Interview with principal John Burns at ACG International School Vietnam


ACG International School is a kindergarten to Grade 12 IB World School in Ho Chi Minh City. We caught up with principal John Burns to tell us more.

Q: Tell us about your school. When was it founded, what is its ethos, and what are its goals for the future?
A: ACG International School Vietnam was founded in 2006. The School opened to its first one hundred students in 2007. ACG International School Vietnam is a school where young people are encouraged and challenged to meet both their academic and personal potential. We have created a school that inspires confident, internationally minded, lifelong learners within a stimulating, caring and inquiry based environment, who can strive for excellence and contribute as global citizens to our dynamic world. Our goal is to provide an international education of the highest standard and from that to obtain excellent results to have students be able to enter universities across the world in the fields that interest them for their future and careers.

Q: What curriculum do you follow?
A: At ACG International School Vietnam, Kindergarten and Primary children are taught the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP). In the Secondary School, we follow the University of Cambridge International Lower Secondary programme, leading to Checkpoint assessment in Year 9 and IGCSE in Year 11. In Years 12 and 13, our students prepare for the internationally recognised University of Cambridge AS and A levels. In August 2012, we will offer our students the International Baccalaureate Diploma (IBDP). IB Diploma is a coherent two-year pre-university course recognised by universities throughout the world.

Q: Why would you encourage expats to choose an international school versus a public school?
A: Modern architecture, combined with a spacious natural environment and excellent facilities make our international school a unique and stimulating place. The School stretches past classrooms and learning spaces to the football field, swimming pools, tennis courts, landscaped grounds and play areas. The language of instruction at ACG International School is English. Our children are part of a vibrant international community of 30 different nationalities, where cultures are respected and celebrated. This level of education cannot be found in public education.

Q: Are there scholarships and financial aid available, do most companies help with tuition?
A: Some companies relocate their employees to Vietnam and this often means providing an allowance for education fees. However, there are also those families who have to pay for themselves because companies don’t offer this. At ACG International School Vietnam, we offered new families to Vietnam a diversity scholarship. This was very well received by many parents who did not have a large budget for international school fees. We also currently have an academic scholarship, which is awarded to academically bright students.

Q: How does a child gain admission – how can parents improve their chances of acceptance?
A: We welcome applicants from all nationalities. Families complete an application for each child, together with previous schools’ reports and certificates of achievements. Children above 5 years old sit an entrance test which covers literacy and numeracy skills. Children for the Secondary School will also be tested and admitted on their Maths, English and verbal reasoning ability. Students with low levels of English will be offered English language support. Parents can improve their chances of acceptance by ensuring that students have made a start with English studies and are achieving well academically in their first language. We look to enrol strong students who enjoy their learning and know that for good students learning English just takes time and is not a barrier to a successful time in an international school.

Q: Do schools admit students based on any specific criteria? Is preference given based on nationality or company sponsorship?
A: We admit students based on their academic ability. All students for the Secondary School sit an entrance test, which covers Maths, English and Reasoning skills. Students for the Primary School will be tested for their literacy and numeracy skills. Being an international school, our students come from all over the world and may not have previously had formal education in English. If our tests suggest that students require additional English support, we will offer this to help our students develop their vocabulary, grammar, writing and reading skills, enabling these students to access the mainstream curriculum.

Q: How does the standard of education compare with that of the western world that many of the expats are used to? Class size? Level of professionalism? Understanding of child psychology?
A: We are confident that ACG International School Vietnam offers world-class education that is comparable to any international schools in the West. We have a beautiful, purpose-built campus here in Ho Chi Minh City with Fifty-six classrooms with fresh cool air and specialist facilities, such as IT rooms, libraries, science laboratories, art and music rooms, a swimming pool, covered tennis courts, a sports pavilion and a large canteen are world-class. Our class size is small with an average class size of 22. Our teachers are native English speakers and all have professional teaching qualifications. We recruit teachers with a minimum of 3 years teaching experience. Our Special Education department offers children with learning difficulties support in accessing the mainstream curriculum.

Q: Do expat children seem to have any trouble adjusting to their new school environment?
A: On the contrary! When they come to ACG International School Vietnam, students are immediately part of an international community, where everyone is welcoming and friendly. For many of our students, it’s an exciting adventure to be in Vietnam and meeting new friends from all over the world. We also try to help new families to settle in quickly by introducing them to existing families from the same nationality.

Q: Why would you encourage expats to enroll their children at your school? What are the advantages in comparison with other international schools?
  • We are an academically-focused international school underpinned by a world class international curriculum, including IBO Primary Years Programme; Cambridge Lower Secondary Programme; IGCSE, A & AS Levels from University of Cambridge; IBDP.
  • We empower learning through an integrated and effective IT system allowing learning to be stimulating and accessible at all times.
  • We recruit experienced and internationally-qualified teachers who provide a supportive and challenging environment for students.
  • Our facilities are of the highest international standard within an inspiring campus to ensure learning is fully optimised and supported from Kindergarten through to Senior Secondary. Our Kindergarten, Primary School and Secondary School are all on the same campus in one location, which is convenient for families with siblings in different year groups.
  • Our school is part of the ACG Group of 10 high quality schools and has been an established international school for years, in Vietnam.
  • The list goes on…!

~ Interviewed in March 2012

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