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Mr Richard Dyer Weekly Update 20th March

20 March 2015

Head Students 2015-16

I am delighted to announce the Head Students for 2015-16.  The selection process is a rigorous one. Following selection as Prefects, candidates are observed by teachers and peers during a weekend leadership training programme, they seek references from a teacher-sponsor and undergo a final interview. Their contribution to the school is examined, their ability to manage a high academic workload is queried, and their integrity and embodiment of the values of the school is probed. They need to have demonstrated their ability to lead, to support and to work well with others. The Head Student team needs a balance of skills and qualities and I am confident that the four Head Students for 2015-16 will do an outstanding job.

Congratulations to:

Head Girl:                   Miss Gabby Cullen

Head Boy:                    Mr Hikaru Hotta

Deputy Head Girl:    Miss Wen Xin Teh

Deputy Head Boy:    Mr JK Kazzi

Model United Nations

This afternoon we welcome delegates from across the city to the Saigon Model United Nations Conference 2015, hosted here at BIS. We are delighted to be involved and even more excited to be hosting. Many students and teachers at BIS have played a part in the planning and organisation, ably led by Mr Daniel Gamwell. Many more are taking part over the three days. Here is an extract from my welcome speech to the delegates.

Secretary General, delegates, advisors, guests. Welcome to the Saigon MUN. On behalf of the British International School HCMC, I’d like to thank you all for travelling here for this event. We are privileged and honoured to act as your hosts.

I am confident that we can look forward to three days of stimulating and thought-provoking speeches and to challenging dialogue and debate. We can also look forward to the company of old friends and to making new friends.

I love listening to MUN speeches and debates. I love the fact that this way of working is part of a long and distinguished tradition, with roots in Confucius in the East, and Socrates in the West. Socrates believed that dialogue was one of the highest forms of human intellectual endeavours, if not the highest. The word


has its roots in Greek,

dia logos

, and refers to

thinking together


thinking alongside

.  Socrates regarded dialogue as a way of working together to create new ideas, new insights that would not be possible with just one person working alone.

We have, on the walls of all rooms at BIS, the phrase, “Global Citizens Learning Together.”  This is extracted from our mission statement. Many of your schools will have similar statements. ‘Global Citizenship’ as a concept has been subject to considerable criticism recently. Dr. John Godfrey, former MP and cabinet minister in the Government of Canada and also former Headmaster of Toronto French School, described global citizenship as “…essentially ill-considered and meaningless… ” and rejected it as “… emotionally satisfying but intellectually bogus…” (Godfrey, 2014: p7.)

That’s quite damning, especially me repeating it at the start of a Model United Nations Conference.  What Godfrey is concerned about is that the notion of citizenship involves the right to reside, vote, express opinion, associate with others, travel freely within a country.  Simply tagging on the word “global” implies these same rights, transferred to a planetary scale. He’s correct to be worried, of course. Calling students “global citizens” doesn’t give the right to travel freely, vote and so on across the world. But I would argue that the term remains powerful and remains useful.

As citizens, you take responsibility for your community, your nation. You engage with others to make things better for all in your purview. In our interconnected world, with challenges on a global scale, there is a need for us all to engage and act internationally, intra-nationally and globally. I can’t think of a better term for that than “global citizenship”.

We are an International Baccalaureate school; we subscribe to the IBO mission statement.  Part of that reads “to create a better, more peaceful world though intercultural understanding and respect.”  I often think about this. I’m inspired by it. It’s one of those quotes that serves as a moral compass. I recall listening to George Walker talk about that mission at the IBO Asia Pacific Regional Conference in Singapore in March 2003, 12 years ago. That conference had been moved from Bali as a result of the horrendous Bali bombing some 5 months before. The Singapore conference started on the day when Operation Iraqi Freedom sent British, American and Australian troops into Baghdad for the first time. The theme of the conference was ‘Terrorism and Tolerance – the challenge for international schools’.  So, “creating a better world though intercultural understanding and respect” was very much in my thoughts at the time and in the thoughts of the 2000 or so delegates in Singapore.

At that time I wondered, as I often do now, how students such as you, sitting around in international schools, with bucket-loads of inter-cultural understanding and respect, create a better, more peaceful world?  What’s the mechanism to translate ideas into action, into real change? How do they enact this idea of global citizenship?

Some days I know the answer. Today is one of those days. I know the answer. It’s here, today, with you, the MUN delegates. It comes back to the idea of dialogue creating solutions that one person alone could not have created. Dialogue cannot occur without respect. Inspiring words cannot move hearts and minds unless they connect to the authentic selves of others. In other words, they do nothing without inter-cultural understanding.

You bring that, as well as your knowledge, your intellect and your passion to this conference.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a conference for the future.

For your future as global citizens.

But also for nothing less than the future of this planet we all share.


Godfrey, J. (2014). Does ‘global citizenship’ really exist?

International School,17.1;


Mr Richard Dyer, Head Teacher,  Secondary