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Celebrating 25 Years of Outstanding Education

A parent’s love knows no bounds. It has nothing to do with approval or expectations but everything to do with unconditional support and wanting the best for their child. For some, this could mean gestures such as words of affirmation or cooking their child’s favourite meal. For others, it could mean founding a school that provides the best education and learning experiences for their child. Maurice Nguyen and Rosie Ngo are those parents.

As a toddler, their daughter Jenny was extremely active. Her contagious energy made them realise that she would need to be in an environment that nurtured her and allowed her to fulfill her passions in order to thrive. Having previously lived overseas themselves Maurice and Rosie also wanted her to have a British-style education. Thus, they founded a small preschool called “Tiny Tots” opening its doors for the first time in 1997, offering two classes in the mornings and one playgroup in the afternoon. Sixty children joined Jenny that day, and 50 were on the waiting list.

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Fast forward 25 years, Tiny Tots has become the British International School Ho Chi Minh City (BIS HCMC), the leading international school in Vietnam with a global student body of 2,400, from an astounding 56 nationalities. One renovated villa has become three expansive purpose-built campuses, comprising state-of-the-art facilities, including indoor and outdoor sporting facilities, robotics and STEAM labs, multiple swimming pools, soundproofed music rooms, interactive technology in classrooms and a large rooftop garden. The most recent addition this year is the newly refurbished auditorium, hosting a 14-metre-long digital screen and world-class audiovisual system. Aptly named “The Founders Auditorium,” it honours Maurice and Rosie’s 25-year contribution to outstanding education in Vietnam.

Since joining the Nord Anglia Education family in 2015, BIS HCMC has gained access to world-leading education technology, award-winning teacher training programmes, and exclusive collaborations with The Juilliard School, MIT, and UNICEF.

BIS HCMC students consistently achieve some of the best academic results, including a 100% IBDP pass rate in 2022, and grades that far surpass the UK national average, with some students ranking in the top 1% worldwide. These outstanding academic outcomes open pathways to some of the best universities in the world.

Jenny was just a toddler when her parents founded BIS HCMC, but her earliest memories are a testament to the school’s longstanding commitment to providing holistic education to even the youngest of learners.

“We used to do this thing called ‘Star of the Week,’ where the toddlers would get recognised for something important they’ve done,” she reminisces. “I remember receiving one at the age of four for simply holding the door open for a friend.”

Balancing academic success and character development

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Care and respect are now deeply embedded into the six core values of the school and are apparent in all aspects of school life, along with perseverance, enquiry, integrity and reflection. Every member of the school’s close-knit community embodies these values. One parent shared,

These values are especially developed during the school’s outstanding residential expeditions. Challenged with tackling difficult hikes, cycling tours, abseiling, and kayaking, as well as supporting local communities, students develop and build their core values whilst discovering Vietnam and the world.

“BIS HCMC truly is a community; it's a village helping to raise our children. It's clear that the school's leadership, teachers, and support staff really care about each child's happiness and wellbeing. And after 15 years of living in various locations across Asia, BIS HCMC is the reason I don’t want to leave Vietnam."

Challenging minds, broadening horizons

Jenny remembers the first time a subject ignited her curiosity and thirst for knowledge. “I remember becoming obsessed with ancient Greece and Rome as a primary student before transitioning into British history as a secondary student,” she recalls.

This is precisely the kind of inspiration a BIS HCMC education sets out to accomplish by offering curricula respected across the globe — from a unique blend of the English National Curriculum and International Primary Curriculum to IGCSEs and the International Baccalaureate Diploma. What is most impressive about their curricula is the diversity of subjects on offer.

In 2022, seven BIS HCMC students achieved Cambridge Top in the World and Top in Vietnam awards, in a range of subjects including Mathematics, Art and Design, Chemistry and Physical Education. Every student is encouraged to forge their own path, whether that be in a STEM-based subject, in sports or the arts. Early years teacher Ms. Christine believes, “when we motivate our children, provide the right support and offer boundless opportunities, they’ll excel in their learning.”

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Going back to 2002, BIS HCMC’s first purpose-built campus — located in the then residential An Phu area of the city — was complete and ready to go. The expansive campus had more than enough room to host a growing number of students, offering fruitful collaborations, and many co-curricular activities.

For Jenny, this meant joining the swimming team and the football team, participating in choir and theatre, as well as joining Model United Nations — an opportunity that drove her interest in politics. This is a perfect example of the school’s ability to provide personalised learning for every student. 

Enrichment beyond classrooms

Today, BIS HCMC has grown exponentially and offers well over 100 diverse clubs and activities for students to get involved with and forge innumerable pathways to find their passions. Recently appointed Head Student Anya shared that students feel “encouraged, empowered and supported in doing the things [they] are interested in, both for academics and otherwise.” Those who love the arts explore opportunities made possible by The Juilliard School. Those more tech-inclined can take part in the MIT-Nord Anglia STEAM programme. Through the school’s countless community partnerships across Vietnam and the world, including their collaborations with UNICEF, students receive life-changing opportunities to make an impact on the world around them. Whether it’s raising funds for wildlife sanctuaries, organising a football tournament with students from local schools or laying paving stones at a local school in Cambodia, the development of a global citizen mindset is paramount to the BIS HCMC experience. 

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Endless support for seamless transitions

Regardless of how the school has expanded or changed with time, support has been and will always be a part of the package. Head student Michelle recently shared that she was “initially nervous by the size of the school, but realised that the support the community has to offer is unlike anything [she] has ever witnessed and is truly unparalleled.” 

Co-founder Maurice explained that he is incredibly proud of the extraordinary teachers and the support staff who are pivotal to the school’s growth; “one by one over the years they have contributed to what BIS HCMC is today, a happy school, where 2,400 or so children, day in, day out are taught by outstanding teachers.”

“My teachers were a big part of my formative years, supporting me through every transition,” affirms Jenny. “Especially as a teenager dealing with feelings and hormones, I was really lucky to have support from not just my educators but my friends and their families too. Here, when you think the whole world is falling apart, there will always be someone around to tell you it’s not.”
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A long history of ensuring stellar outcomes

In 2006, students from BIS HCMC went to university for the first time — exactly a year after the school opened its separate purpose-built secondary campus. Jenny was one of them. She joined New York University to pursue a challenging double major in history and politics — the subject areas she grew to love at the school her parents founded. Her passion for giving back also became a large focus for her, as she went on to achieve a Master of Science in Strategic Communications for Non-Profits at Colombia University and later began her career at UNICEF. She is currently working on developing sustainable practices in the real estate sector.

All students at BIS HCMC – from early years through to sixth form – are ensured such success thanks to the fact that their education follows a carefully considered blend of English and international curricula. This includes IGCSEs and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP), both of which have set the standard for global education and serve as ideal pathways to esteemed colleges and universities around the world. BIS HCMC students regularly go on to attend the world’s top 100 universities including the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, Yale, Cornell, University of Sydney, National University of Singapore and Seoul National University, to name but a few.

BIS HCMC alumni go on to achieve great success in a variety of fields from medicine, law, engineering and computing to psychology, performing arts, sports and design technology. One example is Jeremie Luong, a BIS graduate and SEA Games silver medalist who swims for the Vietnamese national swimming team, a great achievement which he attributes in part to the support he received from his BIS HCMC teachers.

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“The coaches and teachers I had over the years have been very accommodating and supportive of me. All my swimming success wouldn’t have been possible if I had gone to a school that didn’t want to accommodate anything for me. BIS has been a huge part of my success in swimming.”

Another successful alumni is Holly Van Zwanenberg who graduated in the class of 2021 achieving an incredible perfect score of 45 points in her IB Diploma, and currently studying Law at Durham University in the UK.

“As well as fundamental skills like essay writing, organisation and balancing wellbeing with studying, I learnt things that only this (BIS) community can teach you, like respecting everyone regardless of the beliefs they hold.

BIS is eagerly anticipating what’s in store next for Holly and her future career and will continue to remain in contact with Holly, like with all alumni through their BIS Alumni network.

Ever-evolving, ever-excellent

BIS HCMC is committed to providing the best international education and opportunities to ambitious students from all over the world. As the world advances, so will the school.

“There will always be something to do,” says Principal Anthony Rowlands. “When one part of the school progresses, the rest must follow along, and our educators are no exception. Facilities are important, but so is the human side of our school. We’ve got incredible staff that we always have and will continue to invest in.”Alumni play a massive role in advancing the school they know and love. They always make the time to bring their knowledge of the world back to the campus that made them who they are today. 

“Jenny is a good example. She recently came to visit us and talk to our students in assemblies to talk about her experiences and reflections on her school journey. Last year, we had Jeremie Luong, a very successful swimmer, come back to campus with his medals to share his BIS HCMC story, too,” says Principal Mr. Rowlands. “Success breeds success, and when younger children see their oldest peers doing great things, they set out to achieve the same.”

While BIS HCMC graduates go on to achieve medals and impressive careers, their journey is as crucial as their destination. Both Jeremie and Jenny emphasised the importance of hard work and dedication – “they spoke passionately about what they’d learned here…they had to learn and persevere to achieve their goals” says Principal Anthony Rowlands. 

BIS HCMC students truly have a love for learning;

What started as a desire to provide an enriching education for their child, has after 25 years become something more meaningful for the community in Vietnam. The British International School Ho Chi Minh City is a school with a rich heritage, and world-class teachers that inspire a love for learning in every child, nurturing academic excellence balanced with strong character development and wellbeing.

“When we had a British Schools Overseas inspection recently, the student council met with them. One of the comments from one of our students was ‘it's cool to be smart, and hardworking at BIS’,” says Principal Mr. Rowlands. “That's a lovely statement to have. They take the responsibility of learning very, very seriously.Of course, they're guided by fantastic teachers, and administrative staff supporting the whole school.”
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