected with regard to school life. There were many challenges. The biggest one being the language barrier.
The English level of the students was not at a satisfactory level as per the expectations to be able to teach the BASIS Curriculum. They could not even pronounce the Physics terms correctly. In the first two weeks, I concluded that before I teach Physics to them, I need to help them improve their English and strengthen their Physics vocabulary. We do have our ELL department who work with students independently, but that was not enough. Every teacher, regardless of subject, needed to act like an ELL teacher.
During the first school year, our progression through the curriculum was very slow, but this investment has paid off very well. Students really worked hard in improving their English proficiency, which helped them to improve their understanding of Physics. Moreover, because of the combined efforts of the school community, we produced the best result in Pre-Comp and Comprehensive exams among the first year schools across the entire BASIS Curriculum Schools network.
I do not hold an official Ph.D. degree, but I believe, I have been doing Ph.D. work every day for the last 5 years, exploring various ways to benefit students and make sure that learning happens, and to ignite every single mind so that they reach their highest standard of academic excellence, and become good human beings with a mind to serve people, which is equivalent to serving God.
Overall, it was a totally different experience during the first school year, with mixed experiences. However, after the first year, the situation has started to get better and better. After almost 5 years, I can proudly say that our BASIS International School Shenzhen is an English-speaking school, where almost all students follow the English-speaking policy on campus.
I must shout out the students at BASIS International School Shenzhen for their extraordinary efforts in facing and overcoming all of the challenges in academic, emotional, and social aspects. I wish them good health and peace in their lives.
And finally, I just want to say that Shenzhen is a good place to live and work. The most important factor for me is the acceptance by the locals and it does happen here, at least for us. That is the reason we have made our long-term plans to stay in China, and so far it is the best place to work for teachers.
Susheel Singhal teaches Physics at BASIS International School Shenzhen and is also a Subject Advisor for Physics across the BASIS Independent and International network of schools.