Welcome to the 2021-22 Academic Year!
Aug 13, 2021
It has certainly been a memorable summer for many if not most members of our community. Uncertainties at home and abroad have turned relatively straightforward routine matters into complex and challenging adventures. Those who have been travelling have had to manage the risk and realities of sudden border closures, flight cancellations, and movement restrictions; even those who took the safe option to stay at home have had to remain vigilant to protect health and wellbeing. Whether you chose to leave or stay, I hope the time has been enjoyable and profitable.
Over the past two months since the end of the formal timetable, it has been a very busy time at The ISF Academy. Putting the disappointment of the disruptions during 2020-21 behind us, the summer extension program was a wonderful showcase of vibrant learning, bringing large numbers of students and faculty into the school each day to embrace the wide range of options offered across all academic and sporting disciplines. Throughout July and now into August, the CCA team has been running experiential and activity programs across many venues, most notably hosting three groups of secondary school students over six weeks at the Outward Bound base on Wong Wan Chau. Our Wushu Team took part in a ‘virtual’ international competition, submitting videos of meticulously prepared competition routines to the panel of judges in the United States. We are indeed proud of the team which earned 74 medals for their excellent performance. Over the past two weeks, we have seen many athletic honors students on campus attending intensive training programs in the five Foundation-sponsored sports: wushu, squash, swimming, netball, and basketball.
The previously announced site works for the new ISF Gallery project at the Kong Sin Wan Road campus have progressed day and night. Large gangs of workers have had to contend with poor weather as they worked around the clock to complete the work on time. The noise of demolition initially, and more recently construction, has certainly been a prominent feature of the ‘soundscape’ at the Academy since late June!
Now, as the date by which we have to welcome our students back to school draws very near, elements of the Gallery project are starting to take shape. We hope that some parts of the project will be ready at or soon after the commencement of the new academic year in mid-August. These include the all-important ‘Gallery’ that facilitates movement through the center of the school, four new Primary School classrooms opposite Jessie’s Kitchen, the remodelled Primary School Office, and the redeveloped Primary Circle. The office spaces occupied by the Learning Support Team and the Co-Curricular Activities Team will be ready shortly after the start of the formal timetable. A bonus for all concerned is the installation of acoustic baffling in the ceiling of Jessie’s Kitchen, a modification that we hope will assist in reducing the volume of noise at peak times during lunch!
Some elements of the Gallery project need more time and will not be completed until the end of 2021. The Clifford C.F. Wong Primary Library is undergoing a complete rebuild and will be temporarily housed in the expanded C Block Exhibition Foyer. The S.K. and Margaret Wong Gymnasium is also undergoing extensive reconstruction and will also be closed until the end of 2021.
As you might expect, a project of this scale and complexity always produces some ‘surprises’ and those areas that require further work will be surrounded by protective hoarding until complete. The triangular planter near the lift foyer in R Block is an example. I ask all members of the community to respect these barriers and keep a distance until the work is complete.
We have kept the ISF community updated on the results achieved by the Class of 2021 in their International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) examinations in May. While these results are not the only measure by which to judge a great school, for our graduates, they mark an important milestone at the end of 15 years of schooling as they prepare to enter the adult world. Most pleasingly, all graduates were awarded the Diploma, with 76% receiving the prestigious Bilingual Diploma. In total, eight students achieved a perfect score of ‘45’ and the Class of 2021 scored an average of 40.2 points – the highest average score in our history. In a class of 60 students, nearly two thirds achieved a score of 40 or better.
We also surpassed an important key performance indicator for university placements: just on 95% of the graduating class received an offer from their university or college of first choice. An extraordinary 80% of the nearly 500 applications submitted by ISF students to universities and colleges around the world were rewarded with the offer of a place. This is a remarkable testament to the efforts of our students and their teachers, but also points to the growing, hard-won recognition accorded to The ISF Academy by highly selective institutions of tertiary education around the world.
The students who are beginning their IB DP journey this year (the Class of 2023), did extremely well in the externally moderated assessments for the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) Certificate. Working under difficult circumstances, they set the highest average score yet for the MYP Certificate at ISF: 47 points. One student managed to achieve a perfect score of 56 – a first for ISF.
These externally moderated measures of academic achievement offer an important reminder to all of us that even in a time of disruption and uncertainty, our students have been brilliantly taught at school and lovingly supported at home, as they prepared for these important milestone assessments, meeting and surpassing global benchmarks for academic success. While we always strive for success, to triumph in troubled times is even more meritorious.
The Hong Kong Government recently issued a new set of directives and measures aimed at enhancing the health and wellbeing of everyone in Hong Kong schools. In particular, the Education Bureau (EDB) is seeking to avoid the lengthy school closures that challenged us last academic year. In order to achieve this goal, all teachers and staff at all schools in Hong Kong are now required to present evidence of COVID-19 vaccination or undergo regular testing. A vaccination target of 70% has been set for all schools and happily we are able to meet and in fact surpass this target.
As a result, we have been advised by EDB that we can start the year with all Academy students attending school for the whole day, with a supervised lunch break taken in one of the dining rooms. In comparison to last academic year, it is a much more promising start to the year!
The start of a new academic year is always a time to set goals and reinforce our resolve to push through the challenges to achieve what we set out to do. This year is no different. With COVID-19 and social unrest, we have endured an extended period of challenge. We have also now accumulated an abundance of experience that points the way forward. The test before us now is for each of us to hold our nerve and apply the wisdom acquired in adversity to succeed, as individuals, as learners, as parents, as professionals, and as members of the community. I wish each of us every success in passing this test.
Dr. Malcolm Pritchard
Head of School