New Challenges, New Learnings

Feb 14, 2020

Welcome to the Year of the Rat!

The start to 2020 has been challenging for perhaps unexpected reasons. Following on from a protracted period of social unrest in the second half of 2019, we could be forgiven for hoping for a period of stability and relative peace in the community. However, we now find ourselves wrestling with even more fundamental questions about life in our part of the world.

It is often stated that we have nothing without our health. The current concerns over a novel or ‘new’ coronavirus (COVID-19), a seasonal illness that apparently originated in Hubei Province, underscore the truth in that statement. Beyond the normal precautions to protect ourselves from illness, suddenly, we find our daily routines totally disrupted: schools are closed, many businesses are ‘working from home’, travel freedoms are being curtailed, and even the purchase of daily commodities, such as tissue paper and soap, have become tasks that require careful planning. Many are deeply concerned, not necessarily about any imminent threat to personal health arising from the virus, but more from the uncertainties that are emerging each day as circumstances change and governments around the world adopt new measures in the interests of their own communities. We are in a constant state of adaptation to evolving circumstances.

Writing as an educator, there is much happening at present that is worthy of note and reflection. We have made considerable effort to move the delivery of curriculum from a model requiring face-to-face contact to one that can be conducted via electronic means, in both synchronous (real time, online communication) and asynchronous (offline, delayed tasking and learning) modes. Both modes offer opportunity for valid, powerful learning; the former demonstrates the power of ‘anytime’ and ‘anywhere’ learning possibilities in the 21st century; the latter gives students more time to absorb, think, digest, and reflect on lesson content and task requirements.

The constraints imposed by the closure of schools have actually created conditions that have allowed our teachers to explore new ways of delivering content, setting study tasks, and assessing student learning.

New tools have been mastered; lessons normally delivered in person have now been converted to podcasts or animated Powerpoint presentations; and verbal interaction in the classroom has been replaced by more rich text-based virtual interaction between learners and teachers. Teachers and learners are adapting rapidly to these new conditions. There is indeed cause for optimism in a time of trial. Arrangements are also being put in place to ensure that mandatory external assessments, such as the IB Diploma, are undertaken in a timely and supportive way.

We are now in the process of reviewing the remainder of the academic year to explore ways in which we might maximize learning once normal school operations resume. Some activities will be postponed or canceled; some schedules and timetables will be adjusted to ensure that our shared expectations for learning this year are met, despite challenging circumstances.

I am deeply appreciative of the ongoing patience, understanding, and commitment of all members of our ISF family. While we all keenly anticipate the resumption of ‘normal’ school days, please rest assured that learning has not stopped at ISF:  indeed it is flourishing in our homes and networks each day.


Dr. Malcolm Pritchard

Head of School