About the Host School
Chengdu Shishi High School is the oldest school in the world and people have been teaching and learning on this site since 141BC. There are more than three thousand students on campus, all in their final three years of schooling. The Centre’s students are also full members of the School, which means they can enjoy the benefits of both a large community and the more focused Centre activities.
The School is very much a Chinese state institution and students have physical exercises in the morning, eye exercises in the afternoon and our day begins with the National Anthem. However, it is very internationally-minded and fosters regular exchange programmes with countries including the USA and Denmark and hosted Cambridge International Examinations training courses in April 2016 which were attended by teachers from China and beyond.
About the A Level Centre
As an A-Level Centre we follow Cambridge International exams. These prepare students well for entry to universities worldwide. For example, the Dean of Admissions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology said, “Cambridge students have a real depth of understanding of the subject matter that they have had classes in and a real engagement with it. These are some of the things that we find really help students succeed once they get to our campus”.
The overseas teachers here come from many countries and work in partnership with the university counsellors from Dipont and the class tutors from the School to provide a variety of experiences for our students. We run clubs and activities including debating, music and English competitions as part of ensuring every student is as equipped as possible to embark on the adventure of attending university in a foreign land. Whilst we want our students’ education to be an extensive and rich one, academics form the core of their learning and our teachers are strong in their subjects and committed to them. Students are encouraged to gain a broad outlook and we facilitate their participation in international mathematics and physics competitions and overseas events such as summer camps in the USA and the London International Youth Science Forum.
Chengdu is a friendly place in which to live, a village of 14 million people. It has a reputation for being slower than the brash cities on the east coast, yet it has all the modern facilities a city can offer. There are also markets and tea houses, alleys and food stalls, street vendors and parks. But Sichuan is perhaps most famous for being the home of the panda and the Chengdu Panda Base is a lovely place to spend a day strolling along paths, watching the animals and enjoying the countryside.
Sichuan cuisine is known to be spicy but there are flavours to suit any palette. Food can be enjoyed in expensive restaurants, western-style bars or as a barbecue in the street.
Getting around is easy on the cheap and efficient Metro or by using the bus. Taxis in Chengdu are honest and reliable, although it can be hard to find one that’s free at busy times of the day. They are cheap, with the 23 kilometre trip from school to airport costing about 50 yuan. Uber transport has become popular recently.
Shopping for food, clothes and household items can be enjoyed in a huge variety of places spanning those selling expensive international brands to the local markets. There are also a few international supermarkets but there’s little in them that you won’t find cheaper and often of better quality elsewhere.
Teacher Case Study
Ryan Strugnell, Teacher of Maths and Physics
I was a Civil Engineer in my previous career in New Zealand, but in terms of personal passion, I really enjoy interacting and "journeying’ with youth. In my 6 years of working as an Engineer I spent much of my spare time either assisting in youth-based organizations or involved in career exposés, both at corporate events and in the classrooms.
Over the years prior to moving to China I had been debating a career change. I faced the choice between a career in Engineering versus a career in Teaching. This is my third year as a Secondary School teacher in Chengdu. I taught at an International School in the 2010-2011 school year and transferred to Shishi High School the following year to work alongside my wife, Elizabeth.
“Juggler” may be the most appropriate title to describe my role here at Chengdu Shishi School. We are an A-level centre and I teach IGCSE Physics and A-Level Mathematics. One subject is highly theory-based and the other I try to make as application-based as possible. Apart from teaching responsibilities, my role includes making a pot of coffee for the staff on Friday mornings.
Chengdu has its unique attractions, but there is more satisfaction for me in living in a new place and getting to know the people, getting to know things a tourist on a two week schedule can’t tangibly appreciate. Our roadside grocer greets us and gives us discounts, the family who run a Uy restaurant know us by name and know our usual / favourite dishes. Likewise, working at Shishi high school has its own character and we (Elizabeth and I) enjoy getting to understand better how this unique city in the west of China ticks.
We travel around mostly on our electric scooter (e-bike). I consider riding an e-bike as a daring activity at any time of day. We are daredevils. There is so much to take in and experience in China. We make the most of the weekends and National Holidays to get out and explore.
Student Case Study
When I joined the A-Level Centre, I was glad to meet a lot of foreign teachers, while making some new friends.
In this programme, I gain a lot of benefits, especially from the perspective of language and academic experience. By committing to an English-only policy in the classroom and talking to the native-speaker teachers, I feel completely immersed in the language, which effectively improves my English skills. At the academic level, I am allowed to choose a variety of subjects. I also have more opportunities to do experiments in the labs, which inspires my interest and curiosity in the subjects.
I am still facing an important challenge at the A-level Centre: An English-only policy. It requires students to build vocabulary quickly and practice English out loud.I am now moving on to the University of California, majoring in Statistics and Probability.