Our Head of Primary Ms Rosy Clark was presented with a prestigious Leadership Award last month, and we interviewed her to find out more about this outstanding achievement. The Leadership Award is awarded by the Nord Anglia Education Group, which is a group of 42 international schools worldwide including BVIS, and is presented to the most worthy recipient every year amongst the group’s schools in South East Asia, in recognition of their outstanding achievements. Ms Rosy received her award for helping to establish BVIS and for her enormous contribution to the school’s growth and development, including our recent CIS (Council of International Schools) accreditation.
Q1: What motivated you to join BVIS, and what do you think is special about the school?
I have been a part of BVIS from the very beginning and what a thrill that has been! In 2008 I moved to Ho Chi Minh City to take up a senior leadership position at the British International School and soon became involved in the extensive planning and research that took place to develop the first dual language school in the BIS Group. It was an honour to be asked to be the founding Headteacher of the BVIS Primary School and to oversee the development of such a unique model of education here in Vietnam. BVIS is a very special school and it has been an absolute pleasure to lead the team through the early years of its existence. From the first few months when we began to establish our high expectations, I have enjoyed seeing our families form a community, our teachers develop a curriculum that is highly respected by visiting inspectors and educational leaders, and our children blossom as bilingual learners. We are extremely fortunate at BVIS to have an excellent reputation. This has come from our membership of bodies such as FOBISIA (Federation of British International Schools in Asia) and CIS (Council of International Schools) and our recent full accreditation with CIS. These are remarkable achievements given that the school opened in August 2011, achievements that other schools reach only after many, many years of development.
Q2: How did the management come up with this unique concept of establishing a bilingual school with an international curriculum, and what was the thinking behind it?
The founding team brought vision, passion and experience to the development of BVIS. We knew that there was a need to provide Vietnamese students with the skills and understanding to make their way successfully in the 21st century in an increasingly competitive work place and in a world where the ability to operate as a reflective ‘global citizen’ is vital. However, the curriculum and experience of learning in an international school was not going to be enough to achieve this effectively. We recognised that Vietnamese parents are increasingly aware that their children will need the ability to communicate and operate fluently in Vietnamese as well as English if they are to be leading members of Vietnamese business and society in the 21st century. They will need to appreciate both their language and culture, with a desire to protect and promote what is special and valuable about their country in this increasingly globalised world we live in.
Q3: Bilingualism is key to success and achievement of BVIS students, and one of the school’s core strengths. How is bilingualism used at BVIS to ensure students fully benefit from it?
At BVIS we deliver a curriculum that is skills based, with lots of opportunities for enquiry, communication and collaboration. Areas of the curriculum in the Primary School are linked so that the children can learn key concepts in both English and Vietnamese, they can build their vocabulary banks in both languages and use translanguaging to develop their ability to communicate and work together effectively. This is a powerful form of learning.
At BVIS the two languages of English and Vietnamese are not taught using different techniques or separate curricula, as in other bilingual schools in Ho Chi Minh City. We use the very best methodology for both languages. Later on in our Secondary School, students spend more time learning in English as they work towards the internationally recognised qualifications of IGCSE and A level.
At BVIS we ensure that we regularly consult research and experts in bilingual education and also open our doors to leaders from other international schools or inspectors to provide us with constructive feedback. We continually monitor and evaluate the success of our curriculum through on-going lesson observations and feedback, staff training, professional discussion and reflection. We know, therefore, that our curriculum is indeed a strength of our school.
Q4: What advice can you give to aspiring future leaders who would like to pursue a career in education?
Working with children who love to come to school like our students at BVIS and leading a team of high performing professionals such as the BVIS teachers is immensely rewarding. My advice to an aspiring school leader would be to ensure that they develop their own personal teaching skills first and foremost by working in a school that invests in on-going professional development for its staff, a school which is truly learning focussed. I believe leadership in education is most effective when leaders bring experience and the ability to act as a role model to their position. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are vital, plus a positive approach. I am a firm believer in team work as one person alone cannot build a high performing school. Effective leaders need to be able to inspire others to work hard, to work with great commitment and enthusiasm. When staff feel supported and appreciated, they will work hard which ultimately benefits the children.
Q5: You have achieved so much in your career already. What is your next challenge?
I am not yet ready to move on from BVIS. We have come such a long way from the day we opened our doors but there is lots still to do! I would like to see our performing arts and sports programmes develop further at BVIS with even more students participating. Our most experienced Vietnamese teachers are now developing their career paths and I look forward to appointing one or more of them in the not too distant future to our senior leadership team. Working in education continually provides challenge if you are responsive to change and new developments, which I believe I am. I look forward to several more years leading BVIS as it grows further.