Opened just five years ago, the all-through International School of Vietnam (ISV) delivers a blended curriculum, with the UK-based Cambridge program in the middle and the IB programme at the beginning and (from 2018) at the end.
One of the newest kids on the block, the International School of Vietnam (ISV) has been offering a global education to students from pre-K through to Grade 12 since 2013. Located in Hanoi’s Hoang Mai district, ISV is a not-for-profit Cambridge International School that offers IGCSEs, A Levels, and the Cambridge AICE Diploma; from 2018 it will also offer the International Baccalaureate Programme.
Here’s a school that has carved out its own learning path to a university education. It follows the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP) for Grades 1 – 5, then shifts to the Cambridge curriculum from middle school for Grades 6 – 12. Both programmes are very globally-focused, they offer a wide range of subjects, their qualifications are widely recognised by international universities, and they are flexible enough to adapt to different learner needs.
In some respects, ISV is a school that is still finding its feet; it’s waiting on approval to be a PYP and IBDP school, and it has only recently had its first intake of Grade 11 and 12 students. What first strikes you about this school, though, is its hugely welcoming atmosphere. From the naturally-lit classrooms to the landscaped common areas, the ISV campus is a relaxed and attractive environment for learning. Also, the school makes the most of its fairly small campus: a gymnasium doubles up as a theatre for school plays, a dedicated ICT room is equipped with Apple Macs, iPads, and a 3D printer, and there’s a “fully-functioning” science lab for “innovative” learning.
At the helm is head teacher Bryan Gerald Manditsch, who has 16 years’ experience working as a head of school. He says that ISV is “international in outlook, and is focused on achieving outstanding academic success”. While the campus is split between the elementary and the middle/high school, ISV adopts a whole school approach that gives “all students at ISV the same kinds of experiences throughout their educational journey”.
ISV’s elementary school follows IB’s PYP, which the school says teaches students “why they should know something and how it connects to other subjects and the world around them”. Subjects include language and literacy, maths, art, music, PE, science, and social studies. 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?).
All subject areas are integrated rather than being taught in isolation, and students are encouraged to become confident and independent learners through play, inquiry, and exploration. From K2 to Grade 5, ISV teaches Vietnamese and French three times a week. Students learn in small groups, individually with teachers, independently at learning centres, and in whole class activities; lessons are held in classrooms, outdoor areas, and in shared areas.
In Grades 6 – 8, teachers deliver the Cambridge 1 curriculum, which includes English, maths, humanities, science, Vietnamese or French, ICT, PE, art, music, and drama. From Grade 9, secondary students follow the IGCSE curriculum, which includes English, maths, design technology, world languages (Vietnamese, French, or Korean), and PE, as well as four options from a choice of physics, chemistry, biology, geography, history, art and design, music, travel and tourism, French, and computer studies.
In Grades 11 – 12, students study for their A/AS Levels in English, maths, further maths, physics, biology, chemistry, business and economics, and the arts; the A Level programme only started at ISV in 2017, so it’s still too early to assess the school’s academic performance here. From 2018, ISV will introduce the International Baccalaureate Programme (IBDP), giving senior students the option of choosing between two internationally respected curricula.
All year groups have specialist classes in music and the arts, languages (French and Vietnamese), ICT, and PE. To support ISV’s inquiry-based learning programme, the school has a well-equipped library and media centre where students have access to print and digital resources.
Beyond the classroom
The academic year features regular field trips, which vary from museum visits to attending cultural events. There’s also a programme of school events, many of which are organised by the active Parent-Teacher Association, including International Day, a Christmas fair, and a Tet market to celebrate Vietnamese culture.
Extra-curricular activities are offered at lunchtimes, after school, and at weekends, and there’s a wide choice ranging from sport and the arts to ICT and robotics; there are also classes in French and Vietnamese. Students have the opportunity to play for non-competitive clubs and compete in a wide variety of sports teams in badminton, football, swimming, cycling, and even boxing. The school competes in local and international tournaments, as well as the Singapore International Triathlon.
Students in all grades are given an opportunity to develop their leadership skills with a place on the Student Council or as a school prefect.
ISV describes its campus in the Hoang Mai district as a “21st century learning community”. This purpose-built campus centres around four-storey buildings set within a leafy green setting featuring gardens and trees. Facilities include well-equipped classrooms, library, science labs, an ICT room with 3D printer, art and music rooms, two indoor swimming pools (a learner pool and a competition pool), outdoor play areas, and a multi-function gymnasium with basketball and badminton courts that is also used as a theatre for up to 1,000 people.
Admission and fees
ISV has a unique honorary student programme, which invites prospective students to ISV events and activities such as football matches and student exhibitions. The school says,
“Through the honorary programme, students who are not yet enrolled in to ISV, but interested in joining ISV in the future, can slowly learn about ISV environment, activities and culture… Since transferring schools may be hard for some students, the programme will serve as a small transition step for students before moving into a new school.”
There are scholarships available for IGCSE and A Level students and, in the future, there will be an IBDP scholarship as well. Tuition fees are the among the lowest for Vietnam’s international schools; they start at VND 330,484,000 for Grade 1 and increase to VND 374,027,000 for Grade 6 and VND 464,464,000 for Grade 12.
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