Choosing the right school
What should parents consider when choosing an international school?
With the number of ‘international’ schools continuing to rise in Ho Chi Minh City, it becomes all the more important for parents to know what to look for in choosing the right international school for their son / daughter. We have put together a 6-point guide to help parents make informed decisions about their son / daughter’s international schooling.
Is the school formally accredited?
Is the school accredited by an external body? Schools that have been accredited by an external international body are more likely to have better procedures and standards in place. External international organizations like the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) or the University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) regularly check on schools to make sure they are meeting international standards of practice or operation. A school accredited by an international organization is more credible and established than those without.
Does the school offer an international curriculum?
Many schools claim to be ‘international’ but still offer a national curriculum. Parents need to ask which curriculum is being offered or followed by the school. There are two widely recognized international curricula: 1) the International Baccalaureate (IB), which consists of the PYP (Primary Years Program), MYP (Middle Years Program) and DP (Diploma Program); 2) University of Cambridge International Examinations, which comprises of IGCSE and A Level Programmes. Both programmes are accepted by all leading Universities around the world. If English is not the first language, you might want to find out what is in place at the school to support your son/daughter with his/her learning. Good international schools will provide an additional English Support programme to help your son/daughter develop their English proficiency alongside their main subjects. In addition, find out if the school offers any extra-curricular activities where students can develop skills outside of their main academic curriculum subjects.
What qualifications and experience do the teachers have?
Do teaching staff have appropriate teaching qualifications to deliver the international curriculum? Are they experienced, qualified teachers, who are trained abroad? Ask how the school recruits its teachers. Does the school invest in the recruitment and selection process to ensure that it employs excellent teachers? The quality of teaching and learning is determined by teachers who are dedicated and have significant teaching experience. Through innovative approaches and advanced teaching methods used to engage their students in the classroom, teachers can help students achieve their full potential. Also, find out whether the school employs specialist teachers for subjects such as Art, Music, Physical Education and Modern Foreign Languages. The level of experience and quality of the teachers has a direct impact on your son/daughter’s learning so it is important for you to get to know the academic team either through the school’s website or when you visit.
Are the facilities good enough to support and inspire learning?
Good international schools will commit to investing in excellent teaching and learning resources and facilities. When you are visiting the school, look to see whether they have specialist facilities such as Music, Science, IT labs and Sporting facilities. Make sure that teaching and learning equipment is up to date, well-kept and well-stocked. Is the school technologically-advanced? Does it have wireless internet, allowing students to access knowledge and information on demand? Good schools also ensure that students have opportunities to develop their physical health and space for outdoor activities/play. Check whether the school has a swimming pool, outdoor play areas and any other outdoor sports facilities. Look out for the canteen- is it clean and does it offer healthy food options for students?
Is the school easy to get to?
Does the school offer a bus service and do buses take students directly to their homes? Is the school on one single campus or split across different sites? Some schools, due to limited space, have the primary and secondary campuses in different locations, which could cause logistical problems for parents who have more than one child in different year groups.
Is the school a safe and secure environment?
It’s important to observe the security procedures of the school. Does the campus operate a tight control on security? Do you feel safe when you are on the campus? Are visitors required to sign in? Are students able to leave the premises without parent permission? Is there a process to ensure that students leave the school with an authorized adult? A good international school will place a lot of emphasis on the safety and security of your son / daughter and will take every precaution to prevent harm or danger to your son / daughter.