As a member of the Nord Anglia group, this standalone primary school in Ho Chi Minh City is able to deliver a British-style curriculum that's enhanced with an international music programme and a host of online courses, challenges and experiences that run across this global family of schools.
British International School, Ho Chi Minh City (Junior Campus) delivers a well-rounded primary education boosted by excellent global learning opportunities and a world-renowned music curriculum. Located in District 2, this standalone primary school provides a solid British curriculum from Year 3 through to Year 6 to an international mix of students.
As well as having the hallmarks of a British independent school, BIS Junior Campus brings to Vietnam many of the features that global education group Nord Anglia has become renowned for. As a member of the Nord Anglia family of schools, BIS HCMC 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 Junior Campus is part of the much larger BIS HCMC cluster of schools. BIS also has the newly opened early years and infant campus for children up to Year 2 and the BIS HCMC secondary campus, both of which are located in District 2. For parents looking to plan ahead, the majority of students enrolled at BIS junior campus go on to continue their educational journey at the BIS HCMC secondary campus. With an adjoining secondary campus, BIS HCMC students transfer seamlessly and access the curriculum that includes IGCSEs and the IBDP. The academic results in these programmes are significantly higher than any other school in Vietnam and compare favourably to the highest achieving international schools across the world.
Since opening in 1997 as a small pre-school, BIS HCMC has grown rapidly to admit around 2,100 students from more than 50 countries across its three campuses. It was rated as an “outstanding school” in its previous two British Schools Overseas (BSO) inspections.
Typical of good independent schools in the UK, BIS HCMC 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 a Poppy Appeal, carol concert, Christmas and spring fetes, pantomimes, and the option of fresh traditional British food together with local options in the school canteens.
92% of the teachers are UK qualified, and the principal and head teachers are British-born. Anthony Rowlands, the school principal, 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 early years and infant campus is open for children from 0-36 months in its parent and toddler group called Fundinotots and from nursery (two to three years old) to Year 2 (six to seven years old). At the junior campus, an outstanding education is provided from Year 3 (seven to eight years old) through to Year 6 (10-11 years old). Its nursery and reception classes for students aged two to five years follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), where learning is “active, play-based and of a practical nature”.
Children have access to creative and challenging indoor and outdoor learning spaces with facilities including role play and water play areas, a sand pit, mud kitchen, bikes, swimming pool, splash pool, kitchen, music rooms, EYFS library and a purpose built indoor gymnasium and auditorium. As well as focusing on communication literacy and language, physical development and personal and social skills, learning at BIS HCMC centres on creative and innovative play based activities, mathematics and a philosophy that strongly develops a love for learning and higher order thinking.
Years 1-6 follow the English National Curriculum (ENC) for English, maths and science, and the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) for humanities, art, and design technology. Known for its creative and thematic approach to teaching, IPC focuses on developing individual strengths in these subject areas; for example, students will explore the impact of tourism following a residential trip to Hoi An. Nord Anglia schools are well-known for enhancing their British syllabus with the IPC, and this helps students to develop a global perspective and celebrate the differences and similarities across a varied range of nationalities and cultures.
As well as a programme of personal, social and health education, there are specialist classes taught by UK qualified teachers in music, technology, PE, swimming, Vietnamese culture, and modern foreign languages including French, Spanish and Mandarin. All Vietnamese nationals must attend a compulsory after-school Vietnamese language class; this is optional for all other students.
Technology is integrated across all aspects of the curriculum with a BYOD (bring your own device) scheme in Years 5 and 6. You’ll find students from Year 1 upwards proficient at coding and using their skills to integrate with the robotics programme. In addition, children use 3D modelling to design and create their own 3D creations using 3D printers and laser cutting technology. Children use Google applications to help with collaboration in their work and iPads are available for all children across all subject areas; there are interactive whiteboards in all classrooms. 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 HCMC 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 HCMC is more than a school that develops academics. It offers a well-rounded education for students of all abilities, including students with specific needs and abilities. It 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 20 students from pre nursery to reception (two to five years old) and 22 from Year 1 to Year 6 (six to 11 years old), which is relatively low for Vietnamese international schools.
Focus on sport and the arts
One of BIS HCMC’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 primary, 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 HCMC 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 55 schools, BIS HCMC is connected to students worldwide through the group’s impressive Global Campus. This virtual world links each Nord Anglia school that spans 25 countries worldwide 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’s 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 an empathetic, ‘hands on approach’ to helping others. While there are plenty of fundraising initiatives organised by students and the Parent Teacher Group, 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 such as Eco Warriors; nursery students have play dates with schools for disadvantaged or disabled children.
There are plenty of team-building activities on offer during the school’s outdoor residential trips, which run from Year 3 onwards. BIS HCMC also offers an extensive programme of extra-curricular activities (in excess of 120 per week) from Year 1, with clubs ranging from sport, music and drama through to community service, technology, arts and environmental.
The school community at BIS HCMC is brought together through various student-led initiatives: every student is a member of one of four houses, and students can be elected to the school council, sport team captains and house captains.
There is no centralised system of inspections or reports for international schools in Vietnam, but some schools such as BIS HCMC do agree to be inspected independently by organisations that are approved by OFSTED – the government organisation that runs school inspections in the UK such as the British Schools Overseas (BSO). BIS HCMC was rated an “outstanding school” in its most recent 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 Primary Campus has a “small community ethos” where all pupils are well-known by their teachers. 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”.
Students end their primary schooling at BIS HCMC with a solid grounding for secondary education. At the end of Year 6, 95% of students are meeting or exceeding expectations in reading, 83% in writing, and 96% in maths.
Located in the quiet suburban, residential area of Thao Dien, District 2, this primary school is able to deliver a well-rounded education in a campus that’s well-equipped with some impressive facilities. As well as modern classrooms, there is a well-stocked library, music and computer suites, an indoor 25m swimming pool, large sports hall and a large cafeteria. Recreational areas include sandpits, climbing apparatus, an indoor soft play area and playgrounds.
Admission and fees
In line with most Nord Anglia schools worldwide, tuition fees are at the higher end of the scale, and they range from VND 435,000,000 for Year 1 up to VND 486,000,000 for Year 6.
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