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Things to consider when choosing an international school

By Phong Van   May 7, 2021 | 02:00 am PT
An accredited international curriculum, qualified teachers and modern facilities help develop well-rounded students to become global citizens.

Compared to a decade ago, more and more parents and students choose international schools because of their curriculum, high standards, and educational environment.

With many years experience in the educational sector, Barry Sutherland, head of American International School Vietnam (AISVN), recommends specific criteria to evaluate a qualified international school that parents should consider when investing in their children’s future, such as teaching program, international accreditation, faculty and facilities.

Innovative international education

Curriculum is one of the most important criteria when choosing a school, Sutherland said. Many students who study at an international school plan to study abroad after finishing middle school or graduating high school. Therefore, it is an advantage to study a program that is transferable and accepted in many countries around the world.

Qualified learning programs help develop a well-rounded student not only in academics but also in essential life skills. Educating students to become global citizens is part of many international schools' mission.

Sutherland said that currently, the gold standard International Baccalaureate Program (IB) is accepted worldwide, and among the top 3 global curriculums. By following IB, students may easily transfer to any highly recognized international schools in Asia, Europe or North America. The teaching program focuses on developing well-rounded and balanced students who can think for themselves.

With these advantages, some international schools in Vietnam have adopted the IB program. Currently, AISVN is one of the best international schools in Ho Chi Minh City providing IB Continuum Programs from Early Years to Grade 12, including Primary Years Program (PYP), Middle Years Program (MYP) and Diploma Program (DP).

AISVN grade 5 students discussed and presented ideas with the homeroom teacher.

AISVN grade 5 students discuss and present ideas with their homeroom teacher. Photo by AISVN

Vietnamese values

According to Sutherland, in addition to the international standard learning program, schools should focus on sustaining Vietnamese values while operating in Vietnam. A recent survey from AISVN's community showed among more than 20 suggested values, the four most popular were Family, Education, Respect and Personal Responsibility.

AISVN integrates these values throughout its lessons, including various extracurricular activities and experiential trips. Many service learning activities combine with different organizations such as HeartBeat Vietnam to fundraise for congenital heart defects, Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation to help street kids or children with disabilities and rescues kids from slavery and human trafficking, and Song Foundation to fundraise for Vietnamese regions struck by natural disasters. These are just a few existing partnerships that create opportunities for students to learn how to empathize, support charitable causes and how to make an impact.

Parents visited AISVN in March 2021 to choose a school for their children.

Parents visit AISVN in March 2021 to choose a school for their children. Photo by AISVN

Accredited by trusted international organizations

An international school that is accredited by a trusted organization is an important factor for parents to choose a school. Sutherland stated top trustworthy organizations in education includes International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This is quality control for parents.

The schools have to go through a rigorous and comprehensive review process by an external board, covering all aspects of the teaching program, faculty, facilities, policies and learning strategies in order to be accredited.

For example, currently, there are only about 700 schools all over the world that have been granted this accreditation by the Council of International Schools. The results from these organizations are not permanent and a new full evaluation process is required every five years when the accreditation expires to ensure quality.

Sutherland also shared that an international school requires at least one accreditation organization to evaluate its quality. AISVN is one of the few international schools in HCMC that has passed all rigorous accreditation processes from the top three organizations: IBO, CIS and WASC.

AISVN quick interview of parents on why they chose the American International School Vietnam

Dedicated teachers with international certification

Teachers are the ones who directly interact with students. Sutherland said some schools only require teachers to be foreigners who may lack international certification in education. Experienced teachers with qualified certification know how to engage and inspire students in learning.

He gave an example at AISVN, where 56 percent of teachers exceed the minimum teaching qualification requirement and hold a master’s or higher degree. In addition, the dynamic relationship between teachers and students creates motivation and positive energy so students enjoy going to school. Teachers become the first point of contact, who always listen and are the ones students can trust to share their problems with. Excellent teachers are a school's greatest resource.

Students learn about the world map in the IB Programme.

Students learn about the world map in the IB Program. Photo by AISVN

State of the art facilities with a focus on environment

In addition to the three critical criteria, parents should consider the school’s facilities. Classrooms and functional rooms facilitating arts and sports programs support students to maximize their potential, relieve stress and evoke passion. Depending on interests and talents, students can participate in music, sing, play instruments, perform in the arts, sports and visual arts. Students can become actors, actresses, singers or artists, not only scientists, engineers and doctors.

Sutherland said AISVN has the largest school campus area in HCMC with 6.5 hectares in Nha Be District. The school has a spacious playground to serve more than 1,300 students. There are a lot of inspired spaces decorated with students' creative artworks. Green spaces in the school offer areas where students can play and explore the world as well as build a close connection with the environment.

Early Years students at AISVN participate in water game activities on Sports Day in March 2021.

Early Years students at AISVN participate in water game activities on Sports Day in March 2021. Photo by AISVN

AISVN currently has special limited offers such as non-refundable one time payment (from enrollment to the end of Grade 12), and refundable one time payment (from enrollment to the end of five years at the school). Parents can save up to 60 percent of tuition fees and start their child at a high quality international school.

For more information, parents can contact Admissions via hotline (028)37800909, ext: 0 or email


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