Why did you choose BIS as your international school in Ho Chi Minh City?
In March 2017, 5 months prior to our move to Vietnam we went on a “look-see” trip which we used to select our home, school, and see 2 hospitals. From our prior research, we had already identified District 2 as the place we wanted to live and where Uday would go to school.
Usually, I like to narrow down the range of schools we look at to 2 or 3. In this case, we looked at two schools in Saigon in District 2. We chose the British International School Vietnam for a few reasons, that I talk about in no particular order…
Uday was shy and scared of crowds and loud noises when we came to Vietnam. In Singapore, he was going to school, but it was a teeny, tiny one for 20 children only! BIS encouraged social interaction within a secure environment. When he joined F1, Uday had about 19 kids in his class, with 4 adults to supervise and teach them. The open plan layout of his classroom meant that he was able to mix with a large group of children without even having to leave the room. Even when he was outside his classroom because he was on the dedicated Early Years and Infant Campus he was able to play with other F1 children in the Early Learning Centre, making a total of 120 peers and 16 teachers/assistants that he was interacting with on a daily basis. On top of this, he was exposed to music, the library, robotics and the gym where he learnt to interact with different primary specialist teachers and he was able to mix with children from other classes through the after school clubs programme. By the time we left Ho Chi Minh City, we were reaching school at 7:30am, but only coming back at 5pm since Uday would refuse to leave school while a single child remained for him to play with!
Another reason we chose BIS were the teachers. I had a small child, for whom a year is a lifetime, so I was really keen to meet his class teacher because I felt that he would be dealing with all the changes that we were (new culture/country etc.) and that the first person in whose care I left him had to be someone who really acted like they were in loco parentis. We initially met Ms Sarah Curran, whom I absolutely loved - she was upbeat, energetic and enthusiastic and just such a positive person, that I decided on BIS even without visiting the other school! It was only when my son started school that I realised Ms Sarah was the Assistant Head Teacher and that Ms Precious was my son's teacher! But what a lucky mistake that was - both of them were absolutely perfect in their roles, and both helped my son settle in well.
Finally, we wanted a system of schooling that would be accessible no matter where in the world we went next so that as our son grows older, he will be able to settle in quickly. The Nord Anglia Education group is a large one, but even if one is not able to access it, as has happened in our case, the British system of schooling is available more or less all over the world.
What makes BIS unique?
From my experience, BIS really is a school centred around their community.
When I look back at our time in HCMC, it amazes me to think that Ms Sarah not only recommended my son's nanny and the An Phu Neighbours group on Facebook but also spent over an hour explaining exactly how and what my child was learning in F1 and how the skills he would build there would be developed over time at the EY&IC.
Similarly, in the initial months, Ms Precious encouraged playdates with peers and activities that would help my son build fine motor skills. Ms Mary got me to ride my first ever bicycle - one borrowed from BIS. I now can’t wait for the ship to arrive and bring my bicycle so that I can start riding it here!
When we learnt that we were leaving HCMC, the incredible School Counsellor, Ms Kim McWilliam provided such a supportive, open and positive view of our move and the way in which we were preparing for it. Again, although both Kim and I have now left the BIS community, we will stay in touch, and this could not have been without BIS making it possible for us to meet!
But more than this, I have found that when it is a question of your child's health, BIS is incredibly responsive and responsible. The Early Years and Infant Campus was judged the first-ever green campus in Vietnam but it always willing to improve on features that will benefit your child’s health. For example, during a community talk on air quality at the end of Term 2 a parent discussed a new system of colour coding that determined which activities the children were permitted to undertake. Even though the school had already been following a similar system, by the time we started Term 3 this new and improved version had been adopted!