The ISF Academy at 15: Restless, Learning and Growing

The ISF Academy at 15: Restless, Learning and Growing

November 9, 2018

With the formal celebration of our first 15 years as an institution of learning just over a week away, preparations are gathering pace for the community events that will mark this important milestone at the Jam 2018.

Taking the human analogy of growth during adolescence, this week’s reflection explores the idea of our school as a notional teenager undergoing similar changes in physical shape and character. As a teenager, what might we say of our school and its current state of development? What particular changes and challenges might be typical of those in this youthful state? Can we learn anything from these comparisons?

One of the most commonly observed phenomena in our children as they pass through the ‘middle teen’ years is the sudden physical changes in stature and appearance. The charming, cherubic countenances of early childhood are suddenly, almost miraculously replaced by towering, burgeoning adolescents, increasingly adult-like in appearance. Some parents find that they can no longer ‘look down’ to see their child’s face; they have to ‘look up’. Similarly, our school, having developed in fits and starts in its early years, has undergone its own teenage ‘growth spurt’ to present a more mature and adult-like completeness. At school, we are also finding the need to ‘look up’ more these days to take in its full physical size.

Growing independence from the caring support of parents, essential at birth, is a hallmark of teens. Increasingly, our children want to be seen ‘apart’ from their parents. They want space to grow as independent members of the community. They develop their own ideas that may diverge a little, or a lot, from the views of their parents and those prevailing in the world around them. The ISF Academy relied on the School Sponsoring Body, The Independent Schools Foundation, as a ‘mid-wife’ at its birth; it has been a happy dependency in all essential ways since that time. Happily, the vision, mission, and values remain a shared force connecting the ‘parent’ Foundation and the Academy ‘child’. Both have been staunchly committed to an independent view of education.

Romanticism and idealism are often associated with the teenage years. Dreams of a perfect world are ever-present for many young people. The notion of changing things for the better is a powerful force for many teenagers. Their ideals are often fresh, full of hope and optimism. In much the same way, the pursuit of a new and better approach to learning has been a part of the ISF’s mission since its founding. Founded on the belief that a balanced bilingual and bicultural education was feasible and needed, the ISF has stayed true to the ideals that underpinned its founding.

Teenagers are willing to take risks in pursuit of their dreams. Some risks are greater than others, but the propensity to do something out of the ordinary, often without a clear pathway, or even a guarantee of success, is commonplace among teenagers. Courage, untempered by experience, often marks the actions of youth. As a youthful institution, our school has been a risk-taker from its first days in Wan Chai. It has always been ready to challenge prevailing attitudes and practices in education, albeit more aware of

the risk and consequences of failure. Its path, however, has always been clear: innovation can only happen if we take a chance on getting it wrong, or perhaps right. Institutions with longer histories, like experienced adults, tend to be more conservative, more risk averse. Our relative youth still allows experimentation.

Finally, youth can often be characterized by restlessness. Teenagers expend enormous energy in the relentless search for meaning, purpose and identity. It is a dynamic state in which they are not willing to settle for the status quo. Restlessness is also considered by some to be a virtue in an institution. It similarly suggests a predisposition towards ceaseless dynamism, striving to evolve, rejecting inertia.

As The ISF Academy opens its doors to celebrate its 15th birthday this month, we should be hopeful for our future: still learning, still growing.

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