Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3…

Feb 26, 2021

Welcome back to school at the beginning of the Year of the Ox!

We returned to school this week after the Spring Festival holiday break in greater numbers and with high hopes that we will see a gradual return to normal class routines in the coming weeks. At this time, we also find ourselves dealing with ‘tests’ of varying shapes and forms.

With larger numbers of students on campus, we have tested our operational systems to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for all. Social distancing and deep cleaning are now very much routine expectations throughout each day at school. Of course, resumption has also meant we have seen quite an increase in vehicular and foot traffic in our immediate vicinity, which brings its own particular testing challenges that are only too familiar to our families and our immediate neighbors. We ask for patience, courtesy, and foresight in planning journeys to and from school to ensure our gradual transition back to full resumption of classes at some point in the future is smooth and intelligently managed by all concerned.

We learned from the International Baccalaureate (IB) during the holiday break that our graduating class this year, the Class of 2021, will be required to sit formal examinations during May to determine their final IB Diploma results. This means there will be a greater emphasis on test preparation for our Grade 12 students in the coming weeks. However, when we look at the wonderful examination track record ISF students have achieved in the past, I believe we have grounds to be very confident of their ability to excel in these exams. ISF students have been great test-takers in the past!

As members of the Class of 2021 enter their final weeks of school education, I hope all members of the ISF community will join me in wishing them well for their upcoming examinations.

It is noteworthy that the Class of 2021 is the tenth graduating class from our school. Their departure therefore marks the end of a decade of continual institutional growth and development for ISF teachers and school leaders, who have learned intensively and extensively, both individually and collectively, what it takes to achieve excellence as an IB school. Each graduating class to date has offered unique tests and unique opportunities; future graduating classes will not be any different!

As we look ahead to the coming year, all members of the Hong Kong community face tests and choices. While voluntary community testing programs have attracted the participation of just a minority of residents, we are now seeing the gradual expansion of mandatory COVID-19 testing into various vocational fields, such as catering and aged-care. Across all schools in Hong Kong, a dialogue among educators on regular testing to allow schools to resume comprehensive face-to-face teaching has begun. Families are also in a quandary over testing. This is not unique to Hong Kong: communities around the world have had to wrestle with this issue. The reality is that testing will be with us for some time.

This week also saw the launch of the community-wide COVID-19 vaccination program. All residents of Hong Kong are to be given free access to one of the vaccines on offer through this program. Opinion polls at this time, however, still show a community divided on this question, with only a minority indicating an intention to participate. The test for all of us, however, is that greater community immunity can only be achieved when the vectors for viral contagion are limited or completely eliminated. That is a task that falls to each of us to consider.

Taking a long-term view, we now live in a world transformed by the global impact of the pandemic. Freedom of movement across borders and regions is currently subject to increasingly stringent testing and quarantine requirements. In the near future, I believe we are likely to see vaccination as a prerequisite for test-free and perhaps quarantine-free travel. The barriers to international travel that have been erected by countries around the world for self-protection, will only be lowered when travelers can demonstrate they do not pose a threat to public health. This is a test that seems relatively straightforward:

we can choose to accept testing and vaccination or not, but our freedom of movement and perhaps the wellbeing of our own community will be determined by our choice.


Dr. Malcolm Pritchard

Head of School


P.S. I am thankful to a member of the ISF parent community, Dr. Nelson Wong, for providing some valuable COVID-related information from several medical journals for readers. Please refer to the links below for reference.