Making room for a flexible and integrated connection with history and culture is part of the IB’s teaching philosophy: this allows for a holistic learning process which allows students to think about the world, rather than observe it, readying them for life beyond the classroom. Single-handedly forming one third of Grade 12’s Mandarin class, Isaac sat down with us to give us an insight into how having the chance to watch “The King of Hell’s Palace” at Hampstead Theatre enriched his wider learning experience.
“The King of Hell’s Palace” recounts the experience of Hepatitis and HIV epidemics in China in the 1990s by zooming in on the health industry in the Henan province; the centre of one of the most troubling medical scandals in history. Isaac reverently refers to the actions of whistleblower Shuping Wang - represented in the play by protagonist ‘Yin-Yin’ - as a “key medical and political figure” who, by exposing transfusions of HIV/Hepatitis infected plasma, risked her life and career. Interestingly, Isaac’s detailed memory of the timeline of this event is not part of preparing for an exam; this is not a topic they are tested on. Rather, this is a core part of approaching the course: connecting the experience of learning a language to a variety of cultural and historical themes.
The visit to Hampstead Theatre allowed Isaac and his fellow students to understand the nuances of studying their chosen language’s culture: he concluded that the subject matter of the performance was “quite terrible, but the play was amazing.”