International School Ho Chi Minh City: Building an Integrated Educational Framework
International School Ho Chi Minh City
International School Ho Chi Minh City

Education is an indispensable tool that shapes and molds society by unlocking the full potential of young learners and motivating them to work hard toward success. International schools are widely recognized for their exceptional standards when it comes to providing quality education. These institutes adopt a comprehensive and multifaceted approach to learning that fosters creativity and cultivates students’ intellectual, emotional, and social skills.

With innovative teaching methods and a well-structured curriculum, international schools prioritize the development of essential skills such as cultural competence, language proficiency, adaptability, global awareness, critical thinking, and leadership skills. By imparting these skills to students, international schools prepare them to excel in a rapidly changing world and make a meaningful contribution to society.

Situated in the thriving city of Thu Duc City, popularly known as Saigon, International School Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC) is an educational eminence. Under the innovative and visionary leadership of Kim Green, Head of School, the institute has reached milestones. As Saigon’s first international school, it continues a proud and rich tradition of inspiring well-being and learning, ensuring that its varied, globally-minded community thrives as engaged, energized, and empowered learners. The institute is a pioneer in adaptive education, purposely creating space for students to grow through pedagogy, curriculum, facilities, and experiences outside of the classroom.

ISHCMC community represents a culturally diverse group of families and teachers from over 60 countries, all of whom share the values of curiosity, achievement, resilience, and empathy. Over 30 years, the institute has been an established leader in internationally minded, holistic education, created a legacy, and set the foundations for its community to thrive.

ISHCMC is a member of the COGNITA, an extraordinary family of diverse yet connected 100+ schools joining forces in an inspiring world of education with one common purpose, which is to thrive in a rapidly evolving world.

The Strategic Directions

The vision and mission statements are two essential elements defining any educational institute’s core values and principles. They are the foundation of the institute’s identity, outlining its overarching goals and objectives and communicating its vision to the public. These statements define the institute’s long-term aspirations and outline the organization’s actions to achieve those aspirations. They are critical for strategic development, as they help organizations align their resources, prioritize their efforts, and establish a clear direction toward success.

ISHCMC inspires well-being and learning so that its diverse, internationally-minded community flourishes as energized, engaged, and empowered learners. The institute envisions to thrive in a rapidly evolving world.

Infusing Technology with Education

At ISHCMC, technology is integrated into all aspects of learning and education. Technology is a tool that improves students’ educational experiences. The institute uses adaptive software, artificial intelligence (AI), and learning management systems to ensure that students and parents can access and participate in the learning journey. The students from early years to grade 12 at ISHCMC learned how to safely, ethically, and responsibly engage in virtual space through a defined digital citizenship program. The acquisition of digital literacy skills occurs throughout the curriculum—the units of inquiry in primary school help to improve digital literacy abilities.

Students in the school have access to technologies for learning. For example, all Early Years and Primary Programs have iPads in the classroom. Each third- to fifth-grade student receives a school-provided iPad/Tablet, while students in grades sixth through twelve receive a one-to-one MacBook Air/Laptop. Students can also use technology tools in Makerspace and Fab-Lab to program robots, make podcasts, design products, and direct high-quality film projects.

Pushing through the Challenges

The global pandemic has presented the most significant challenge to the ISHCMC community in the previous five years. This challenge required the community to respond quickly to health and safety concerns and develop new skills.

The institute community worked together to create a robust online learning program that ensured students’ age-appropriate progress across academic areas. The teachers and staff explained that well-being mechanisms were developed virtually to keep students and parents linked to ISHCMC and retain a strong sense of belonging and pride.

Prestigious Awards and Accolade

Awards and accolades are recognitions for hard work and dedication towards achieving success. In addition to personal fulfillment, they also enhance credibility, leading to new opportunities and advancement. They validate one’s efforts, boost morale, and increase confidence.

ISHCMC has won many notable achievements and awards, a few of which are:

  • Award for Excellence in School Management and Leadership by the Department of Education and Training in HCMC,
  • HCMC Champions in Basketball 2023-2024 (1st Place, ASAC U14 Girls Basketball; 1st Place, ASAC U14 Boys Basketball), Volleyball (2nd Place, ASAC U19 Girls Volleyball; 2nd Place, ASAC U19 Boys Volleyball), Soccer and Aquatics (1st Team Overall and 1st Overall U11 Girls, SISAC Primary a Championship),
  • Global Earth Prize Winner (2022) by Environmental Awards.

Crafting a Holistic Environment for Students

Inclusion is essential to ISHCMC’s strategic goal of prioritizing equitable education through inclusive frameworks that promote learning and engagement while increasing responsiveness to individual learners. The school strategically organizes how programs will provide inclusive opportunities, including physical programs geared at individual and team growth, classroom inquiry provocations, and student challenge and enrichment activities.

Service and action have been purposely embedded into the institute’s timetable so that space is dedicated to empowering students to create meaningful initiatives that empower them and make a change in their small corner of the world. Some examples of service actions taken by students include:

  • The Social Emotional Forum, which focuses on providing mental health resources to students,
  • Creative Forms for Ecological Conservation,
  • School Photographers,
  • Responsible Artificial Intelligence Society,
  • ISHCMC Financial Investment,
  • Area 320 (An Innovation Hub),
  • A Step to School, which supports a small primary school in Northern Vietnam with annual school supplies.

At ISHCMC, all students can participate in various activities to gain a sense of accomplishment. Student voice is actively sought to improve the educational experience through annual surveys, Student Leadership Teams, and Ambassadors.

Over 400 students participate in basketball, volleyball, soccer, badminton, table tennis, aquatics, and other sports. The teaching and learning program is purposely created to guarantee that all students have access to the curriculum and are pushed to reach their full potential. All teachers plan for their student’s needs and use differentiation tactics to assist and extend learning.

ISHCMC provides extensive support for learning and well-being through a significant learning support team, counseling team, and safeguarding teams. It has a strong pastoral framework of homeroom teachers, advisors, grade-level leaders, and Deans of Students, all of whom monitor student achievement, growth, and well-being. Additionally, ISHCMC offers specialized services such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, and other support to ensure that students with cognitive or physical fragilities can flourish.

Beneficial Collaborations

ISHCMC works with external organizations and specialists to improve educational programs. A few of these are:

  • Suzie March, an external consultant to build a comprehensive sexuality program
  • Kath Murdoch – inquiry pedagogy
  • Cathy Berger-Kaye – service learning
  • Innovative Global Education – conceptually driven inquiry
  • Geelong Grammer School – positive education
  • Living Works – Suicide Intervention Skills Training, Mental Health Student Warrior Training
  • SENIA – Designing for Inclusion Asia Conference
  • International Baccalaureate Regional Workshop Events
  • American Chamber of Commerce HCMC and DaNanag – Vietnam Safeguarding and Child Protection Summit
  • Saigon Children – development of local school facilities
  • Rethink Plastic Vietnam
  • Plastic People – inclusion into the design curriculum
  • Department of Education and Training HCMC

Establishing a Well-Rounded Education

Each term, ISHCMC offers a variety of co-curricular activities geared to give a well-rounded education to all students while fostering a sense of community among the institute’s diverse student body. With over 150+ activities spanning sports, social, cultural, and academics, students can develop leadership skills, gain confidence, learn to collaborate with others while pursuing their particular interests, and socialize with their peers outside of the classroom.

Sports, music, drama, robotics club, community service programs, and Model United Nations are some after-school activities available at the school.

Establishing Parents Community

At ISHCMC, the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) actively engages in school activities and strives to build close relationships between parents and teachers. The PTO helps teachers, parents, and students via social and educational activities. It allows all parents to socialize and develop friends, which is critical while adjusting to a new environment. The PTO comprises elected parents and faculty representatives who share a shared goal: to engage the ISHCMC community via communication and cooperation.

The PTO supports major whole-school events yearly and runs the Rhino Booster Club. Events include the Family Fun Night, International Festival, and Celebration of Cultures. Several other events include social events for new students and families. At ISHCMC, the educators and students are proud of the strong and tight-knit community and the contribution this makes to the community and the student’s achievements.

Integrating Sustainability into Education

ISHCMC’s educational vision is based on ideas consistent with the institute’s fundamental values and defined frameworks and techniques to guide the academic mission. It emphasizes sustainability and environmental awareness in line with the IB framework and school policy.

The institute promotes holistic education within the IB Framework to create responsible global citizenship. The institute’s dedication to addressing critical global challenges, such as climate change, and motivating student action closely aligns with the IB’s goal. The institute upholds ideals that promote critical thinking and personal responsibility when confronted with global concerns.

The educational vision also aligns with the school’s strategic plan. It is concerned with developing a learning environment and culture that promotes environmental sustainability. The primary purpose is to give kids a thorough understanding of the environment and a sense of caring for the planet.

The school plan emphasizes the need to build significant and long-term community ties in Vietnam beyond the school’s borders. Educational philosophy places a high importance on collaboration, sustainability, and environmental sensitivity. The ultimate purpose is to prepare its pupils to be responsible global citizens who will take significant action against climate change and actively contribute to the planet’s thriving future.

Students can use the institute’s program to connect with climate experts, community leaders, and businesses, complementing their education with real-world experiences and insights. They engage in open debates, see the benefits of teamwork, and are inspired to take action towards sustainability.

The Secret of Success

As Head of School Kim Green says, “The special ingredient to our superpower is not a secret to anyone at ISHCMC; it is our people, past, present, and future.” Students, teachers, staff, parents, alums, the institute’s Cognita Schools Group, Governors, and the various organizations with which the institute collaborates, including the Ministry of Education and Training, embassies, corporations, and non-governmental organizations institute collaborates with (NGOs), are all represented here.

At ISHCMC, people are the school’s heart and soul. The individuals have created a legacy that will carry the institute into the future. The thriving community reflects the institute’s collective commitment to energizing, engaging, and empowering learners, resulting in an environment where curiosity thrives, achievement is celebrated, empathy is fostered, resilience is instilled, and a commitment to creating a strong culture of care.

At ISHCMC, everything is done with intention. The institute’s goals for the next 30 years include improving intercultural understanding, teaching, and learning in Vietnam, providing unique experiences, and promoting inclusion, diversity, and justice. Finally, the institute will co-create a journey in a rapidly changing world where everyone thrives.

ISHCMC guarantees distinct pathways, freedom of expression, and a sense of belonging. Councils hold monthly meetings with various community stakeholders to ensure that opinions are heard while adopting a new plan. A procedure for Programme Development Plans has been created, in which holistic programs are reviewed with a team to ensure that implementation aligns with current research and best practices. To ensure inclusion is embedded, ISHCMC regularly works with outside organizations to ensure staff has the resources to serve students.

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