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The Principal's Newsletter

Student-centred curriculum at Hanova

By Mr Martin Hughes

Dear Parents and

Curriculum at Hanova. The student is at the centre of the curriculum at Hanova.  Over these first few days we have been assessing the new students and reviewing the returning students.  Assessment is a continuous feature of good teaching and learning.  The teacher is constantly assessing the student to see what concepts and skills they have grasped, and planning out the next stages of the learning.  The student is at the centre of this. 

To learn and apply their developing knowledge, skills and concepts, the students need to understand the purpose of what they are learning and doing.  They construct their understanding of the new things they are learning. This is the main reason that the IB curriculum is organised cross curricularly and why there is a Central Idea (or big question).  We want the students to be constantly thinking about and organising their learning.  This developing mental framework gives them the place to put their knowledge and skills so they can easily and meaningfully be retrieved and applied intelligently.  Students need to access a huge variety of sources to construct that meaning – that includes books in the library, the internet, a limited number of textbooks.  Understanding is key.

This organisation of the curriculum and constructing of meaning is a very different approach to a now largely outdated, in my view, organisation of the curriculum whereby knowledge is at the centre of the learning.  In this system the main, or even sole aim is to transfer knowledge into the minds of the students.  This is then checked for by testing and retesting to check retention.  It is typified by a focus on textbooks which are seen as containing the knowledge that needs to be learned by the students.

The World is changing faster now than ever before.  We don’t know what careers our students will pursue as the jobs of the future probably do not even exist yet.  We need to prepare our students for the challenging 21st century and for the adaptability they will require.  They need to be able to think for themselves and work out what they need to do.  A single textbook for each subject cannot do this as all students construct their understanding differently. Additionally knowledge is developing so quickly and technology is changing how we do and understand things.  The students, for both university and even more so in employment, need to be able to think creatively in all subjects, putting ideas together in different ways.  They need to be able to work in teams both collaboratively and in leadership.  They need to be able to communicate with others and to understand them. It is these overarching skills and above all developing the right attitudes to work, problem solving and learning that hold the key to the education. The IB curriculum is a great vehicle to work to achieve these aims.

As a school we are also pragmatic and know students will need to not only think creatively and show evidence of leadership to get to the top universities, but they also need a good level of competence to pass exams. Where learning has to focus on passing exams it is necessary to use textbooks to prepare for this. This is why textbooks are a more common feature from Y10 onwards when we are preparing students for exams.

To see more about some of these ideas do check our website to see the curriculum but especially to see our vision, aims and mission.  Also see the International Baccalaureate website (  If you have a real interest in looking at some of the ideas that underpin the curriculum look at the work of contructivists such as Vytgotsky, the depth of understanding indicated in Bloom’s taxonomy and recent ideas on education and learning from people like Sugata Mitra and Ken Robinson.

Assembly. It was great to see so many parents in our first Friday assembly last week.  This weekly event is a celebration and a sharing of the learning that has been taking place in the school.  Nursery to Y2 sat on gym mats at the front of the auditorium and some of the older students sat on stools at the back.  That gave us enough room to fit the growing Hanova family in.  We believe that this weekly sharing with as many parents as may want to come is a very important part of our community.   It does show what we are doing as a school and develops our ethos together. We will keep this going while ever we are able.

Curriculum and Class Information afternoon. Another way to gain knowledge about the curriculum  is to come to the curriculum information afternoon.

We think it is important at this stage for parents to have the opportunity to be informed about the 

  1. Procedures for running of each class or subject
  2. Home school liaison
  3. How we are selecting the appropriate courses for students including the levels of Chinese and English support, and course and exam options in the Middle and Senior Years.

We would also like parents to have the chance to meet the teachers that teach their children and have the opportunity to ask general questions about the curriculum. 

These curriculum information sessions will take place on Tuesday, September 3rd  and Thursday, September 5th.  With the increase in the number of families who have more than one child in the school we are attempting to minimise the inevitable clashes of times for parents by scheduling the meetings for each class at slightly different times.

More detailed information is being sent out on these events in a separate email.

If you are very interested in attending such an event but the time is not possible for you, please let us know and we will endeavour to arrange an alternative time.

Extra-curricular Activities (ECAs). You will be receiving information and a sign-up form for our first ECA block that starts week beginning 10th September. The first round of ECAs includes a selection of teacher-led physical or learning activities that should be enjoyable for students in every age group at our school. We ask that parents try to match ECA choices with their child’s year level and interests. Note that some clubs have limited space. For this reason, we ask that parents and our older students rank ECA choices from 1 to 3, with 1 being the favourite. We hope to fit as many students as possible into their first choice. Note that ECAs will be held every Tuesday and Thursday.  School buses will leave Hanova one hour later on these days.

Hanova Student Council. Starting the week of September 16th, Hanova will be having in-class elections for Student Council Class Representatives from Year 1 to 13, as well as whole school voting for the executive positions of President, Vice-president, Secretary and Treasurer. The purpose of Hanova Student Council is to provide students with a voice in school activities and an opportunity to serve the Xi’an community. Being on Student Council gives students experience with many skills that will be useful throughout their lives such as the ability to work effectively in a team, organise and carry out projects, and maintain a budget. We hope that parents encourage their children to run for a position on Student Council. If you have any questions about Student Council, feel free to contact our staff representative to Student Council, Mr. Gallerno: .

Are mobiles useful to support English acquisition? Our phase 3 students are currently supporting the English Acquisition (English Language Support) Department conduct Masters level research.  They are looking at "to what extent an iOS application (app) can help learners acquire English".  Learners have been handed an iPod each with an app developed by one of our English teachers.  This app contains built in dictionaries, customisable flashcards for language practice and a concordancer linked to Maths, Science and History IGCSE exam papers so that vocabulary can be learnt from exam condition contexts.  Students will use the app in support of their learning for a month and then give feedback on their experience.  This research may prove the usefulness of mobile learning in additional language (English Language Support) learning contexts.

Uniform. Returning parents should have received a Request form to order the right size uniform for your child.  As indicated in a previous newsletter, owing to the very late unanticipated expansion of the school numbers, we realise there will be insufficient of certain items of clothing and in certain sizes.  Additional items have been ordered.  We apologise for any inconvenience caused by this delay.

Best regards,

Martin Hughes


Forthcoming events


Saturday, 31st                             Saturday Sports begins.  9:30-12:00


Tuesday, 3rd &                            Curriculum information afternoons

Thursday, 5th                

Tuesday, 10th                              Extra Curricular Activities begin

Thursday, 19th &                        School closed for Mid Autumn holiday and

Friday, 20th                                  teacher IB Middle Years training

About the Author

Martin Hughes

Former School Principal

Mr Martin Hughes was the founding Principal of Hanova from 2012-15. Prior to his time at Hanova, he already had 23 years of experience as Principal in the UK and China at five different schools - including posts at Wuxi EtonHouse and EtonHouse's flagship Suzhou school. During his time as founding Principal at Hanova, he helped support the initial IB Diploma Programme authorisation (2014) and used his educational vision to help plant our then brand new school on a firm foundation. Under his leadership, Hanova's motto emerged, "Enabling children to become independent, creative and lifelong learners!"

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