With two decades of experience, Australian International School (AIS) Thu Thiem is a small all-through school in Ho Chi Minh City offering an international education that incorporates the International Baccalaureate programme and IGCSEs.
While its name may suggest otherwise, Australian International School (AIS) is very much an international school that offers an IB education to a very multicultural student population. In fact, this school’s only real connection to Down Under appears to be its ownership by a New Zealand education group and a large proportion of Australian teachers.
Founded in 2006 as a small secondary school, AIS has expanded to a family of three campuses across District 2 in Ho Chi Minh. As well as the Thu Thiem all-through school, AIS has the Thao Dien primary school and the XI Kindergarten. Today, the school is home to more than 1,100 students in total from around 40 different nationalities.
For parents looking for the benefits all-through school, then AIS Thu Thiem ticks the boxes with its offering of a well-rounded education from two to 18 years. Here’s a mid-sized school that follows the IB’s Primary Years Programme, then IGCSEs, and finally the IBDP. A student’s progress can be tracked throughout their school life, younger students have the advantage of being able to share the senior school’s facilities, and younger children feel more comfortable transitioning from kindergarten to junior and then senior school.
At the helm is head teacher Roderick Crouch, whose educational career has included schools in Australia, the UK and the UAE. He leads a team of teachers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the US and the UK. The school is a member of ACG, a leading provider of private education in New Zealand, and AIS is its first and only school in Vietnam.
AIS is divided between a kindergarten, primary school (Years 1-6), lower secondary (Year 7-10), and senior school (Years 11-13). An education at AIS begins in the self-contained kindergarten, where teachers deliver the Dynotots programme to children aged two to four years. From the age of three until Year 6, teaching is based on the International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Programme (PYP), which focuses on languages (English, Chinese and Vietnamese), maths, science, social studies, technology, art, music (including recorder lessons), swimming and PE.
All primary students learn Vietnamese – either the Vietnamese National Curriculum (VNC) for Vietnamese nationals or Vietnamese Language and Culture for non-Vietnamese students – and Mandarin is taught from Years 2-6, while French is taught in Years 5 and 6.
In the lower secondary school, teaching follows the Cambridge International Lower Secondary curriculum and works towards IGCSEs. In Years 7-10, students study the core subjects, as well as a second language, art, music, PE and swimming, ICT, design technology and drama. Students at AIS study their IGCSEs in just one year in Year 11 (compared to the standard two), and this intensive course structure relies upon small classes and specialist teachers, as well as academically able students. In addition to the core subjects of English, maths, a second language or global perspectives, and PE, students can select three of the following: art, design technology, ICT, biology, economics, music, chemistry, geography and physics.
AIS students complete their education in Years 12-13, when teaching follows the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. The school says that the IBDP’s 'balanced combination of arts and science subjects avoids premature specialization, while its international perspective encourages students to learn about their own culture and those of others".
In all year groups, school says that technology is “used extensively in all curriculum areas” and this is supported by its dedicated computer labs equipped with iMacs. Class sizes vary between 20-28 depending on the year group.
Beyond the classroom
Learning extends far beyond the class walls at AIS, and the school says,
“At AIS, the students are given opportunities to undertake after school activities, join clubs, be part of leadership groups, compete in interschool competitions, enjoy camps and field trips, or be involved in fundraising for the community programs – and so be fully involved in the total life of the School.”
The school’s extra-curricular activities are led by the teaching staff, and range from hip hop dancing to cooking to sports to robotics; there’s also an English Language programme on Saturdays. The school really shines, though, when it comes to sport. AIS has a dedicated private sporting complex, the AIS Sports Centre, which is located close to the school and features a large outdoor pool, outdoor gym, netball court, basketball court and astro-turf field. The venue is used for the school’s Kidzone programme of after-school activities, which includes swimming, basketball, karate, soccer and tennis.
Students have various opportunities to pursue their interests, from competing in local SISAC competitions in basketball, badminton, athletics, cross country running, swimming, and football through to performing at special events such as Tet, the Moon Festival or Open Day; a highlight in the calendar is AIS Celebrates (for primary students) and the annual production (for secondary students).
From Years 2-10, all students attend compulsory school camps that vary from one to four nights depending on the year group. School camps are an integral part of the academic and outdoor education programme at AIS and as such are considered compulsory.
In the 2017 IBDP results, the average score was 35 and 15% of AIS students scored 40 or above. The majority of stduents go on to study at a university in Australia, the US or the UK.
AIS Thu Thiem is a purpose-built campus in An Phu, District 2. Facilities include science labs, art, music, design and technology studios, a large auditorium, exhibition areas, a 25m salt-water swimming pools, a learn to swim wading pools, outdoor basketball and tennis courts, astro-turf soccer field, and a huge air-conditioned indoor gymnasium. The kindergarten has an enclosed playground complete with sandpit and trampolines.
Admission and fees
Annual tuition fees at AIS are moderate and start at VND 365,400,000 for Year 1 and increase to VND 461,500,000 for Year 7 and VND 561,800 for Year 12.
The school does offer annual scholarships, which are awarded on academic merit, a scholarship examination and an interview.
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