15:16 | 01/10/2019 Society
(VEN) - For more than two decades, the British International School Ho Chi Minh City (BIS HCMC) has delivered high quality education to students in Vietnam. In a conversation with Vietnam Economic News’ Phung Khuu, the school’s principal, Anthony Rowlands, takes stock of what it has done so far and where it stands today.
Can you briefly encapsulate for us the achievements of BIS HCMC in all the years that it has been in Vietnam?
The origin of the British International School goes back to 1996. The school’s founders, Maurice and Rosie Nguyen, were unsuccessful in finding a preschool place for their one-year old daughter Jenny. So they decided to invest time, energy and savings into establishing their own pre-school which opened in August 1997. It was called Tiny Tots and located in a renovated villa on Nguyen Van Thu Street in District 1.
As the two pre-schools grew rapidly, so did Jenny, and her parents decided in 2000 to extend the original Tiny Tots villa on Nguyen Van Thu street to accommodate an additional 10 primary classrooms, bringing the total school roll to 300 children. This was the first year the school was officially called the British International School HCMC.
Within just a few years after its humble beginnings, BIS HCMC quickly established itself as the international school of choice to expatriate and local parents with pre and primary school aged children. In order to provide the same type of high quality education to secondary pupils, the school opened a separate purpose-built secondary campus on land across from AP1 in August, 2005. The number of students on roll had now risen to more than 1,000.
In 2006 we saw the first Year 13 students graduate from BIS HCMC. It was only a small group of students, but they symbolized another significant landmark for the school that had developed from a small pre-school just 9 years earlier. For the first time ever, students from BIS HCMC were going to university!
In August 2007 another new primary school was built on Tu Xuong Street in District 3, combining the Nguyen Van Thu campus and the Fundino campus into one new school. Mr. Shaun Williams was appointed as Principal and the school roll had risen by then to 1,350 children.
Over the ensuing years various extensions were built in AP1 and AP2 to provide additional classrooms and specialist facilities allowing BIS HCMC to grow towards its projected target maximum capacity of about 2,000 students.
Building on more than a decade of successful school development in Ho Chi Minh City, BIS HCMC merged with Nord Anglia Education (NAE) in 2015. NAE are a world leading premium schools organization located in China, Europe, the Middle East, the Americas and Southeast Asia. Being part of a large and established education organization with 66 international schools around the world enables BIS HCMC to further develop and consolidate its status as a provider of high quality education to students.
BIS HCMC is the largest international school in Vietnam. What makes you stay ahead of the competition in gaining parents’ trust and attracting more students?
There are many significant factors that contribute to making a school special. At BIS HCMC, we understand the importance of an all-round educational experience that ensures a child is equipped with the skills to prepare them for their role in a challenging and rapidly changing world. We provide an environment that is nurturing, academically stimulating and focused on developing the individual talents and strengths of each child. A BIS education goes beyond traditional education to transform learning.
Our experienced, qualified teachers teach a globally respected curriculum, that consistently delivers excellent academic outcomes. The curriculum is further enhanced with collaborations with some of the world’s best academic institutions, such as Juilliard, MIT and UNICEF. Beyond that, our students and teachers regularly have the opportunity to gather unparalleled experiences outside of the classroom; experiences that deepen their knowledge and curiosity of a given topic. Importantly, BIS HCMC students are also encouraged to participate in community outreach projects from the age of 12. This element of the curriculum is designed to help students to become responsible global citizens and has a significant impact on the personal development of students.
Our students also have access to a dedicated pastoral care team that provides guidance through international life skills training, counselling services, as well as university and careers specialists.
Can you also elaborate on some of the British methods used in the school as well as elements that helped it become the first in Vietnam to be inspected and approved by the UK government?
According to the recent British School Overseas’ inspection report, BIS HCMC is recognized as having a strong British flavour and ethos.
The school is organised in a typically British way, both academically and pastorally. The BIS curriculum for Early Years and Foundation Stage (EYFS) and for Key Stages (KS) 1-5 is strongly based on the English National Curriculum, adapted to the local Vietnamese context. It provides a wide range of educational visits, after-school activities as well as musical and drama events, typical of good independent schools in the UK. Management and administration terminology used in the school is British. More than 90 percent of teachers are British qualified and trained. Teachers’ continuous professional development is based on UK developments, and is often run by trainers flown from Britain. School resources are largely sourced from the UK. The BIS house system and school uniforms mirror those seen in the UK independent sector. Many students transfer to similar British schools if they leave the school whilst still of school age: 19 percent of students transfer to UK Universities after graduating from BIS.
In addition, the school maintains strong links with the British embassy and consulate in Vietnam, not to mention the British Business Group here. British culture is recognised in a variety of ways - the annual Poppy Appeal, a traditional red phone box on one site, an annual carol concert, a Christmas bazaar, the Spring Fete, pantomimes, and the option of traditional British food in the school canteens. Communication from the school to families and students is made in English, as are all school publications, reports, letters and the website. Extra-curricular provision, including clubs and school trips, are very important in the life of the school, and in line with British best practices. The school is also an active member of the Federation of British International Schools in Asia (FOBISIA) and the Principal is the current Chair of its Executive Board.
What is your message for students for life after graduating from BIS HCMC?
Continue to Be Ambitious and make your dreams come true!