Secondary School Blog


Mike Simpson

Secondary School Principal

September 15, 2023

Someone a lot smarter than me is supposed to have said a long time ago that knowledge is a belief tied down by understanding.

As an elementary school student, I believed that 5 is a prime number. I believed this because it was my understanding that all odd numbers are prime numbers. If I got this question in a test, I would get this question right. But because my correct answer was based on this misunderstanding, it is not true that I knew 5 is a prime number – I just got lucky!

If I was asked if 9 is a prime number I would also answer yes based on my misunderstanding that all odd numbers are prime numbers. I definitely didn’t know that 9 is a prime number – because it isn’t!

My belief that all odd numbers were prime numbers was strengthened by the fact that, when quizzed on prime numbers by my teachers, I always got more than half of the questions right (half the questions would be even numbers) and more than half right when more odd numbers than not happened to be prime numbers.

The more quizzes I did, the more questions I got right. I would remember more of those weird odd numbers like 27 and 35 which were marked wrong when I marked them as prime. My belief developed into ‘all odd numbers are prime numbers unless my teacher tells me otherwise.’ But even if I got really lucky and answered all the questions in a quiz correctly, I couldn’t say that I knew if any number was really a prime number.

Fortunately, while we were dividing our odd numbered class into equal groups, a teacher observed that, despite quiz scores that would suggest otherwise, I did not know what a prime number was. She took my beliefs about prime numbers seriously and helped me understand the properties of a prime number. Now I know that 5 is a prime number but 9 is not. I now know what a prime number is because my beliefs about prime numbers are now based on correct understanding.

My prime number story popped into my mind this week as students have been sitting Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests. These tests will provide us with very useful information about our students in Math and English Language Arts that we can use to further develop our students’ knowledge and skills in these core curriculum areas. However, in isolation, these multiple choice tests are not necessarily suited to identifying the understanding or misunderstanding that a student has based their answers on.

A student with a clear understanding of prime numbers might incorrectly answer a question through carelessness while a student like me might answer that same question correctly based on a misunderstanding or memory. This is not to say that MAP testing data is not valuable or reliable – it is both of these things if it is analyzed in light of the understandings and misunderstandings of students which are visible to teachers through classroom observations and assessments. MAP testing provides an independent set of data that teachers can combine with classroom data to learn more about a student’s understandings and misunderstandings.

A school that takes seriously the understandings and misunderstandings of students is far more likely to develop knowledgeable students who will be able to apply and adapt that knowledge to the future. The learning process should therefore be designed to make student understandings and misunderstandings visible so that teachers can develop or correct them to create student knowledge.

Starting with our Reggio Emelia-inspired Early Elementary classrooms and continuing through to graduation, our ISY interdisciplinary curriculum framework is designed to allow teachers to make student understandings and misunderstandings visible.

A safe, compassionate learning environment is vital and students are given the opportunity to freely share what they believe about a topic. Teachers are able to use these beliefs to guide student learning in such a way that student understandings or misunderstandings about a topic will be uncovered. And once they are uncovered, teachers can use them to help students develop key knowledge that will stay with them beyond a MAP test and well into the future.

Secondary School Events

This week:

Saturday & Sunday: Yangon Inter-School HS Football Championships


  • HS Volleyball v ILBC @ISY
  • MS Basketball v YIS @YIS

Thursday: HS Volleyball v ISM @ISM

Counselor Weekly Newsletter

Every week, Mr. A-G, our High School Conselor, provides our High School students with a weekly newsletter. This newsletter provides students with information about a variety of topics including college and university application processes.

Click here for this week’s newsletter.

Nourish Healthy Meal Plan

Menu changes have been made to the Nourish meal plans, and these are available to order now through PowerSchool. This is the new Nourish meal plan that is available to order for next week, commencing 11th September.

The food on offer at ISY at both Nourish and Gusto plays a crucial role in students’ overall health, well-being, and academic performance. We want to create a healthy eating culture that promotes nutritious food choices, provides access to balanced meals, and aligns food and nutrition practices with classroom education. Here are a few key points to consider why we are doing this:

One of our Strategic Themes at The International School Yangon is ‘Sustainability’, where students cultivate sustainability through a focus on Service Learning and The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  At ISY we want to be part of the environmental drive to offer students a healthy, nutritious, plant-based diet that contributes towards lower greenhouse gas emissions. 

 Please view our blog post on the impact of food on the environment and the Nourish Ordering Procedures guide which shows you more information about how to order your child’s lunch from Nourish.

The new Nourish meal plan items are available to order for the coming week commencing 11th September, 2023.  Parents must order meals weekly in advance, by 5pm every Thursday through PowerSchool.

Activities & Athletics

Here is a link to Mr. O’Sullivan’s Athletics and Activities Blog for up-to-date information regarding Activities and Athletics at ISY.

International Day

Planning has started for our annual International Day on the 18th of November. Look out for information in this blog on how you can get involved. This could include:

  • Donating raffle prizes
  • Running a country booth
  • Sharing a cultural show performance