Purpose and Persistence in the ‘New Normal’

Sep 25, 2020

There has been a quiet buzz of purposeful energy around our campus over the past week or so. While the resumption of face to face teaching might account for some of this activity, another, perhaps less evident, element of our diverse educational programs is the sense of steady progress in the face of persistent adversity.

There is a growing sense of building momentum. From our youngest learners taking their first steps at school, through to our most senior students who are preparing to take their final leap into the world of tertiary education and the careers that wait beyond, all have been quietly, resolutely focused on the task of learning. Our teachers have been streaming lessons from their classrooms, helping students to reinforce the experience of being at school while still at home. We are all focused on preparing for the next set of challenges coming our way.

Over the past week, we have seen smaller cohorts of students, from Year 1 Pre-School students to International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) candidates, attending on-site orientation activities. Following this week’s first phase of resumption, we will see all grades return in the coming week for the resumption of in-person tuition: Secondary School students will undertake full-day programs of learning, with a carefully managed meal service in the middle of the day; Primary School students will undertake a full program of studies through a modified hybrid curriculum, delivered in-person in the morning and on-line in the afternoon. Pre-School learners will enjoy for the first time, a completely transformed and reimagined learning environment at our new campus in Kennedy Town. This is the first step in what we hope will be a steady and uneventful transition to the resumption of a full program – albeit one that reflects conditions of the ‘new normal’.

With the reassuring aura of accomplishment still hovering over the exploits of our most recent graduating class, we have now turned our attention towards the Class of 2021 and beyond. We have been in close and frequent communication with many of the highly selective colleges and universities that our graduates aspire to attend, to ensure that ISF applicants receive full credit for their academic achievements. Private SAT and ACT sessions for ISF students have also been hosted at school over the past few weeks to support our graduates seeking admission to those tertiary institutions that are still reliant on such testing instruments. At this point in time, we do not know whether the already heavily modified scheme of DP assessment announced by the IB recently will go ahead as planned. We are similarly unsure of any changes to this year’s Middle Years Programme (MYP) Certificate assessments for the Class of 2023. No matter what, we are ready to respond and adapt with agility and flexibility as needed.

From Shuyuan, even with the restrictions on physical movement globally, we have seen an impressive and growing body of research taking shape, covering many different fields of academic inquiry. Research projects range from environmental conservation, urban planning, and innovation in energy generation, through to analyses of the functions and characteristics of various bacteria – many of these projects have generated papers or posters that have been published in different academic forums around the world. Indeed, some ISF student publications are now being cited by researchers in the adult world. It is reassuring indeed in such challenging times to see young ISF scholars taking their place in the global community of academic research.

For me, perhaps the most heart-warming and reassuring image over the past week, one that will resonate personally for some time, was that of our Foundation Year students taking their first halting uncertain steps in the ‘big school’ as they swiped their student identity cards at the front gate for the first time and entered the campus of The ISF Academy as students for their first day of learning. Many were hesitant, some were a little shy, but many others showed evident delight, beaming wide smiles, as they joined their classmates for their formal on-site orientation. For parents and faculty alike, it was a glorious moment coming ‘back to school’!


Dr. Malcolm Pritchard

Head of School