Internationally-known for its commitment to educational innovation and preparing students for a rapidly-changing world, International School Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC) is celebrating a 25-year milestone in achieving academic excellence.
Following a progressive education model, ISHCMC encourages a balance between academic achievement and whole-child development.
Providing the three core programmes of the International Baccalaureate (IB), while nurturing a creative and collaborative learning environment, this school was the first in Ho Chi Minh City to be accredited in 1998 and achieve IB World School Status, also receiving accreditation from professional bodies such as the Council of International Schools (CIS).
As the first international school in HCMC authorised to offer three International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes, ISHCMC is one of the most established academic institutions in Ho Chi Minh City, celebrating success by looking forward to the future and aiming to celebrate many more years of triumph.
Built on a foundation of pioneering spirit and determination from both educators and supporters, ISHCMC has evolved into a high-profile academic institution since its humble beginnings in 1993.
To find out why this school is such a progressive powerhouse for international education and reflect on its 25 years of educational excellence, Study International spoke with Adrian Watts, Head of School at ISHCMC, to gain further insight into its growth and success.
Celebrating 25 years of innovative education, ISHCMC has faced many exciting developments. What has been your favourite thus far?
Part of the global Cognita family of schools, we’ve been given an awful lot of autonomy in who we are as a school and how we’ve developed. We are known to be pioneering and quite risk-taking. We’ve also just built a state-of-the-art new secondary campus which opened in January 2018 and is lovely!
We were hugely involved in the design process and ensuring the campus fits into our concepts and vision. So, we’ve created a school that’s for the future, complete with open and flexible spaces. There are facilities that have never been available in Vietnam before such as an Innovation Centre. We have a 350-seater full production theatre, 8-lane 25 meter swimming pool that hosts international swim competitions, a Food Tech, Design Tech, recording studio and NBA sized basketball court. There’s so much available to our students.
And for me, one of the best things is that our learning environments fit our mission and vision for education. This can also be said for our Primary campus, which has undergone a considerable transformation over the past three years. We committed to an ambitious refurbishment plan to meet the needs of young learners for their future. There is an internationally award-winning media and resource center, Fab Lab suite and Food Tech facility, modern music spaces with smaller rehearsal rooms, outdoor spaces for various sports including a 6-lane 25 meter swimming pool. That’s not to mention the modern learning environments our Primary students enjoy every day that follow the studio concept.
Keeping students energised, engaged and empowered in the digital age, why do you think it is important that ISHCMC embraces technology as a tool to support learning?
Because the future is artificial intelligence, big data and technology. So, if we’re really going to prepare students for their future, we need to ensure that our students can work with and alongside technology.
Remember, some of my youngest students won’t be graduating till 2032, so as the Head of the School, I’ve really got to be thinking ahead. We are in the fourth industrial revolution and this could be the most changing revolution society has seen. We need to tackle students’ awareness of where technology is going, help young learners discover what big data really means and help them understand the future role that artificial intelligence could play in their lives.
That’s why it’s important to keep our students at ISHCMC energised, engaged and empowered. Alongside our academics and our integration of technology, we also focus on what it means to be human and how our students can know themselves and others through their learning.
Artificial intelligence may one day take over our jobs, our everyday systems and continually beat us at chess, but it will never be a human being. Therefore, there needs to be a great emphasis in schools to help students learn who they are, to discover where their strengths lie and to unravel their passions so they may follow them to future success.
As Head of School, you must have witnessed marvelous things while working at ISHCMC! Could you reflect on one of your most poignant or noteworthy moments?
To be honest, every day here is noteworthy! There’s always something interesting happening and we’ve got some very progressive ideas taking place in the school. Hence why we are approached by many teachers that are interested in working with ISHCMC and its innovative concept.
This year we have introduced a Sustainability program and have recruited an expert who coaches our students to become more conscientious of the environment and the world around them. Students from 2 to 18 years old participate in designing and building community gardens, growing fruit and vegetables that are then used in our canteens, and more recently we have acquired a plastic recycling machine. The community are encouraged to bring their used and unwanted plastic to school and our students turn it into material used for the 3D printing machines they use for their learning.
On the school’s website, it states that ISHCMC was the first to invest in clean and purified air for all students. From your point of view, why is this an important factor to promote?
In my first year at ISHCMC, I realised that pollution was bad in Ho Chi Minh City and I started to walk around the school to monitor the air quality.
Realising that the level it showed was not a healthy level for my students, I knew that we had to make changes – especially as we had introduced the energise, engage and empower vision and knew that students can’t be learning and have high levels of energy if they’re not breathing fresh air!
Now we have AQI air readers around campus and the teachers have apps on their phones to check the air quality and decide whether students should play indoors or outdoors via their daily analysis.
In fact, our secondary campus is completely purified and the air quality is equivalent to standing on the Swiss Alps! But what saddens me is that no other schools in Ho Chi Minh City have invested in the same sort/level of technology that we have yet.
If you were to offer advice to prospective parents looking to enrol their child or children at ISHCMC, what would it be?
I often tell parents, “don’t expect your child’s education to be the same as yours – and if it happens to be, then please send me a letter of complaint!”
We’re preparing children for the future world and I ask parents to keep an open mind. The emphasis isn’t what students know; it’s placed on how they learn what they know.
Click here to inquire with the friendly Admissions team at ISHCMC to learn more about the school.