We celebrate the first year of our school!
I recall visiting Hangzhou in Spring of 2017 and staring into an abyss…It was hard to imagine that so rapidly, we would inhabit the school buildings emanating from these muddy foundations, then being tended to by a single, very elderly lady pushing a wheelbarrow, and a lone, completely ineffective guard dog.
Thereafter, we met so, so many families in our temporary school office–families who plainly believed in the BASIS ethos and aspired to a BASIS future for their children. Inevitably, we couldn’t accept every applicant, but we assessed a daily ‘conveyor belt’ of prospective students, chatted with endless groups of parents–and duly arrived at just over three hundred wonderful children to be our initiates.
Building Our Team
In tandem, we interviewed a large number of potential teachers emanating from the four corners of the globe (does a globe have corners?), thence undertaking the arduous process of mentoring new folk through document collection and subsequently obtaining visas, discovering suitable accommodation in a city wherein every property is owned by an individual, and arranging flights and more on their behalf. This was just the set-up of the school…
Considering the logistics of meeting the new troops at either Shanghai or Hangzhou airports over a planned twenty-four hour period–becoming 72 hours courtesy of an unseasonal typhoon, must have been akin to the preparations for Sword Beach in ’44. The round trip to Shanghai became a way of life for those of us in ‘arrivals’ as we personally picked up each new faculty member. Nevertheless, eventually the expatriate team was here in Hangzhou, tucked up in their monogrammed BASIS sheets, and immediately wanting internet access.
After a very successful settling-in period of three weeks, we then had an unscheduled three-week break to address a lingering construction concern. When we recommenced the school year, and enjoyed a second, surprisingly, in all the circumstances, calm beginning, it felt like we were in a school that had been in existence for years instead of weeks. Very much testimony to the atmosphere created by both teachers and children.
A Happy Work-in-Progress
As a brand new school, you cannot be the complete product. Faculty appreciated that parents were attracted by the BASIS International Schools reputation for high academic performance. In consequence, meeting these expectations became our priority. Not so easy as it may appear when a huge proportion of the school were far from adroit at English. Nevertheless, we created an atmosphere of high academic performance–and duly delivered. We have Kinder children who spoke no English now having reading ages two years above expectation; a significant number of Grade 9 students took 3 AP courses, completing half of the minimum graduation requirement in their first year; many students participated in a range of highly academic competitions, including the NEC (National Economics Challenge), Math Olympiad, and World Scholars program.
We make no claim to be either perfect of the finished product! The school is a work-in-progress but is a happy and successful place, thanks to the entire community. In September, we look forward to welcoming a large number of new students, especially within our new early years program; perpetual self-reflection and resulting improvement, and a joyous, integrated community in which everybody cherishes their part and feels successful!
Alan Wilkinson is the Head of School at BASIS International School Hangzhou.
Read more about his vision for the teaching community at BASIS International School Hangzhou.