Happy 18th Birthday, ISF!

Sep 24, 2021

An important anniversary recently slipped past, almost unnoticed, as The ISF Academy celebrated its 18th birthday. On 20 August 2003, The ISF Academy first opened its doors to the world, with an underwhelming enrolment of 56 brave pioneers who were willing to take a risk on this newly minted bilingual school in Hong Kong.

At its conception, ISF promised to break new ground educationally, offering a future-focused international curriculum and a novel approach to balanced bilingualism, emphasizing Chinese language and culture. It was an unusual mix at the time, but had appeal to some parents who felt that the future of Hong Kong would increasingly depend on strong Chinese language skills and a deep knowledge of China’s past, present, and future.

Taking the developmental phases of human growth as a metaphor, ISF has journeyed through its infancy and early years in temporary accommodation with a highly experimental curriculum that it rapidly outgrew. Moving forward to its primary years of education, ISF moved to a new campus in Cyberport with its more capacious accommodation and began to grow even more rapidly, expanding its educational scope in many directions. With the graduation of its first cohort of 23 in 2012, The ISF Academy moved into a new phase of increasing institutional maturity and intellectual sophistication that marks the final years of a teenager’s education, with specialization emerging from choices made along the way. The physical shape of the campus similarly assumed its full, adult shape.

Since its birth 18 years ago, ISF has grown almost beyond recognition in scope, scale, and reach. It has a growing international reputation for innovation in bilingual education, but is also increasingly attracting recognition for excellence in a growing range of other academic disciplines, such as the sciences and the classics. ISF students now learn through institutional connections that span the globe; they win international awards; they publish, speak, and compete on a world stage. Members of the 10 graduating classes have blazed their own trail across the world, initially in tertiary academia, and now as young adults, confident and competent in their chosen fields of professional endeavor. The ranks of ISF alumni have swelled to nearly 1,000 members, all proud of their connection with the school.

At 18, ISF is on the threshold of institutional adulthood; it has attained the age of majority. Like any developmental journey, there have been moments of triumph to encourage and inspire. There have also been missteps, mistakes, and miscalculations, mercifully not fatal to the institution, but formative in nature; the resultant learning has been both rich and deep. Our school has been constantly tested and challenged throughout its relatively short history. The confidence we have today in our vision and mission, the commitment we have to our core values – The Eight Virtues + One – have not been gifted to us free of charge: they are the hard-won products of effort and experience. The coming years will challenge us even more, but now we are fully grown and ready!

Take a moment, ISF, and celebrate: happy 18th birthday!


Dr. Malcolm Pritchard

Head of School