This well-established primary school in central Ho Chi Minh City offers the full International Baccalaureate programme alongside unique mindfulness lessons, a very active sports programme, and some impressive technology facilities.
One of the oldest international schools in Vietnam, International School Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC) is entering a new era in education. This well-established school has delivered an International Baccalaureate programme to children from nursery through to sixth form for more than 20 years at its campus in District 2, Ho Chi Minh City. In August 2017, the school opened a new secondary campus just 5km away, which means that ISHCMC’s original campus is now dedicated to the early years and primary school; the new campus in Thao Dien is exclusively for Grades 6 to 12. This is good news for parents as the primary campus is being refurbished with learning spaces that are designed exclusively for primary students, there are more space available, and this over-subscribed school could potentially increase its intake.
Founded in 1993, ISHCMC has been offering the well-rounded and expat-friendly IB programme since 1998. As a full IB World School, ISHCMC offers the Primary Years Programme (PYP) for students aged four to 10 years, Middle Years Programme (MYP) for students 11-16 years, and the Diploma Programme (IBDP) for students 16-19 years across its two campuses. Although there are several international schools in Vietnam that offer a part of the IB programme, ISHCMC is one of only four schools in Vietnam to offer all three IB programmes, and is one of two in Ho Chi Minh City (the other is European International School); this means it can offer students a seamless learning journey that works towards the IBDP.
ISHCMC is part of the international Cognita group of schools, which has headquarters in the UK and educates 15,000 pupils in 50 schools worldwide, including several across South East Asia. As well as enjoying the benefits of being part of a global education group (such as exchange visits), ISHCMC works in partnership with other Cognita schools in Vietnam – International School of Saigon Pearl and International School Ho Chi Minh City, American Academy – to offer students inter-school visits and sports tournaments.
As the name suggest, ISHCMC is an international school with more than 50 nationalities of student. It is also a very typical IB school in the sense that it offers a broad education that’s not tied to any country, a wide breadth of subjects, and a curriculum that develops inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people. Head teacher Adrian Watts, who has previously worked at IB schools including the New International School of Thailand (NIST) in Bangkok and the International College of Spain in Madrid, says,
“As a committed IB school, ISHCMC encourages a balance between academic achievement and the development of the whole child.”
Here’s a school that promises to help students reach their “full potential and become independent and self-reliant individuals” with its mindfulness classes, programmes in the arts and sports, outdoor trips, and leadership opportunities.
The ISHCMC curriculum at the now standalone primary school is based on the IB’s Primary Years Programme for students aged three to 11 years. From nursery through to Grade 5, this learner-centred and inquiry-based programme covers English, maths, social studies, science, and information and communication technology. There are specialist lessons in PE, the arts, music and world languages (Grade 1 and above).
All subjects are integrated rather than being taught in isolation. In line with the PYP structure, learning focuses on Knowledge (What do we want the students to know?), Concepts (What do we want the students to understand?), Skills (What do we want students to be able to do?), Attitudes (What do we want students to value?) and Action (How do we want students to act?).
ISHCMC advocates positive education and the best example of its progressive approach to education is the 10-minute mindfulness class that’s held daily for all students. The lights are turned off in the hallways and classrooms across the school, and students take part in activities such as breathing exercises, yoga, and mindful colouring. Parents are also encouraged to ‘live the moment’ by attending the school’s mini mindfulness workshop on topics such as stress, balancing right brain and left brain, nutrition and meditation.
The school says,
“Mindfulness at ISHCMC is helping us – the parents, students and teachers – to discover who we really are.”
In terms of technology, there’s a new Mac lab, all classrooms have access to iPads, and there’s a 1:1 iPad programme from Grade 3 and 1:1 laptop programme from Grade 5. Also, the curriculum includes the Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship Programme, which teaches safe and responsible technology use. There’s no compulsory homework in the primary years, but students are strongly encouraged to read daily and learn through activities such as Skype calls with relatives, writing a blog etc.
ISHCMC is an inclusive school and it offers learning support for gifted students and those with learning difficulties, counselling services, and English as an Additional Language.
Sport and the creative arts
As you’d expect at any IB school, there’s a strong focus on non-academic subjects and skills. All students have lessons in the arts, PE and swimming. There are opportunities to join the school choir, bands, orchestra; perform in school productions; produce work for the school’s annual exhibition; and try out for the swim squad and teams in basketball, football, volleyball, gymnastics and athletics.
Beyond the classroom
ISHCMC encourages students to take part in activities outside the traditional classroom, “to develop confidence, independence, and IB learner traits”. Students can take on various leadership roles at ISHCMC – on the Primary Student Representative Council or as house captains. The school’s house system helps to give students a sense of belonging and the four houses meet for various sporting, artistic and academic activities throughout the year.
During school hours, there are regular and compulsory field trips for all grade levels. There’s a programme of after-school activities covering sporting and creatives topics, which are organised by teachers and external groups. The school’s Parent Teacher Organisation is very active in ISHCMC life, and also organises extra-curricular activities such as a Saturday morning sports programme for students.
Primary students also have the opportunity to compete in the school’s Rhinos and Stingrays teams which takes part in swimming galas, basketball and football tournaments, gymnastics, dance recitals, math, science and coding competitions. ISHCMC competes in events organised by the Saigon International School Athletic Conference (SISAC) and the Mekong River International Schools Associations (MRISA).
Students’ progress is tracked by US-led Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessments twice a year in maths and reading from Grade 3 upwards. More than 83% of ISHCMC students are at/above reading and maths proficiency levels.
ISHCMC’s primary campus is located in the family-friendly neighbourhood of An Phu in District 2, and many students live close enough to scooter, walk or bike their way to the school gates. The school has grown into an all-through school over the past 20 years and, as such, it is well-equipped for all aspects of learning. As well as IT-equipped classrooms, ISHCMC has a gymnasium, large multi-purpose room, 25m swimming pool, large outdoor pitch, sports courts, science labs, a Mac lab, a Makerspace, performing arts studios, a library and media centre, IT labs, music rooms, art rooms, a canteen, a health clinic, an adventure playground, and a newly added early childhood centre.
Facilities for the early years, kindergarten and Grades 4-5 were refurbished in 2014, and new facilities such as a Mac lab and Makerspace were added to the campus in 2015. Now that the secondary school has been moved to a new campus, the school is renovating its existing site to convert it into, “a primary school facility that enables our younger students to fully beneﬁt from an inquiry-based academic program”.
New facilities for the 2018-19 academic year include upgraded classrooms, new art facilities, an expanded music area with instrumental practice rooms, a makerspace-style fab lab, food technology lab, and an indoor play area.
Admission and fees
Annual tuition fees at ISHCMC are at the higher end of the scale; they range from VND 442,400,000 for nursery and Grade 1 to VND 484,600,000 for Grade 5.
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