International School of Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC): Education for a Changing World

By: Keely Burkey

At the International School of Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC), the first international school in HCMC, Head of School Adrian Watts has a knack of looking into the future. School today, he says, “should be about preparation for the 21st century. It’s about preparing for life in a technologically changing world.” This is a tall order, but fortunately the minds at ISHCMC are up to the challenge.

Adrian Watts

An Energising Learning Environment

It all has to do, Watts explains, with developing the right kind of student. “Schools need to produce graduates who are aiming towards being entrepreneurs who employ themselves first, and then employ other people if they’re successful,” he says. This innovative way of thinking and educating is central to ISHCMC’s philosophy, and guides every part of the faculty’s decision-making.

First, there’s the welcoming community that ISHCMC has fostered between students, faculty and parents. It starts as soon as students arrive at school: parents are encouraged to have breakfast in the school cafeteria with students, teachers and administration. This family-like atmosphere makes the start of school a positive experience.

And then there’s the focus on mental health. Stress has been shown to impede a student’s ability to work and learn, so steps are taken at ISHCMC to ensure that every child is relaxed and comfortable. Students participate in 10 minutes of mindfulness training every morning, with breathing exercises. When classes start, students are receptive, positive and motivated to learn.

Student-Centric Learning

Classes are not the normal setup with children sitting in chairs and listening to the teacher. ISHCMC champions a progressive teaching style, in which the student’s learning preferences are acknowledged and catered to. “We’re trying to disrupt education, in a way,” Watts admits. “We’re trying to redefine what education should be, and what a school should be.” Rather than relying on the textbook as the source of all knowledge, students at ISHCMC are encouraged to think outside of the (text)box.

As part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, students will develop their own questions about a topic or issue and then go about answering these questions on their own. By leading the methods of inquiry, students become more invested in their own education, and curious to delve deeper into issues. Teachers act as guides in the learning process rather than pedagogues, and the results have clearly shown that this style is working.

Producing the Best

Watts points to the 2016 Middle Years Programme (MYP) and Diploma Programme (DP) results, which have been strong – the strongest ISHCMC has ever seen. With an average IB diploma score of 34, which is well above the median score of 30, graduating students have no trouble planning for their future.

With over 50 nationalities represented at ISHCMC, Adrian Watts is proud to say that students come from and head to countries all over the world. With students attending top universities in Korea, Australia, the UK and the US, the coveted IB diploma works well to ensure future success.

ISHCMC learning

Watts is careful to acknowledge, however, that simply pushing for the best university isn’t always the best policy. “It’s about putting children in the right fit, where they’re going to thrive,” he insists. To make sure that every student attends the right college for their personality and their goals, two college counsellors are on staff for one-on-one sessions for parents as well as students.

An Eye to the Future

Adrian Watts is most excited about carrying this plan even further. One major component is the opening of a second campus in the first semester of the 2017/18 school year. If ISHCMC disrupted the traditional education process in the first campus, at the new campus, Watts is looking forward to completely reinventing education.

ISHCMC second campus

Wider corridors will allow for positive student interaction; an innovation centre will encourage crowdsourcing ideas to be written and developed on glass walls; facilities will include a variety of furniture to allow students to choose where they feel most comfortable to learn. This interactive learning environment, modelled on the Google offices in Silicon Valley, is ideally set up to produce tomorrow’s industry leaders. The future is looking bright.

Contact information:
Current Campus: 28 Vo Truong Toan, D2 | New Campus: 1 Xuan Thuy, D2 | +84 28 3 898 9100 |


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