Located in HCMC's District 2, this Nord Anglia secondary school follows an enhanced British curriculum that works towards IGCSEs and the IBDP – and offers students some exciting opportunities in music, STEAM and global learning.
If you are looking for a city centre school with a solid British curriculum, international qualifications and a strong focus on global opportunities, then the British International School, Ho Chi Minh City (Secondary) ticks all the boxes. Located in District 2, BIS HCMC Secondary follows a modified English National Curriculum from Years 7 to 10, then offers IGCSEs from Year 10 and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) from Year 12.
As well as having all the hallmarks of a British independent school, BIS HCMC Secondary brings many of the features that education group Nord Anglia has become renowned for to Vietnam. As a member of the Nord Anglia family of school, BIS An Phu Secondary works in collaboration with The Juilliard School to offer an outstanding music programme; it offers access to online courses, global challenges and experiences available through Nord Anglia’s virtual global campus; and it focuses on STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths – in and outside the classroom.
The BIS HCMC Secondary campus is part of the much larger BIS family of schools. BIS has a primary campus and an early years and infant campus, both also in District 2. The BIS group also includes two British Vietnamese International Schools (BVIS), with campuses in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.
Since opening in 1997 as a small pre-school, the BIS group has grown rapidly to admit around 2,100 students from more than 50 countries across its three campuses. Rated as an “outstanding school” in its British Schools Overseas (BSO) inspection, BIS has a strong academic record in IGCSEs and the IBDP.
Typical of good independent schools in the UK, BIS has an active house system, provides a wide range of educational visits, and after-school activities, and recognises British culture in annual events such as the Poppy Appeal, carol concert, spring fete, pantomimes, and the option of traditional British food in the school canteens.
92% of the teachers are UK qualified, and the head teacher is British-born Anthony Rowlands who had 13 years’ experience in UK education before moving to work in South East Asia schools; in April 2012 Anthony became founding principal of BIS Hanoi before moving to become principal of BIS HCMC in August 2017. In line with UK schools, the academic year runs from August to June and has three terms.
The Secondary campus is open for Years 7-13, and follows a modified version of the English National Curriculum up until Year 12. In Years 7-9, students study English, maths, science, languages, geography, history, ICT, design technology, PE, music, drama and art. In Years 10-11, students study the core subjects and can select IGCSE options from a choice of French, Mandarin, Spanish or Vietnamese, geography, history, ICT, business studies, economics, design technology, PE, music, drama and art and design. In the sixth form, students follow the IBDP and study six subjects, write an Extended Essay and study a Theory of Knowledge component.
All students must study Vietnamese plus a second language taken from a choice of French, Mandarin or Spanish. The school also includes all secondary students in its bespoke International Life Skills (ILS) programme, which focuses on personal, social, health and citizenship education, as well as sex and relationship education.
Technology is used across the curriculum and you’ll find students using PowerPoint presentations, Google docs and iPads in all subjects; there are interactive whiteboards in all classrooms and the school has a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programme for all year groups. An example of how students use iPads to film their peers diving in a swim lesson gives you an idea of how technology is used in creative ways at this school.
BIS takes great pride in its well-equipped library, and it goes the extra mile to encourage a love of reading; students can access their account from home to reserve books, upload their own reviews and send reading recommendations to friends.
The school says,
“It carefully balances two roles; that of instilling an enduring love of the written word, and to provide a first class information service to meet students’ research needs.”
BIS offers a well-rounded education for students of all abilities including gifted students. It also has a learning support department that offers support for students with minor learning difficulties at no additional cost, as well as specialised teaching in English for Vietnamese nationals. The average class size is 24 in the secondary years, which is relatively low for Vietnamese international schools.
Focus on sport and the arts
One of BIS HCMC Secondary's distinguishing features is its collaboration with The Juilliard School, a renowned performing arts academy based in New York. Through the Juilliard-Nord Anglia Performing Arts Programme, the school puts its students in front of Juilliard’s performers and teaching artists at various workshops, masterclasses and performances. You really get a feel for the love of music at this school. The school’s music curriculum is based on a repertoire curated by Juilliard that is built around 12 categories of music, ranging from Bach and Mozart to Gershwin and John Williams.
The school’s website says,
“Through our music curriculum designed by The Juilliard School, every student can enjoy being an engaged listener, composer, interpreter and communicator. In addition, your child will be developing valuable skills that will pay dividends in all aspects of learning and prepare them for success in future life.”
In terms of sporting action, students can take part in regular inter-house competitions and represent BIS in regular fixtures against other international schools, such as the FOBISIA U13 and U15 games. There are also match reports written by students on the school website. PE lessons cover a broad range of traditional sports and physical activities including athletics, swimming, tag rugby, dance and rounders.
A global campus
While BIS may have been founded 20 years ago to help fill the gap for expat education in Vietnam, it has evolved to become a truly international school. As a member of Nord Anglia’s global network of 47 schools, BIS is connected to students worldwide through the group’s impressive Global Campus. This virtual world links Nord Anglia’s 45,000 students and gives them access to online courses, global challenges and experiences that are run across the family of schools.
By logging on to the Global Campus website, students can enter competitions and sign up to expeditions. Through Global Campus Worldwide, all Nord Anglia schools offer a variety of summer programmes ranging from specialist camps for the performing arts or leadership to sports and language camps. They also encourage students to showcase their talent in Nord Anglia regional and global competitions such as sports tournaments, orchestra performances and science festivals.
The school’s website says,
“Our Global Campus extends your child's learning beyond the classroom and the school day. Your child can participate in a wide variety of activities designed by educational experts and teachers to broaden their knowledge and nurture transferable skills valuable in school, university and the workplace.”
Most recently, the school has taken part in the Virtual Choir project, which saw choirs from every school singing together online; entered a creative writing competition; and shared their designs for a future school in Nord Anglia after-school Lego club.
While BIS manages to retain that ‘small school feeling’ on each of its campuses, it also manages to deliver something bigger than its presence in Vietnam. Students can feel part of a ‘global community’, and compete and collaborate with their international peers – something that standalone international schools simply cannot offer.
Beyond the classroom
All students take part in the school’s community service programme, which encourages a ‘hands on approach’ to helping others. While there are plenty of fundraising initiatives organised by students and the PTA, the focus here is much more on ‘doing’ rather than simply ‘giving’. Students can find themselves working in an animal rescue centre, taking part in lesson exchanges with government schools, and helping the environment in groups such as Eco Warriors.
There are plenty of team-building activities on offer during the school’s outdoor residential trips, and from Year 10 onwards students are encouraged take part in the International Award Scheme; this includes visits and trips to Dalat, Hoi An, Sapa, Vung Tau and Thailand. BIS also offers an extensive programme of extra-curricular activities, with clubs ranging from sport, music and drama through to community service and the environment.
The school community at BIS HCMC Secondary is brought together through various student-led initiatives: every student is a member of one of four houses; students can be elected to the school council, playground committee, sport team captains, house captains; participate in the Model United Nations; or become a school prefect.
There is no centralised system of inspections or reports for international schools in Vietnam, but some schools such as BIS do agree to be inspected independently by organisations such as the British Schools Overseas (BSO). The BIS group was rated an “outstanding school” in its 2016 BSO inspection, and parents may find it reassuring to read through this ‘glowing’ report.
According to inspectors, BIS offers “a very broad and well-balanced curriculum”. The school was praised for its “very broad range” of extra-curricular activities, its support for students with special educational needs, its “outstanding support” for those who speak English as an Additional Language; and its “clear emphasis given to independent learning, research skills and critical thinking”. Another strength is BIS’ bespoke personal growth and development programme, which is regarded as “a significant contributor to the growth and development of pupils”.
The report said that, “the breadth of curriculum offered at sixth form level is exceptional”. It also highlighted how the school benefits from Nord Anglia’s global campus programme, which “provides extensive opportunities for pupils to compete in a variety of subject areas across the curriculum, including mathematics, music, STEAM, arts, drama, model United Nations and leadership”. It also noted the “extensive collaboration, particularly with sport, with other local international schools”.
There is still room for improvement at BIS, though. Inspectors found that the use of IT was “varied”, and the “opportunity to exploit the BYOD policy was missed in many lessons”.
BIS has an impressive academic record in both IGCSES and the IBDP. In 2017, nearly 99% of BIS students achieved five or more A*-C grades, which is significantly above the UK national levels of 69%. Just under 70% of all grades awarded were A* or A, and there was a 100% A*-A pass-rates for biology, ICT and music.
In 2019, the 12th cohort of IB students achieved a high average score of 35.5. 26% of students achieved 40 points and above, which is the level of attainment required to gain admission to the world's elite universities, such as Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard and Stanford.
• Average score: 35.5
• Size of cohort: 78
• No. students scored 40 points and above: 26%
Read our full roundup of IB results in Vietnam here.
Located in the quiet suburban, residential area of Thao Dien, this secondary school is able to deliver a well-rounded education in a campus that’s fully-equipped with some impressive facilities. As well as modern classrooms, there is an auditorium and 25-seat theatre, science labs, drama and dance studios, well-stocked library, music technology suites and practice rooms, computer suites, art, design and technology rooms, an indoor 25m swimming pool, large sports hall, a sixth form centre, and a large cafeteria. The school shares its large playing fields with the neighbouring An Phu primary campus.
Admission and fees
Tuition fees are moderate by Vietnamese standards and they range from VND 560,200,000 for Year 7 up to VND 641,800,000 for Year 12.
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