Agile Minds, Learning Hearts, Humble Spirits

Mar 12, 2021

The past year has been a time of constant adaptation to changing circumstances and modification to plans as our community has met new challenges. It has been a time of frustration for all of us. Timetables have been adapted and recast to maximize learning, teaching practices have been heavily modified to accommodate online lessons, and educational technologies have been tested and stretched in ways scarcely imaginable a year ago. All members of the ISF school community have been under pressure to keep our children learning and growing, in good health and good spirits.

In such a state of flux, it would be entirely understandable to think that educational innovation and growth beyond coping with the present state of affairs might have been put on hold. In fact, this is not the case. In all divisions, and across subject areas, we have continued to reflect on our work at ISF in 2020-21 to see what more can be done to enhance learning for our students.

A decade ago, the idea of a curriculum unique to ISF was born. Shuyuan was envisaged as a ‘sanctuary’ for student-scholars who could pursue their passion for learning in specialized fields under the care and guidance of a master. We began our Shuyuan journey with comparisons of great civilisations, a deeper study classical literature and languages, and an exploration of scientific inquiry. Inherently experiential in nature, Shuyuan has grown in scope and scale from humble beginnings as a series of optional lectures aimed at Secondary School students after school to the point where programs as diverse as maker education and molecular biology are available to all ISF students, from Pre-School to the final years of the Diploma Programme. Through the growing range of Shuyuan programs, students can opt to pursue passions and interests in academic disciplines that are rarely taught in schools. Shuyuan has also linked ISF faculty and students in cooperative research with some of the world’s leading universities. The ISF academic journal, Bauhinia, is published annually; it showcases the most outstanding research articles produced by ISF students in the preceding year. Through Shuyuan, ISF students present research papers at prestigious conferences each year.


The next exciting chapter in ISF learning enrichment is about to begin: the ISF Hao Xue Program. Hao Xue is an expression from the Confucian Analects (敏而好學,不恥下問) which embodies the spirit underpinning these unique learning experiences; the tag line for this program – Agile Mind, Learning Heart, Humble Spirit – conveys the deep passion for learning and abiding humility to learn from others that marks the true scholar. This unique ISF program ideally will nurture in ISF students creativity, critical thinking and a lifelong love of learning; at the same time, we aim to strengthen the mental, physical and social health and wellbeing of all program participants.


The initial offerings in the Hao Xue program reflect the passions and interests of the teachers who have volunteered to teach the inaugural courses. There are six domains: Applied Life Skills; Creative Arts; Nurturing Health and Resilience; Empowering Global Stewardship; Exploring History, Language and Culture, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). These domains are thematically linked to the essential questions in education. These fields of human inquiry will complement other courses at ISF as our students prepare for competitive IB examinations, and entry to college or university after graduation.

The Hao Xue program is open to all students in its initial target grade levels: from Grade 6 to 9. Some courses will run for an entire year, some will run for half a year; some courses will be available to multiple grade levels, creating mixed age group classes. As we take these first steps together, we will also explore options for extending access to other ISF students.

In a year that has posed challenges at every level of our school, it is truly exciting to see the birth of a new member of our unique family of learning programs at ISF. I am sure there will be further evolution in the Hao Xue program, as courses develop and mature; some may be reshaped through experience, some may evolve into quite different programs, others may inspire new ideas and approaches. For teachers and students alike, there is the excitement of pioneering something that will create new opportunities for education at ISF.

In every sense, Hao Xue is an embodiment of the spirit of our founders: Learning! Learning! Learning!


Dr. Malcolm Pritchard

Head of School