Vietnam Finland International School: A unique School in Saigon
South East Asia’s first Finnish international school opens its doors, providing a gateway to a unique style of learning where old skills meet new.
“Learning by doing, and learning how to learn, that’s what we’re all about here”
…says Ms Huyen, Vice-Principal of the brand new Vietnam-Finland International School (VFIS), which will officially open its doors to its first student body this August 2019. The initial two hundred students will be welcomed into a beautiful new building designed by Finnish architects and nestled inside the campus of Ton Duc Thang University in HCMC’s District 7.
VFIS, unlike any other international school in HCMC, is the first of its kind to be wholly owned by a public university, Ton Duc Thang, and as such, will be run as a not-for-profit school. This means that the school can invest in innovative programs based on the world-renowned Finnish educational model and in state-of-the-art learning facilities where form follows function. The school will be staffed by an international body of highly-educated, world-class teachers trained in the Finnish system, much revered by educational experts around the world. Ms Huyen also notes that...
“The Finnish system is a system based on trust. In Finland, teachers are highly-educated and acknowledged as true experts. As such, they have full autonomy in choosing suitable teaching methods tailored to individual pupils”.
In the last year, VFIS has sought out several Finnish educational experts and brought them on board to help kick-start the official opening of the school including Mrs Seija Nyholm, a former principal of a bilingual school in Helsinki. When Mrs Nyholm toured me around the new facility, as a parent, I was extremely impressed. Class sizes will be small, around twenty students, and the classrooms do not use the traditional setup. Rather than rows of desks, tables are arranged in small groups to emphasize teamwork and partnership. Classrooms have large windows and sliding panels which open to other rooms should teachers wish to collaborate with one another. It is a large school built for more than 2000 pupils, but its size is made manageable by dividing the school into smaller units, 10 buildings that surround the Central Hall. In each of these units, the classrooms are arranged around an open learning space called the Learning Lounge. It is a place where pupils can gather before the start of lessons. Dotted with tables and comfortable seating, it can also be used for relaxation and catching up with friends. There are computers for students to use and an outdoor terrace. Plenty of space is available for more formal activities, such as group work, assemblies, workshops and parents' evenings. Lastly, all classrooms are equipped with large, flat-screen televisions in order to integrate technology into all aspects of the educational process.
“While technology is extremely important in today’s society, the Finnish system also places great emphasis on tactile skills. Our brains benefit greatly from making things with our hands and here at VFIS, we encourage this type of learning as an important part of the curriculum.”
As such, the school has special classes and beautiful rooms devoted to Home Economics where students will cook, learn about food hygiene and even table manners. Other programs built into the Finnish system include Crafts. The school has textile rooms with sewing machines as well as a workshop equipped with modern woodwork and metalwork machinery imported from Finland. The school strives to offer a real balance in its curriculum.
Given such a well-rounded and tailored curriculum with no standardized testing in the early years, students at VFIS will have countless opportunities to explore their passions, find inspiration and dream for the future. VFIS, in accordance with Finnish pedagogy, strives to prepare students with essential knowledge and skills and a positive and healthy attitude in order to tackle challenges to succeed anywhere in the world.
“We are developing global citizens here at VFIS and we want them to understand their Vietnamese heritage, but also feel confident in their abilities to function cross-culturally.”
This is music to the ears of any parent striving to raise healthy, happy, globally-aware children. In a rapidly changing world, sometimes core skills are the most useful ones to possess. Parents can be assured that at VFIS, all educational goals are backed by solid scientific research. These goals foster unlimited study opportunities and maximize the academic experience. Best of all, they work towards each individual student’s independence and happiness.
Image source: VFIS