For families, beginning a new life in a foreign country can be challenging. Most parents worry over how the relocation will affect their children — especially since choosing a new school for them to thrive in and be happy requires careful thought.
For families heading to Vietnam, British International School, Ho Chi Minh City (BIS HCMC) is often the top choice. One of the largest international school in Vietnam, founded almost 25 years ago, BIS HCMC has a well-established high reputation for many reasons — think academic excellence, holistic approaches to learning, an emphasis on wellbeing and a keen interest in helping students uncover their potential to be successful at whatever they choose to be or do in life. Countless families can attest BIS HCMC does it all. Each has a success story to share, and no two stories are ever the same.
Andy and Naoko Herrmann are no strangers to change. As a member of the United States Foreign Service, Andy’s role has transported them to Kyrgyzstan and Indonesia. By the time he received word of his transfer to Vietnam, Andy and Naoko already had a clear idea of what they were looking for in an international school for his daughter Momoka.
Their initial decision was based on recommendations from his peers with children at a school in HCMC, but it wasn’t long until he and his wife decided that Momoka, and her little sister Nina would greatly benefit from a more tailored and holistic approach to learning. They suspected Momoka was yet to achieve her full potential. Plus, Nina spent the first year of her academic career in a Japanese pre-school — while she could speak English, her written English was not as advanced as her spoken English. They therefore decided to look for other schools to provide a learning experience tailored to their needs.
“Both girls loved to learn and enjoyed their previous school, but we knew they needed a new structure,” Andy explains. “When we first visited BIS HCMC, we noticed teachers knew every student by name and learning was very personalised,” adds Naoko. “We could confidently say it was a good school for our daughters. During their first visit, they wanted to join classes immediately. Also, the experienced admissions team gave us a very helpful, friendly and personalised introduction, and made us feel very welcomed.”
As soon as the girls joined BIS HCMC, their teachers began pinpointing their needs and tailoring their learning accordingly. Nina was supported by experienced teachers and began extra intensive phonics lessons while Momoka relished in homework — something she enjoyed despite not being used to it. “It was nice to get a better sense of what they were learning in school and to feel more involved in the learning process,” Andy says.
Soon, Momoka was able to complete most of her homework independently, and Nina excelled throughout her extensive phonics sessions and no longer requires additional support in this area of learning. In fact, both girls are currently excelling in several areas — one of which is Spanish. They’ve gained a suite of life skills in the process. “Momoka is more responsible and Nina’s curiosity has inspired her to take on more afterschool activities,” explains Naoko.
Momoka, a Year 7 student, is now an active house captain and a proud member of the Student Executive Council. “I’ve seen her take responsibility for not just herself, but for her fellow students as well,” explains Andy. “She even cares for their wellbeing and it’s incredible to witness.” Year 4 student, Nina, is showing just as much confidence in violin classes and theatre productions.
After having dealt with several international schools in the last few years, Andy and Naoko are grateful to BIS HCMC for always giving their daughters the chance to explore their talents and interests. “I’ve always made the suggestion that extracurricular places should not be allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis and BIS HCMC was the first to listen,” enthuses Andy.
The enrolment process was seamless and the admissions team guided us and supported us all the way in helping us transition into HCMC and the school. They were always available to answer any questions we had. Isla started her BIS HCMC journey with just a couple of hours a day at school during the school’s settling in programme for their youngest learners. Then, she progressed to half a day. Pamela wanted her toddler to be able to have her naps at home and the school was glad to accommodate. “Teachers were brilliant in helping us feel comfortable and ensuring our daughter would settle in nicely — in turn, she began developing confidence as well,” she says.
“Ms. Hayley would always conduct a proper handover at the end of the school day when I would pick Isla up. I know seeing us interact helped her feel more at ease. Furthermore, it was great hearing how Isla was progressing in classes and learning more about what she was getting up to.”
The theme of seamless transitions continued for Isla and her little brother, who eventually joined when he reached the age. Today Isla is in Year 1 and Ayrton is in Foundation 2. Both are thriving academically and socially and are extremely happy. Pamela looks forward to seeing them excel in extracurriculars when the time comes.
“The options are fabulous and I know the school will be able to cater to their interests and passions when they get older,” she says. For now, both children are deeply engaged in their lessons, developing skills and characteristics that will set them up for a successful future. Pamela is certain that at BIS HCMC they receive all the support in the world if they ever needed it.
“The level of communication between the teaching staff, the support staff and us has been brilliant — it’s more than I could have ever hoped for,” she enthuses. “The way they care for my children means more to me than academic results.”]
In addition, Pamela has been a very active member of the Parent and Teacher group (PTG) and supporting the teachers and the parents to build a strong and united school community. She works with the Admissions and Senior Leadership Teams to help new families to settle in the school community.
Pamela Duncan and her husband, Drew, left the UK for Thailand over a decade ago. Six years later, his job moved them to Vietnam. Their daughter Isla was only two at the time and their son Ayrton was just five months old. Hence, the thought of selecting a school was fairly new and daunting. However, Pamela was certain that selecting a connected community was a top priority.
“I initially thought I would find this at a smaller independent school because the children were so young,” she explains. “But when we first visited BIS HCMC, I naturally felt a connection, despite its size. I felt it was a place where my children would be happy, and a meeting with the Senior Leadership Team confirmed that. Our conversation was wonderful, open and fluid. They were just brilliant with the children.”