Change is Endemic

Mar 18, 2022

In recent times, our daily media diet has seemed like an avalanche of disturbing news. We search for a scrap of happy tidings in the prevailing gloom. Unsettled by uncertainty in our ‘winter of discontent’, we long for happier days when our troubles, like Shakespeare’s clouds that have low’r’d upon our house’ these past two years are indeed buried in the deep bosom of the ocean (from The Tragedy of Richard III, Act 1).

While the statistical landscape still points to a public health challenge unlike any faced in our community in living memory, there are signs of the coming of a time when we will experience a return of a natural balance, when the many forces that shape our health and wellbeing will resume an equilibrium that approaches, if not matches, our lives prior to the arrival of the pandemic. As the authorities carefully weigh up their options and actions in the crucible of this moment, we must also begin our own preparation for the next chapter.

There are many things that we will most likely have to accept as endemic in our post-COVID world. This refers not just to the visible features of a world transformed by this assault from an invisible foe, such as the ubiquitous face mask, but also to the many ways in which subtle and not so subtle changes have been wrought in the name of public health. Vaccination regimes will remain with us for the foreseeable future, as science seeks to build an army of antibodies within each of us to resist the invasion. Social interaction has undergone a transformation of sorts, as we have become more wary of physical contact with strangers; this points to an erosion of trust. Transport and travel restrictions may also wax and wane, depending on the circumstances pertaining to particular locations around the world. Media reports also remind us of the transient nature of some demographic elements in Hong Kong; in response to current circumstances we may find families within our community moving to other locations around the world. The dawning of this next chapter comes with it the realisation that our world has indeed changed in an enduring way; these characteristics are indeed now endemic.

At ISF, our forward planning, some of which featured in a letter I wrote to the school community last week, must similarly anticipate and accommodate the changes that will endure beyond the point at which we declare an armistice in our battle with COVID. Our priority is and must remain the education offered to each of our students and the support extended to each ISF family. Even after the resumption of normal face to face classes at school, we must acknowledge a particular likelihood arising from the now increasingly endemic nature of COVID; namely the sudden imposition of isolation on those directly affected by an infection. ISF families resident in Hong Kong may therefore find that their children cannot attend school due to a ‘close contact’ declaration from the authorities.

We have attempted to anticipate this situation by planning for a mode of hybrid learning that to the best of our ability will allow students affected by an isolation order to continue their learning. As noted in my recent letter, this accommodation is offered under exceptional circumstances and there are technical and physical limitations to what can be achieved. We are committed however to innovate and adapt to circumstances, before they arise, if possible. Accordingly, teachers have begun to make preparations to support this initiative, one that we hope is only necessary for a very short period of time. We are also actively planning for other ways in which we can support our students and their families at this time.

As winter recedes and summer beckons, this new chapter may see Hong Kong changed in many visible and intangible ways. COVID arose originally from a dynamic natural process; there are other changes, such as demographic flows, going on around us at this moment in history. The enduring or endemic nature of impermanence, a central tenet of the Buddhist faith, is a truth to be embraced, not resisted. Our efforts must therefore be exerted towards adaption and innovation, not inert conservation. At ISF, our vision and mission emphasize Chinese language and culture, balanced against global engagement, underpinned by a commitment to excellence. These seem to be even more relevant now than ever before. In our present difficulties, if change is inevitable, do we wait passively for these Shakespearean clouds to dissipate on their own, or do we seek our glorious summer through adaptive and anticipatory learning?



Dr. Malcolm Pritchard

Head of School