Wellness and Wholeness: A COVID Dichotomy

Feb 17, 2023

The recent re-opening of borders in our part of the world, and particularly the one that separates us from the rest of China, has prompted a sudden surge in human movement. Our community, long isolated from family and friends living elsewhere, has suddenly been made whole again, primarily through the restoration of direct human contact. After three years of isolation to ensure our individual ‘wellness’, we are now able to restore our sense of collective ‘wholeness’. It is indeed a liberating experience guaranteed to quicken the heart, lift our spirits, and give rise to hope for the future.

At ISF, we acknowledge the dualistic sense of individual and collective human identity – the ‘me’ and the ‘we’, which is reflected in the complementary systems of values to which we aspire as a globally orientated community of learners. There is indeed a paradox in this duality: we are both discrete, isolated individuals and co-joined members of collective bodies at the same time.

As an IB school, we are committed to the individually focused attributes of the IB’s Learner Profile which extol the idealized characteristics of the exemplary student. Ranging from balance and caring, through open-mindedness, responsible risk-taking and principled action, underpinned by inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge, the profile leads us inevitably to deep thought, reflection, and informed communication with others. The learner at the heart of the IB Learner Profile has a strong sense of self. In many ways, the years of COVID isolation have not seriously compromised these ideals that inform an IB education, and our recent excellent IB Diploma results bear testimony to this. As an idealized individual learner, ‘I’ may possess all of the attributes needed for academic success, but ‘I’ am not necessarily complete as a human being.

Our collective state of wellbeing, however, dwells in our shared sense of wholeness that is a function of our connection, interaction, and collaboration. At ISF, the Eight Virtues + One stand as the purest expression of our common cultural identity – one that relies deeply on the bonds that tie us together as a community. They speak to our corporate commitment to the ideals of loyalty, caring, respect, passion, courtesy, principles, peace, and harmony, all of which motivate us in the pursuit of wisdom. Our isolation from one another has made these virtuous ideals much more challenging. We remain incomplete without each other.

As we reconnect with each other and the world around us, we can perhaps learn, or re-learn, that being ‘well’ and being ‘whole’ may share many characteristics, but they are not necessarily one and the same thing. We have spent three years, separated and isolated, with our focus firmly and being ‘well’. The time is now upon us to pursue this notion of human completion and rediscover what it means to be ‘whole’.


Dr. Malcolm Pritchard

Head of School