Sha Tin College

Center for Systems Awareness SITE

Sha Tin College is a well established secondary school, which opened in 1982 in the New Territories of Hong Kong. The College is part of the English Schools Foundation which incorporates seven secondary schools, nine primary schools, a dedicated special needs school and five kindergartens. Sha Tin has a diverse population of approximately 1200 students from Years 7 to 13.

The compassionate systems approach was introduced by 3 members of staff to a number of year 8 and 9 classes over a 10 week period with one session per week.  The school utilised an existing part of the current curriculum called Global Thinking Skills (GTS). Teachers were introduced to the systems thinking elements and compassion tools resources and these were introduced to students with defined exemplars and repeatable, scale-able resources. The pilot lead teacher was teaching classes ahead of the others which allowed for greater sharing, reflection and iterative development of the learning experiences.

The unit was designed to firstly equip the students with a concept based awareness of the systems thinking elements and the compassion tools and then build in simulation style experiences and broad collaboration. One of the keys to the success of this trial is the language acquisition which has empowered students to approach, interpret and discuss complex issues with confidence and shared understanding. The students approached the final inquiry project with enthusiasm and a really open positive standpoint focussed on actively interpreting their selected issue.

Outline of programme:

Discrete sessions with activities and simulations on Systems thinking, Compassion Tools and habits of a systems thinker.  This was designed to develop a familiar toolkit that students could use and apply to a small group inquiry of their own choice towards the end of the programme.

  • A review and reflection on the learner profile and international mindedness
  • Check in skills: silent / face to face / back to back
  • Systems thinking skills:  applied to the water system in Hong Kong
  • Stock & Flow: Water system + other less tangible applications + big picture (systems habit)
  • Connection circles and simulations + changed perspectives (systems habit)
  • Ladder of inference + Assumptions (systems habit)
  • Ladder of connectedness + Considers an issue fully before making a decision (systems habit)
  • Breathing Earth Activity ( CO2 emissions + consequences)
  • Systems iceberg
  • Application of compassionate systems to a specific scenario (Media coverage of a drought in Sudan).
  • Small Student group to inquire into an issue of importance to them using compassionate systems as a lens. Students defined and self selected: Air Pollution, Housing in Hong Kong, Secondary Education in Hong Kong, Cage Living in Hong Kong (small illegal sub-divided apartments).

Our experience showed that a compassionate systems approach empowers students to deepen their thinking towards finding the real features affecting the topic of study. It is powerful, thought provoking and provides a shaft of light through complex issues. Students of all abilities and learning styles have been able to grasp and embed the concepts and utilise them with a common language, the practical and varied nature of the tools and skills appeals to a variety of learning styles, staff witnessed normally reserved students responding in very different ways. Students have formed strong collaborative bonds and this has lead to positive team building.


Here are some of the things our students said

‘Compassionate integrity to me is the ability to stay compassionate towards others despite the things they had done, by looking at the ‘bigger picture’ and understanding why they act the way they do, then helping them after understanding that.’

‘If you are not aware of things that are happening internationally, you may not understand the reasons why some things happen and therefore make incorrect assumptions based upon these events. In today’s social structure, one wrong assumption can impact many other things.’

Read about Sha Tin College Principal Message here