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Mr Carl Mincher: Weekly Update 22/09/2017

22 September 2017

Dear Parents,                    

As I reflect on the week just passed I am once again amazed by the variety and quality of events we have enjoyed together. The buzz of an enquiring Year 9 and their parents at the Options evening, the deep reflection of those students involved in our Hungry for Peace and Passion for Ration awareness raising, and of course the Extra Curricular Activities have started, over a hundred clubs offering all students the opportunity to broaden horizons, to experience the excitement of trying something new.

During this week’s assemblies Mr Rowlands focussed on one of our core values, perseverance and shared stories of Michael Jordan, Bill Gates, and one of his personal heroes, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.

Beginning with a Michael Jordan quote,

‘I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.’

Mr Rowlands reminded us of the value of a ‘no excuses’ approach to life and learning, of sticking at the job in front of us. Not saying I might or I may do, or maybe later or maybe tomorrow but I will. You will read of many students clearly adopting a ‘no excuses’, ‘I will’ approach during the update that follows.


ABRSM and LAMDA success

LAMDA Results 17-9828.jpg

Following our students’ incredible achievements we took the opportunity this week to recognise and reward the hard work of all who took on the challenge of an ABRSM or LAMDA exam before the summer. It was also a chance for us as a school community to give an extra congratulations to those who achieved the highest grades of Distinction in both LAMDA and ABRSM.

Huge congratulations to all who participated.

F1 Farewell and good luck

Our 2017 F1 in Schools team leave today for Malaysia to compete in the F1 World Finals and face intense competition from teams of young designers and engineers from all over the world.


F1 in Schools challenges students to create their own Formula 1 team which is commissioned to design, construct and race the fastest miniature Formula 1 car of the future. We are now in our third year of competing in the global F1 in Schools challenge and this year promises to be just as thrilling as previous years and the hugely successful Team Doppler and Team Helios. The Team Photon story is one of great perseverance and great collaborative problem solving as they have grappled with design, engineering, financial challenges to reach the 2017 world finals.


Alumni visit - Welcome home to Wei Kheng

With a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Oxford University, Wei Kheng Teh (IGCSEs, 2012) has now returned to BIS HCMC to undertake professional experience in our Science Department as he considers a career in education. Wei opened up to us about his memories of his time at BIS, how he found the transition overseas to study and his plans for the future.

With so many possibilities open to Wei for professional placement, we were delighted that he chose to return to BIS HCMC to gain insight from a different perspective into what makes for a successful learning environment.  

We have enjoyed the return of several other BIS Alumni in recent weeks and it has been such a pleasure to hear about their new lives, their successes and achievements. They have been enthusiastic to speak with our current students who have been thrilled to hear their stories too.


Universities visit BIS


The University Guidance team are in full swing supporting our Year 13 students in their applications for university as well as their ongoing schedule of university visits providing our future graduates with key information to support their decisions around next steps beyond BIS.  My thanks to the University of Minnesota, University of Oregon & University of Nebraska for visiting our sixth form students to discuss higher education options this morning.

For a list of all upcoming university visits, please click here


Passion for Ration and Hungry for Peace - an article from our students


As BIS students, we are committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals which seek to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. This academic year as a student body we have chosen to focus on the two goals of ‘Zero Hunger’ and ‘Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions’


This week we have chosen to raise awareness about these global goals.

Awareness Week

Throughout the week we have designed a series of activities to enable our fellow students to learn more about the issues surrounding these two crucial global challenges. These will increase our awareness of global issues, but also challenge ourselves as a community to ask what we can do to help achieve these goals.

Hungry For Peace 17-0016.jpg

To highlight and allow deeper reflection around the issues of food waste and food inequality, an optional student activity, ‘Passion for Ration’ was held on Thursday. The rationale for this activity is to create an opportunity for students to experience a day with limited food consumption, a situation that 795 million people are experiencing around the world. Moreover, our main focus of this activity is about equity and not food; the world has enough food to feed everyone but the reason why many people lack nutrition is because food is not being distributed equally.

We hope that by undertaking ‘experiential learning’, the process of learning through experience, and more specifically, "learning through reflection on doing", we encouraged greater action around the UN sustainable goals. On Thursday participating students consumed only a very basic lunchtime meal provided by our school caterers. They then undertook a reflection activity at the end of the day.  

More on our local actions to address global issues throughout the year.

Read more ...


Senior Saigon Logic Competition 2017


Last Saturday BIS students entered the Senior Saigon Logic Competition, held in the city. This annual competition is designed to emphasise essential skills such as teamwork and problem solving whilst testing logic and mathematical ability. There was a great turnout for the competition with over a hundred students from 8 schools.

In the words of one of the competing students,

“Although the first challenge that faced us; the individual round, was demanding, BIS HCMC were successful, with Jin Ho securing third place overall. We moved on to the escape room round, which required us to solve interlinked questions to crack the lock code. The team round-tested our critical thinking and teamwork skills, we had 60 minutes to solve logical problems that left us 'puzzled'’ Read more.


Term 1 ECAs get going...

This week saw the launch of the BIS Secondary Campus’ ECA (Extra Curricular Activities) programme for Term 1.  We are thrilled to be able to offer our secondary students over 100 different activities to choose from each week. Creativity, Activity and Service are woven throughout these activities, as we continue to challenge them in different areas of their personal development.

This year, we have introduced a few new activities to supplement the tried and tested ones normally on offer and many of these are being led by the students.

In March 2018, BIS will be hosting an official TEDx Youth conference on the theme of Transformations”.

In preparation, an organising team of BIS students are leading a weekly club to focus on the multitude of tasks needed to ensure this event’s success.  These range from marketing, stage décor, musical performances, catering, and filming to the creation of programmes and badges.

Another exciting initiative by a Year 13 student, is that of The Tell-Tale Club” which is a collaborative community project aimed at improving literacy and global understanding.  Students in this club will work towards producing a book of stories from cultures around the world (their own cultures included). The aim is to create an informative and interesting collection of stories which will be translated into Vietnamese and used to support students in Vietnam as they learn about the world around them.

For BIS scientists, the Practical Science Club (CREST) provides them with an opportunity to design and carry out scientific investigations as they work towards The Bronze CREST Award.

In addition to the activities highlighted, there are also a plethora of other clubs on offer, including ice skating, golf, rock climbing, drama, music, history debating club and even a crossword club catering to the campus’ logophiles.  We look forward to following the progress of each of these clubs and to sharing the benefits of them as expressed by the students.


Big decisions

It may be that the job your son or daughter will do in the future doesn’t even exist yet. This is both daunting and exciting, and reflects the breakneck speed at which the world is changing and developing.  Now, more than ever, students have to ensure that they are well prepared for their future, however uncertain that may be, and our Year 9 students are about to begin the process of making the next step in that preparation.


Thank you to all the parents and students who attended the Options Evening last night: it was wonderful to see so many of you in the auditorium, and to listen to the focused conversations taking place between everyone.  For the first time in their school life, our students are selecting the subjects they wish to study, shaping their future curriculum and I am pleased to say that they are doing this with their futures in mind.


Some students have a very clear idea of what they want to do in the future, be that a specific job like doctor, lawyer or teacher; others know in which industry which they wish to work but aren’t sure of what role (or, perhaps, as mentioned earlier, it will be a ‘new’ job); others have yet to make up their mind.  Whatever their position is, our staff and current Year 11 students were on hand to provide information and guidance as to what subjects may be the best ones to take.  

For any questions about the options process, please do not hesitate to contact Amy Murphy, Deputy Head: Curriculum & Learning (a.murphy@bisvietnam.com) or Steve Porter, Head of Lower Secondary and Year 9 (steve.porter@bisvietnam.com)


Traffic Flow

The recent changes made to our bus arrangements at the end of the school day continue to reduce congestion at the Gate A but our students’ safety and further reductions to congestion remain a priority for us.

How you can play your part:

In order to keep our children safe on the roads outside BIS, both before and after school, please can you spend a few minutes of your time discussing the following points with your drivers.

Traffic – Driver’s Code of Conduct

  • Never stop on or near to a pedestrian crossing – in order to ensure that our families can cross the road safely, please instruct your driver to park as far away from the main gates as possible to avoid congestion. Try walking a short distance to keep cars down to a minimum.

  • No cars should be parked for long periods of time outside of school – ask your driver to meet you at a convenient location away from the school gates and please ask them to never double park as this stops the flow of traffic at peak times.

  • Stop, drop and go – take a maximum of 15 seconds to drop off your child and they can walk into school. Try it as it will speed up your journey and that of others too.

  • Never U Turn along the stretch of road outside both AP1 and AP2 – tell your driver to drive away from school and if they have to U Turn, please do so on the wider, less congested roads. Try the route past AP1 along Nguyen Van Huong, as an alternative way to get home – it may take a few extra minutes driving but it will save the time you spend in traffic.

  • Ask your driver to show respect to our guards and follow their instructions – they are there to keep you all safe and have a difficult job when drivers ignore their instructions.


Tiếng Việt

Hướng dẫn lái xe dành cho tài xế

  • Nhằm đảm bảo an toàn giao thông cho học sinh trường BIS ngoài khuôn viên trường trước và sau giờ học, phụ huynh vui lòng dành một ít thời gian để thảo luận các điều sau với tài xế của mình.

  • Không dừng gần hoặc trên vạch dành cho người đi bộ – nhằm đảm bảo an toàn cho các gia đình khi băng qua đường, vui lòng yêu cầu tài xế đậu xe cách xa cổng trường để tránh tắc nghẽn giao thông. Xin vui lòng đi bộ một quãng ngắn để hạn chế số lượng ô tô xung quanh trường.

  • Không đậu xe lâu dọc hành lang bên ngoài trường – vui lòng yêu cầu tài xế đợi bạn ở một địa điểm thuận tiện cách xa cổng trường và không đậu song song với một ô tô khác vì sẽ gây tắc nghẽn giao thông vào giờ cao điểm.

  • Chỉ được dừng, không được đậu xe – Không dừng xe quá 15 giây khi thả học sinh trước cổng trường. Học sinh sẽ tự đi bộ vào trong sân trường.

  • Không quay đầu xe trên quãng đường bên ngoài AP1 và AP2 – yêu cầu tài xế lái xe ra xa trường và quay đầu xe ở những khúc đường rộng hơn, giao thông thông thoáng hơn. Hãy đi đường Nguyễn Văn Hưởng đoạn phía trên AP1 – điều này có thể mất thêm vài phút lái xe nhưng sẽ tránh cho bạn bị kẹt xe.

  • Yêu cầu tài xế tôn trọng các bảo vệ và tuân theo chỉ dẫn của họ – nhân viên bảo vệ có trách nhiệm bảo đảm việc lưu thông được an toàn và họ sẽ gặp khó khăn trong công việc nếu tài xế không tuân theo các chỉ dẫn.

  • Giải thích với tài xế rằng hành động của họ phản ánh hình ảnh gia đình bạn – yêu cầu tài xế tôn trọng quy định của nhà trường để trường BIS trở nên tốt nhất có thể.

Explain to your driver that their actions reflect upon your family – ask them to respect all of our school community to make our school the very best that it can be.

Why not try car pooling?

Those that already car pool are enjoying a far more sociable and fun ride home as well as reducing congestion on the roads and looking after the environment.



Spotlight on learning


To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe

Marilyn vos Savant

I was vainly hoping to become the wisest teacher at BIS; not because I’m smarter, or dare I say it, better, than the others, but because I’m privileged. I’m privileged to be in the position to observe excellent classroom practitioners on a weekly, if not daily, basis.  

Kerr Geo SoL2.jpg

This was confirmed earlier this week, when I stepped into anything but a crusty Year 8 Geography lesson on plate tectonics. Mantle, outer core, convection, subduction, fault – all of the keywords you would expect were there. However, the teacher, Ms Kerr, was omnipresent. She was most definitely in the room (I double checked), but she wasn’t stood behind a desk at the front of the room, lecturing students about the San Andreas Fault. Instead, armed with just a pack of post-it notes and some mini-whiteboards, Ms Kerr was facilitating students’ learning. The technique she was using is one that all teachers at BIS are familiar with - Assessment for Learning.

In the Dark Ages, assessment took place at the end of a unit of work, a school term or even a school year. I remember it well, from my own school days, as well as the associated fear. I would learn and revise before being tested and told how good or bad I was in a particular subject. We would then move on to the next topic, for the same cycle to repeat itself all over again – I never had the opportunity to improve the bad bits from my previous assessments. This probably explains why I still struggle with quadratic equations and cannot fathom why there is a mole in the Chemistry lab. After all, I was only ever told that I got it wrong.

Fortunately, education has undergone an enlightenment, as was evident in Ms Kerr’s classroom – there was no force feeding of geographical facts from the teacher. Instead, students supported one another and shared their learning to produce the perfect answers. They were effectively assessing one another and themselves without even realising it - the word test, exam or assessment wasn’t mentioned once.

Sadly, my hope of becoming the wisest teacher at BIS will never materialise – it would take me a life-time to attain the dizzy heights set by my colleagues.

Nevertheless, I am not defeated. Instead, my mission over the coming months and years is to ensure all of your children’s teachers, my colleagues, become as wise as possible, by observing and learning from one another.


Wellbeing weekly

Over the past three weeks the year 10 students have been focussing on identifying their character strengths through the use of the VIA Character Strength Survey. The VIA Institute on Character have found through research that if character strengths are used effectively it can support an individual to improve relationships, help overcome problems and ultimately enhance health and overall well-being. As students are maturing into their IGCSE courses and starting to make decisions about their future we feel it is important that they understand what their strengths are. This will help them understand how they can positively impact the environment around them, and consequently increase their motivation and self-esteem. In ILS this week the students reflected on the past seven days and described an occasion where they have used one of their top 5 character strengths. The display is a fantastic representation of a very vibrant, diverse and insightful year group.


BBGV Fun Run – This Sunday

This Sunday we will be joining the BBGV Fun Run 2017.  BIS continues its sponsorship of this charity run and it is great to see that once again we will gather in large numbers as runners, walkers and wheelers to support the event.


Make sure you are there to join us for the BIS Group photo at 7.30am, look out for the BIS banner.

I look forward to seeing you at the run for a spirited community event with a bit of exercise too and all for a great cause. More details can be found in this post.

save the date

Sunday 24th September: BBGV Charity Fun Run, 7.30am BIS photo – 8.00am race start. Always a great day of fun for the family.

Sunday 24th September: AEO Study USA Tour at the Rex Hotel - an opportunity to meet around 40 leading American universities, 2pm - 5.30pm

Friday 29th September: Year 10 Vietnamese History Museum Visit

Friday 29th - Saturday 30th: FOBISIA Student Leadership Conference

Saturday 30th September: Saigon Schools International University Fair, an opportunity to meet over 80 universities from USA, Canada and Europe. Parents and students are attending together.

Thursday 28th September: SISAC U14 Basketball Boys and Girls, 4.00pm - 6.00pm at AIS Thu Thiem


On that note, I wish you all a wonderful weekend with friends and family.


Carl Mincher

Head of Secondary Campus