The New Campus

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ISHCMC gets itself a second, state-of-the-art home

When the International School Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC) opened its first campus in 1993, it was the first international school to come to Vietnam. When it moved to its current location in District 2 in 1997, it was the first international school to set up in the now, education enclave of Thao Dien. This year it is set for another first, the completion of a brand new state-of-the-art secondary school campus.

Located in District 2, 3km away from its present site on Vo Truong Toan, the new campus is designed to provide a safe and secure school for 11-18 year olds, and comes complete with the latest security and a pure air filtration system that delivers a centrally-controlled climate to the whole school. If you’re worried about Ho Chi Minh City’s declining air quality, then while your kids are in school, the air will be pollution free without the need for air-conditioners or air purifiers.

This concern with air quality has already been brought into the existing campus, which is introducing air filtration systems throughout the whole building. The existing campus will also be turned into a primary school, a transformation that is now under way.

The Real World

According to Phil Rogers, the secondary school principal, the concept is to create a 21st-century learning environment which will provide “opportunities for kids to explore, but within the confines of keeping them safe, and in a caring environment.”

To do this both campuses will be promoting several different kinds of learning.

“We’ve got environments that are based around design,” explains Phil. “[The 21st century] world is going to see people not so much working for someone but for themselves, and designing their own types of innovations or being involved in a different global community to that we are used to.”

In the new campus, this has meant the creation of a food tech area, arts spaces and a 350-seat theatre with professional sound and lighting equipment, collaborative learning spaces, senior student study areas and Vietnam’s first high-school Innovation Center. All these spaces will “allow kids to explore,” says Phil, “but explore in a way that if it doesn’t quite work, it doesn’t matter, but it’s giving them that opportunity to try things and be risk-takers.”

The concept, says Phil, is to give their students an opportunity to get experience of working in the real world, as due to living in an expat environment, they’re unlikely to have the opportunity to find jobs before they leave school.


An addition to this is better utilisation of the corridors and walkways, something they’ve already created by gutting and redesigning one floor of the existing campus.

“Instead of just being walkways, [the corridors are] now places where collaborative learning can occur,” says Phil. “So, during the time that kids aren’t actually moving from class to class, they’re working in the corridors — they’ve got different spaces that they can connect with. They can use the floor for drawing on or can use the space for practising a dramatic piece or their oral presentation or doing some creative thinking as a group.”

The new classrooms are also building on this idea of collaborative learning through the use of technology.

“We want kids to be able to show what they’re doing at a moment’s notice,” he says. “So you may use an Apple TV or a Google Chrome Box, and you’ve got the kids working on their computers or their tablets and you can just say right, Joe, can you just put up and show us what you’ve got. We’re going to use whiteboard walls, so kids can write over the walls and share their ideas and suggestions, and the classrooms will also have sound systems.”

This concept is also built into the Innovation Center, which has been designed as a creative thinking space with writeable walls and large tables where kids can write on the tables, share and develop ideas.

“We want to be able to get kids up and doing things,” adds Phil. “Research shows the brain works best when it’s moving — it’s not very good when it’s sitting still. It needs blood flow. We want kids to be active, to be out and about, and we want that collaboration, to help kids develop and build ideas.”

For centuries, urban planners and architects have designed buildings and cities with particular concepts of human activity in mind. ISHCMC’s design of its campuses is also looking at the outcome. It’s part of the school’s mission which is to create a supportive, challenging learning environment which lets students be energized, engaged and empowered.

For original article on The Word, click here