Practising Restorative Justice at International School Saigon Pearl

By: JK Hobson

Restorative Justice is an approach that was first created with criminal justice reform in mind. Distinguished professor and criminologist John Braithwaite called restorative justice “... a process where all stakeholders affected by an injustice have an opportunity to discuss how they have been affected by the injustice and to decide what should be done to repair the harm”.

The approach was developed with the knowledge that more often than not, the punitive criminal justice system does more to shame and isolate criminal offenders than it does to rehabilitate them. Restorative justice is a means of helping offenders understand the consequences of their wrongdoings and make true amends in order to become functional members of society.

ISSP

The “Restorative Approach” to Child-Rearing at ISSP

International School Saigon Pearl (ISSP) approaches childhood education with this same paradigm, aiming to alter the focus of discipline from punishment to learning. A restorative approach to learning also echoes the school’s key message, which is: “Beyond academic excellence, we develop character”.

What better way to build character than through conversation and accountability? At International School Saigon Pearl, offenders and victims discuss their actions and emotions to land on a mutual agreement of how to make fair reconciliations.

Lester Stephens, Head of School of International School Saigon Pearl has been applying the concept of restorative justice to his role as an educational administrator as well as to his parenting. He understands the struggle that parents have in dealing with conflicts concerning their children as well as the desire to have happier households. He promotes conscious parenting with the awareness that the ways in which parents and educators engage with a child will ultimately determine that child’s sense of self.

ISSP

Stephens first encountered the principles of restorative justice 15 years ago. He takes the old African proverb stating that “It takes a village to raise a child” quite seriously, and promotes this spirit among the educators at his school. “You will very rarely hear an angry, loud or yelling voice at our school. What you will hear are children being coached on their behaviour as we employ the restorative approach at our school. I believe it’s our responsibility as adults to coach children and teach them how to behave in a way that has a long-term and sustainable change towards developing good character.”

Community Education and Open Conversation at ISSP

One of the key components of ISSP is to share knowledge between both parents and educators at the school. Lester Stephens recently presented a seminar about restorative justice on the ISSP campus in Binh Thanh with the goal of better communicating the principals of restorative justice to the school’s community. Parents and educators alike were given methods to help teach children how to deal with disputes amicably.

ISSP

Hiền and Quy, a young couple who had come seeking ideas and tools to improve their child-rearing, spoke about their interest in discovering new paradigms in parenting. Hiền explained, “Both of our parents were more...traditional.” The words seeped out gently and slowly with almost a wink that contained some sort of implicit meaning. (Americans are used to this kind of coded language when it comes to talking about parenting, saying things like “My parents were ‘old school’” to connote that they were brought up with corporal punishment as a method of discipline.)

“We’re interested in finding other ways to help our son to behave, some more modern methods”, Hiền said. She sighed with the kind of resignation present in many concerned parents, as if to say, “I’m willing to give anything a try.”

Looking Beyond the “Old School” Approach to Teaching

These ideas resonated with audience members at the event even though they may have contrasted with the ways in which they themselves were raised. Hiền, 37, shared her parents’ approach to raising her: “Back then, life was hard so my parents just paid attention to how much food they could give us. They just tried to earn money to buy food. Sending us to school also took effort. They didn’t spend time talking to us and didn’t have time to play with us. They didn’t say things nicely. I understand the need and the power of positive language, but for their time, they didn’t learn those terms.”

Older models of parenting focus on the establishment of rules and punitive measures when the rules are broken. Punishment is often some kind of administration of pain inflicted by someone with authority or power over the recipient. In Vietnam, it is not uncommon to hear about past generations of parents who had endured extreme poverty ruling over their children with iron hands.

ISSP

Hien, an American woman of Vietnamese descent shared a story about her mother’s upbringing. “Every time my mom tells me this story, she cries. She told me that my grandmother would beat her over the head with a broomstick when she was angry. She says she’s lucky to have not gotten some kind of brain damage from that!” When asked whether her mother had any understanding of why her grandmother was so angry with her Hien said, “She had no idea, she was just constantly afraid.”

Although disciplinary measures such as these can result in compliance by the child, they usually lead to feelings of guilt and shame, and ultimately isolation. This feeling of isolation can create a space in which children are more likely to repeat wrongdoings but do so in secret, with the hope that they won’t be caught. The reasons for correct behaviour become wrapped up in the fear of the punishment rather than the development of good character. For example, the use of school suspensions as a form of punishment might make an immediate improvement in the learning environment but in the long run, it can lead to poor academic achievement and increased juvenile delinquency.

ISSP

The Obligation to Make Things Right

Conversely, the restorative approach seeks to create a sense of obligation rather than shame. Instead of going straight to punitive measures, teachers seek to reintegrate the students who had misbehaved by discussing the underlying issues of the conflict with all parties involved. The next step is to work together to address the cause of the behaviour. “The obligation is that they take ownership of the behaviour”, Lester explained. “If they're being naughty at home, if they made some mistakes, the idea is not that they can carry on and get away with these mistakes. Rather than guilting, shaming and blaming our children, which shuts them down, we work with them to help them feel the obligation to fix the problem by apologising or showing better behaviour”.

ISSP

The children develop a stronger sense of self as a result as well as better relationships. They become more functional members of the family and society. In the long term, they will be better people because it’s the right thing to do, not because they’re afraid of being punished. (Being “good for goodness’ sake”!)

#iAMHCMC caught up with Hiền a couple of weeks after the seminar and asked her if anything had changed in the way she was interacting with her children, and if she had found the information shared at the seminar useful. Hiền said, “I’ve learned a new approach on how to educate my children. I understand that by applying this kind of approach we can improve our relationship with our children by giving them the chance to take responsibility for what they have done. If they create problems we give them a chance to develop the way to fix the problem and make things right. By doing that, they understand what is right and what is wrong. It’s a softer way but I think it’s more useful. The power of words and emotions is strong. Language is very powerful”.

Image source: ISSP


How Does Music Help Students Grow?

By: Leroy Nguyen

Why is music education in school so important?

Learning music the ISSP way

Students at International School Saigon Pearl (ISSP) are provided with in-depth music education that helps them develop important social, emotional, and cognitive brain connections. Helping them to successfully hit important developmental milestones as they grow.

Why is music education in school so important?

Exposure to music from early childhood onwards helps children to speak more clearly, develop a larger vocabulary, and strengthen social and emotional skills. Ms. Jennifer Shine, Music and Performing Arts specialist at the International School Saigon Pearl (ISSP) shares …

“ The creative process gives students opportunities to develop confidence that they then carry into other areas of their lives. These opportunities are built around self-expression, community connection, and perseverance. In turn, students achieve greater academic success, with skills that transfer easily between subjects. ”

Most preschoolers love listening or singing along to music. Studies show that parents and teachers who create a rich musical environment do not only entertain their kids but also help them to develop essential music skills. “In our EY Music program students develop an awareness of rhythm, phrasing, tempo, movement, and other elements of musicality. It’s an incredible joy to see children play and discover the music within themselves!” said Mr. June.

ISSP

Learning music the ISSP way

At ISSP, the importance of music goes way beyond academic achievements. It encompasses all the facets of child development and lays the foundation upon which future music careers are built. Music sparks all areas of child development: language, social and emotional, intellectual, motor, and at the same time imparts the skills for school readiness. While early music education helps a child’s body and mind work together, dancing to the music helps to build motor skills and the overall coordination of the body.

ISSP

Students are exposed to a wide array of music, from Classical, Modern, Rock, Jazz, Folk, and Pop, to Global music that sheds light upon other cultures and traditions. By facilitating deep listening of other musical genres, students will develop a greater understanding of the world, its diverse community, and their place within it.

From EY through Grade 5, a wide variety of pitched and unpitched instruments are used to explore rhythm, pitch, tempo, melody, timbre, and harmony. The general music program uses drums from around the world alongside a plethora of percussion instruments, and students are lucky enough to have access to an electric drum kit, electric guitar, and bass that provide electronic sound exploration. Students explore pitch and melody during keyboard and xylophone lessons, and are taught to tune and play the ukulele in Grades 4 and 5.

ISSP

After school programs are also offered to further develop ukulele and piano skills for all ages. Additionally, students in upper levels can join choir and develop listening and singing skills in a supportive and creative community. 

Ms. Jennifer fondly reflects upon the rewarding benefits of Music Education at ISSP ...

“ In a world that is rapidly moving away from direct human connection, I’m proud of the Music and Performing Arts program at ISSP. I’m even more proud of our students who remind us daily to push the limits of creativity. Their curious, bold and joyful exploration of music and performance gives me hope for our future. ”

International School Saigon Pearl

Saigon Pearl Area, 92 Nguyen Huu Canh St, Ward 22, Binh Thanh District, HCMC.
Hotline: (028) 2222 77 88
Email: admissions@issp.edu.vn
Facebook: www.facebook.com/isspvn

Image source: ISSP


Keeping Good Counsel

By: City Pass Guide

We sat down to interview Michelle Parker, the Guidance and College Counsellor at The American School, on what it means to be a great school counselor.

How does a counsellor ensure he/she is sending a child on a path the child will both benefit from and enjoy?

They meet one to one and in groups to make assessments to get in touch with who they are. There is never a magic wand or any guarantees; the whole point is that the counsellor works with the children throughout their school career to gain an understanding of the individual's strengths and weaknesses.

To what extent should a counsellor advise a student? Is it more motivational and self-help or strictly academic advice?

Counsellors are never strict about anything. I cover social, emotional, academic and career choices. This is an holistic approach to education, we allow children to make informed choices about their futures.

How do TAS's counsellors determine what subject a student is best at and should pursue?

Their subject strengths don’t really matter, I don’t tell them what to do, ever. It’s just a case of opening up their horizons and getting them to recognise the options open to them. For example if a child wants to be a vet, I would look at their science grades. If they are failing badly then it is not a good match. If however they are adamant that this is the path they want, then it can be an opportunity to improve their science grades. That is to say, if they really want it, then they would have to buckle down to succeed in these core subjects.

Is a counsellor in some ways a child psychologist?

It runs parallel to it. In the US you have to have a degree in psychology and a masters in school counselling. It is a specialisation within the broader subject.

Do parents who meet the counsellor have a say in what the counsellor tells the student?

Parents don’t have any say in what the school counsellor does. Of course we meet with them to explain what we are doing. However it is a case of us informing them what happens and not parents telling the councillors what to do.

Is student counselling a new practice in Vietnam?

It’s not new to American schools, but it is new to Vietnamese. The Vietnamese kids which make up 50% of the school take to the role very well. Kids like to talk, to their counsellor. It is rewarding and incredibly exciting to see them open up for the first time. For them it is extremely cathartic, because they know it is completely private and the trust will not be broken, unless of course, they are in danger.

How do Vietnamese parents who may have not heard of this practice before, react to it?

Asian parents in general seem to take it quite well. They have already made the step of placing the child in an American school, so to a degree they have already taken that leap of faith.

How do Vietnamese students react to counselling compared to foreign students?

Foreign students are more familiar with it, as it is widely used and accepted in the USA. but Vietnamese children soon get used to bit and when they do the reaction is about the same.

How does TAS choose their counsellors? Do they look at his or her background to see if they themselves were a success academically and career-wise?

Obviously qualifications matter immensely, then experience. After that it is all individual to each school. They will have an idea of the style that they want and will choose someone for the role for different reasons.

Has TAS ever had a bad counsellor?

Not so much bad, but in any career field there are going to be cases of a mismatch. You cannot reach every single child, but we really try to get to as many as possible. Counsellors want to help people, they are approachable and open. But sometimes a child will simply not respond to a certain personality, that is just life.

Do you think the age of a counsellor has any bearing on their ability to identify with and enable the children to open up?

I honestly don’t think age is an issue, it’s all personality.

Do counsellors also suggest extracurricular activities for students?

Not so much suggest, but I do get involved. I love sports so I have taught tennis and play a lot of sports here. I really enjoy the teachers versus kids volleyball.

If a student is conflicted between what they want to do and what their parents want, how does a counsellor guide the student to do "the right thing”?

I always tell the child that it’s their life and their future; they must live it. With the guidance of the school we will always put the child’s best interest first. I meet with parents in groups and explain that it is of paramount importance that every child is accepted as an individual. The best thing a parent can do is to support children in their endeavours, no matter what their choices are.

What is your bottom line? What do you see as the best that you offer to the school and the children?

I see my role as more than simply being for the school and the child. The overall picture is to educate the Vietnamese community about what we offer to the children. It is so important that children get guidance and counselling to enable them to grow and be the absolute best that they can be. Support is the key word here, sometimes it is easy to put too much of one’s own opinions onto a child. Failure is not a bad thing, everyone has to fail. They have to be free to fail. Pick themselves up and say, where do I go from here?
The American School Community Service programme started this year. This is a service where all students who qualify will have to have a number of hours of community service. They simply cannot graduate without it. Such things like collecting clothes and giving them to the poor people in the area. Our children are incredibly lucky and lead privileged lives. It is important that they realise it.


Top things to do in Saigon for Kids

By: City Pass Guide

Ho Chi Minh City offers superb opportunities for people who decide to make a life here. But what about your kids? How good is Saigon life for your young ones? Here are a few ideas for activities for your children to enjoy.

KizCiti

Khu Cong Vien Khanh Hoi, Hoang Dieu, D4

Phone: +84 28 3825 3868
Hotline: +84 9 3205 9169

Opening Hours: 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Daily

This activity centre is jam packed with excellent things to occupy young minds for hours. Children participate in and learn about different professions in the adult world. They can earn KizCiti money by taking part in certain activities, then have to spend it on others. It has become popular as a school trip.

KizCiti has computer systems checking your child’s progress through each profession. It is an imaginative attraction; kids get to be airline pilots, firefighters, chefs, beauticians, paramedics and just kids! It is excellent value, and well worth checking out. There are two sessions daily: 8a.m. until 3:30 p.m., and 4 p.m. until 9:30 p.m.


Dam Sen Water Park

3 Hoa Binh, Ward 3, D11

Phone: +84 28 3963 3593

Opening Hours: Wed to Mon 8.30 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. except Sunday 8.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. Closed Tuesdays

 

 

One of the most popular things for kids to do in the city, the water park makes for a great family day out. It opened in 1999 and has been busy ever since. When the temperatures start to soar in the city, this is just the place to cool off and have fun. It is worth checking out the rides in advance before throwing your little angels in at the deep end. Some of these rides are really quite scary, waterslides that drop almost vertically and hurl you out at the bottom at quite a speed; zip lines, and all manner of things.

If you want to join in, remember that these rides were built for Asian people and hurtling your 100 kgs down a water slide at high speed is likely to result in a few bumps and bruises. But it is great fun for kids of all ages. The great success of Dam Sen Water Park is that it really does cater for all. There are gentle rides for little ones, medium rides for those who are a little more adventurous and really hair raising ones for the adrenaline junkies.


Suoi Tien Theme Park

120 AH1, Tan Phu, D9

Phone: +84 28 3896 0260

Opening Hours: Mon to Fri 7.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Sat to Sun 7.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.

Suoi Tien Theme Park was opened in 1995. It’s is a bit of a trek out of town through District 2 and on to District 9, but it is a good place for kids. Eventually the new metro will stop here and it will be more accessible. The park and gardens tell the story of Vietnam’s history and legends, like the battle between the God of the Water and the God of the Mountain, known as the Battle of Thuy Tinh and Son Thinh.

It’s a mixture of fun, facts, legends and weird stuff. Dragons and dinosaurs make for confusing bed fellows but it all works out in that strangely unique Vietnamese way. There is also a zoo, a sea water pool for bathing and cooling off when the temperatures soar, and a man-made beach complete with waterfall, on which is cultured the face of an emperor.


Snap Cafe

32 Tran Ngoc Dien, Thao Dien Ward, D2

Phone: +84 28 3519 4282

Opening Hours: Mon to Fri 7.30 a.m. to 10.30 p.m. Sat to Sun 7.30 a.m. to 11.00 p.m.

It might seem somewhat strange to include a bar / cafe in a list of great things for kids to do, but Snap Cafe is a lot more than just a cafe. This is one of the best family based places to hang out in the entire city. It’s an open air, quirky, bamboo and thatch affair that caters especially for families. At the back is a large sandpit with climbing frames and other fun things to do.

The kids will play for hours whilst mum and dad enjoy a couple of beers and some comfy seats. There are a few small shops inside the complex as well, so you can come here, leave the kids playing, look at what’s on offer, and enjoy a game of pool. The kitchen serves up fantastic food as well. What more could you want?


Cu Chi Tunnels and Wildlife Rescue Station

About 1 hour out of town past the airport

The famous Cu Chi Tunnels were where the Viet Cong fighters hid out from the Allied forces in the war. There are hundreds of miles of tunnels running right across the south of the country. You can visit them and see just how grim it must have been for the soldiers back in time. Guests can crawl through the tiny tunnels, the perfect size for kids!

Whilst here drop into the Cu Chi Wildlife Rescue Station. The rangers do tremendous work rescuing animals in peril from all sorts of situations. You may get to see bears, wild cats, gibbons, turtles and many species of birds.

These are just a few suggestions among many of the top places to visit with children in Ho Chi Minh City.


What should you consider when choosing a school in HCMC?

By: City Pass Guide

The first step in choosing a school is to be clear on what you are looking for. Then, visit each school to learn more about their educational philosophy and values, and how they compare to your own. It is important to ask about the school’s accreditation, as well as the experience and credentials of the individual teachers. It is also important to ask about the school’s curriculum. Is it student-centred? Does the school provide special learning support? Are there extension programmes or other opportunities for excellence?

Photo: Playground for children at The European International School

A great way to review a school is to take a tour during school hours. Ask to visit classrooms, break times and sports lessons, and pay attention to how engaged and happy the children seem. Are the classrooms bright and welcoming? Are they well equipped? What are the class sizes? What kind of co-curricular activities are students involved in during the school day? How diverse is the student population? Are there sports programmes or clubs in which the students participate after school?

Student learning at Saigon South International School

Research shows that children whose parents are involved in their education do better than those whose parents aren’t. Therefore, it is important to find a school that encourages parental involvement and welcomes parents on campus. What methods do the teachers use to communicate with parents? Are there parent meetings with administrators? Is there a type of parent association?

Students in a workshop with actor and and motivational speaker Ben Walden at ABC International School

If possible try to communicate with someone from your home country who attends the school. Take time to look at the school’s website and read some of the school newsletters, parent letters or other publications. Talk to members of the community and see what they think of the school their children are attending.

Art class at The American School

It is also important to be dedicated to finding the best school for your child! Always consider your child’s unique interests, personality and abilities, and put these as the top priority when choosing where they should learn.

What about sending your child to an international school?

In order to receive an international education, you must be prepared financially. Tuition fees vary greatly, but schools with a more advanced English curriculum range between VND225M and VND450M per year. Discounts may apply to additional children but it’s still a lot of money if you’re not on an expat package that includes schooling - see if your employer is willing to salary-package the fees.

Music Class at Vietnam Australia International School

In addition to tuition fees, expect to pay extra for enrolment, placement, uniforms, extra-curricular activities, transportation and lunches. Even if you have no qualms about the school’s tuition and fees, there is still no guarantee that the best schools will admit your child. Keep the selection process and long waiting lists in mind when choosing.

What if you send your child to a Vietnamese school?

If you want your child to experience an authentic Vietnamese education, they can attend a Vietnamese school upon completion of a Vietnamese language test. International students who do not speak Vietnamese may participate in some master programmes available through Vietnamese universities in cooperation with international partners. The main advantages of Vietnamese schools are lower fees, a sense of hard work, respect and discipline. However, the lack of student-to-teacher interaction and extracurricular activities is often criticised along with the archaic, teacher-centred learning method that emphasises rote learning and a heavy workload.

What about home schooling?

Given the rising costs of education and the inconvenience of far-away schools, Vietnamese and expatriates alike are looking at home schooling as a possible solution. There is a wealth of information and support available on the internet for either a parent or recruited tutor to help homeschooled children succeed. Australia seems to be the acknowledged leader in the field of home-taught education.

What schools should you consider in HCMC?

 Check out Top 11 International Schools in HCMC or see the list below.

Nursery schools Primary schools Secondary schools

ABC International School
- Asia Pacific College
- Australian International School Saigon
- British International School Vietnam HCMC
- British Vietnamese International School HCMC
- Canadian International School System
- Deutsche Schule HCMC (International German School)
- Ecole Boule & Billes
- International School Saigon Pearl
- KinderStar Preschool
- KinderWorld International Kindergarten
- Little Genius
- Little-Angels International Preschool
- Lycée Français International Marguerite Duras
- Montessori International School
- Renaissance International School Saigon
- Saigon Kids Early Learning Centre
Saigon South International School
- Saigon Star International School
- Schools of North America
- SmartKids International Child Care Centres
The American School
The European International School HCMC
- Tiny Flower Montessori School
Vietnam Australia International School
- Western Australia School

- ABC International School
- American International School
- Asia Pacific College
- Australian International School Saigon
- British International School Vietnam HCMC
- British Vietnamese International School HCMC
- Canadian International School System
- Deutsche Schule HCMC (International German School)
- International School HCMC
- International School Saigon Pearl
- Korean International School
- Lycée Français International Marguerite Duras
- Renaissance International School Saigon
- Saigon South International School
- Saigon Star International School
- Schools of North America
- Singapore International School
- The American School
- The European International School HCMC
- The Japanese International School
- Vietnam Australia International School
- Western Australia School

- ABC International School
- American International School
- Asia Pacific College
- Australian International School Saigon
- British International School Vietnam HCMC
- British Vietnamese International School HCMC
- Canadian International School System
- Deutsche Schule HCMC (International German School)
- International School HCMC
- International School Saigon Pearl
- Korean International School
- Lycée Français International Marguerite Duras
- Renaissance International School Saigon
- Saigon International College
- Saigon South International School
- Schools of North America
- Singapore International School
- The American School
- The European International School HCMC
- The Japanese International School
- Vietnam Australia International School

Meet the Expert: Ellen Thompson on International School Life

By: City Pass Guide

Ellen Thompson is an American who has lived in Ho Chi Minh City for close on 14 years. She came to teach English originally, and liked Vietnam and the people so much that she stayed. Saigon Star International School opened its doors in 2006. Ellen joined two years later as Headteacher. The school is in a particularly lush part of Saigon’s District 2. The location was chosen for its open space, clean air and green environment. An added bonus is the regular encounter with the local wildlife. Not many commuters get a traffic jam caused by a herd of buffalo! Having studied and worked in several different countries around the globe has given her a broad outlook on life and a keen interest in creating a supportive international school community.

 

Ellen Thompson - Saigon Star Internation School Principal

 

I sat down with Ellen to discuss life at an international school for her, her staff and of course, the pupils.

What changes have you seen both in education in HCMC and the city in general?

As far as Vietnam is concerned, there has been a huge increase in bilingual schools. They often split the days with the Vietnamese curriculum in the mornings and English in the afternoons. The popularity of these schools is due primarily to the Vietnamese wanting to give their children a head start learning English so as to give them more choices for higher education and better job opportunities. Many state schools are also incorporating programmes like the Cambridge curriculum to deliver a more diverse programme.

As for changes to the city, it is immense. You can’t miss all the new construction happening around. The skyline and suburbs are almost unrecognisable from when I first arrived.

How do you think education at an International School in HCMC compares to schools back home?

I think an international school education is equivalent to a private school education back home. The international schools in HCMC offer a very high standard of instruction and quality facilities. This is, of course, expected when a parent or company is paying such a large annual school fee.

From a private school perspective, it certainly holds its own against an equivalent school in America or the UK. The content is the same but the main advantage is the teacher-pupil ratios, which are much better here. Statistically, children that have been with us for more than three years are working well above their contemporaries from their home countries.

What are the greatest benefits and negative aspects of expat life for children in HCMC?

The greatest benefit, I think, is the huge broadening of a child’s attitude to cultural differences. They are growing up surrounded by different cultures and languages. They get to travel and experience things that many people only dream of. Also, our lifestyles are very different from back home, where most families wouldn’t even be able to consider having a housekeeper, driver or nanny.

The main negative is the limited number and range of extracurricular activities for children in the city. Things are improving, but very slowly. Apart from a few sports, music, art and drama programs, there are no community-organised leagues for children, like a YMCA. On a positive note, at least we now have an ice-rink in District 2.

How do teachers’ experiences here in HCMC compare to their home countries?

One of the reasons teachers often choose to teach internationally is that they feel overworked in their home countries. Since we don’t have the same level of bureaucracy, teachers are able to spend less time doing paperwork and benefit from a much better work-life balance.

Furthermore, teachers have much smaller class sizes, which means they feel capable of doing a much better job and making a much bigger difference.

Overall, their experience here is overwhelmingly positive and it is very rare for teachers to return to teaching in their home country after working here. When teachers do move on, it is often to another country, for another adventure.

How does an international school education differ from a Vietnamese one?

Again, the main difference is the size of the classes. Vietnamese schools generally have classes of up to 40-50 students and the delivery is usually lecture based with little practical work. Teaching strategies in international schools are more diverse, taking account of children’s different learning styles and differing levels of ability. There is also greater focus on developing a child’s creativity, with students studying art, music and drama to a far greater degree.

I know teachers are impressed by National Teachers’ Day, is this a big thing in Vietnam?

Teacher’s Day comes as a nice surprise for our teachers each year who, generally, have never experienced anything like it before. Without a doubt, teachers in this part of the world are respected far more than in the West so it is really nice for our teachers to feel appreciated for all their hard work and dedication. Whilst Teachers’ Day at international schools isn’t celebrated to the same extent as Vietnamese state schools, many teachers do receive flowers and other gifts from children, particularly from our Vietnamese families.

I know school costs in HCMC raise eyebrows among some parents. Why is it so expensive?

Providing the high-quality facilities and professional, well-qualified, native teachers that parents expect costs a significant amount of money. Having said that, at Saigon Star we do try so hard to keep our costs down in other areas and pass those benefits onto parents, because we understand that education is a huge financial commitment lasting many years. However, in modern society, people often see the most expensive schooling as the best, although that is not always the case. I firmly believe at Saigon Star we deliver the same high-quality education for much less.

What is your opinion on so-called unconventional teaching methods? Do you stick to a rigid formula or are you more open to accepting new ideas?

There is no correct formula for teaching. As a school we do try to adopt the best methods that we have seen from around the world, for example, by incorporating Montessori as part of our early years programme, but teaching is more of an art than a science. There are many ways to achieve the desired result, and each teacher will approach it in a different way. Part of building a good team is finding teachers with different personalities and skill sets from which pupils will benefit during their time at school. 

Rote* learning still has its place when learning knowledge, but knowledge, skills and understanding are all taught, learned and assessed differently and therefore require different approaches. Our teachers know this and plan each lesson depending on what it is that is being taught. What we know about how children learn is changing all the time, which means we also need to ensure we keep up to date and continue to support our teachers with new ideas. Even as educators, we never stop learning.

Does having children of different nationalities affect discipline?

At Saigon Star behavioural issues are practically non-existent and I’m sure it is the same for other international schools. Our students tend to come from supportive families, which makes a big difference, so it is not really a question of nationality. I’d say as well that children here are not exposed to the same societal problems that we have back in our countries. Having students learn alongside children from other parts of the world actually creates cultural harmony rather than the other way around.

*Rote learning is learning through repetition and memory, i.e. multiplication tables.


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