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Celebrating Earth Day

Earth day was a chance for The Australian International School (AIS) students to join a movement to drive enthusiasm and commitment to environmental protection. Earth Day was not just a day but a whole week of activities at AIS which gave students positive interactions with nature, taught them about their place in the world and how they can protect it throughout their lifetimes.

The teachers got the children involved in a number of creative tasks to start engaging them with the environment. These included children looking at a globe, finding their home country and communicating how to take care of the environment.

Some children completed drawings and others used recycled paper for collages to show how they would help the environment.

The children also learned how to look after plants, by replanting seedlings into bigger pots and watered the plants each day.

Earth week gave students a better understanding of the environment, how it links to everyday climate issues around them and how as individuals they can have the power to protect the earth’s future.

At Australian International School (AIS) environmental education will ensure that we have enough scientists, advocates, entrepreneurs and everyday citizens of the future who value the natural wonders of our world. Look out for more activity around the environment, including the Inspired Leadership Conference which called for young leaders to take action and work towards a sustainable future. #EarthDay #Sustainablefuture

Rachel Laffey


Mrs Nguyen Thi Nhung

Mai Chi and our family have long had a great relationship with the Australian International School (AIS) Community. After finishing grade two at a local school in Vietnam, following touring and receiving information from many other schools, I decided to enrol my daughter into AIS’s summer course programme. On the last day of that course, she cried a lot as she had to say goodbye to her teachers and all the friends she had made. Mai Chi shared that she loved AIS and would like to study at the school with her teachers and international friends. Due to our financial circumstances, however, while we would have loved for her to study at AIS, we instead at the time encouraged her to study at a newly established bilingual school. Mai Chi was quite happy with the new environment but she still dreamed about studying at a truly international school.

In the summer of Mai Chi’s fourth grade, I was informed that AIS provides academic scholarships for new secondary students by a friend whose child had just been offered one. After contacting AIS, I had a talk with Mai Chi to encourage her to apply for a scholarship, and I was surprised with how determined she was, making this her goal in her fifth grade.

Then in 2020, with Covid-19, everyone across the world was faced with difficulties, and for us, we thought our plan to transfer Mai Chi to an international school may have been lost. On 15th May 2020, however, Ms Thuy, a member of AIS’s enrolment staff contacted me, sharing that in fact there was no change, reminding me of the deadline for the academic scholarship application. On that day, I did not have enough time to prepare all the documentation as required so I just sent a thank you email to AIS. Ms Thuy, however, whom I love and respect for her enthusiasm and devotion, encouraged me to submit the application by midnight on 16th May 2020. Finally, I submitted all documentation as required in the evening of 15th May 2020 and we waited for the scholarship examination. After receiving good test results, an interview with AIS’s Executive Principal and after a few days of anxious waiting, we were thrilled to receive a quite high scholarship offer letter from AIS.

Mai Chi was so happy with the good news, but was still debating what to do as she did not achieve the highest scholarship offer and was concerned it may be a burden on us, her parents. So, she decided to study hard for an entrance exam to a famous high school for the gifted in Ho Chi Minh City as she wanted to try and provide another option if she was successful. Subsequently, she received an offer to the gifted school just a few days before the new academic year at AIS. We were in a bit of a dilemma in deciding which school to choose within just a two-week period. Now, it was no longer a financial issue anymore and most of our relatives and friends both in Vietnam and overseas voted for the gifted school, while a small minority, including us, loved the international school. After two weeks studying AIS, one Saturday, Mai Chi attended the gifted school’s new school year ceremony to get a feel for the school before making a final decision. In the end, she chose AIS. Thank you to Ms Thuy again for her information to help us analyse thoroughly and make the best decision.

After the first semester at AIS, Mai Chi has become accustomed to the school, her friends, and the high and fast intensity of learning and strict regulations. For the past four months, every school day has been a happy and exciting day for Mai Chi. She passionately shares about the school, her classes, her friends, the lessons, her after school activities, her basketball team’s efforts and victories, the exciting dance performance in the House Dance competition, Maths competition with other schools, older students’ support in the exam periods, among much more. She idolizes and loves all of AIS’s subject teachers, from music, drama, physical education to more academic subjects such as design technology, science, etc. I have since booked meetings with all the subject teachers at the teacher-parent conference after the first term to meet, greet and thank them. For my own curiosity, I also wanted to find out why my child loves them so much, and after meeting them all, I could see why, it was a great experience.

Right now, while typing this, I have received Mai Chi’s mid-term school report. Though there are few subjects that do not have a score yet, I am very happy with my daughter’s improvements and achievements. Mai Chi is also very happy with her results after all her hard work.

My family has been completely convinced by AIS. All doubts about “international schools being just for affluent, pampered children; or international school students study leisurely and will gradually become lazy, etc.” have all vanished.

Thank you AIS for giving my daughter a chance to study here. We do hope that she will always maintain a positive spirit and study attitude as well as her love for the school, teachers and friends.

We wish AIS staff and teachers all the best for the future and hope the school continues in its sustainable development and is always a reliable place for parents to send their children.

Ho Chi Minh City, 27th Nov 2020


A Colourful Look at Festivals and Celebrations – Holi 2021

Year 2 at Australian International School (AIS) have been inquiring into how diverse world communities recognise important events through celebrations and traditions. Throughout the year the students have had the opportunity to explore and experience authentic celebrations and traditions. Through these celebrations’ students appreciate diverse cultures and religions, creating a bond of understanding, shared connections and development of open-mindedness.

This week Year 2 explored The Hindu festival of Holi which marks the arrival of spring, widely known as the Festival of Colour, and celebrates spring, colour, and love, as well as the triumph of good versus evil. The festival was enthusiastically celebrated by both children and staff. They researched and explored the cultural importance of Holi including the symbols, foods, stories and traditions. The day concluded with a Festival of Colour where the children and teachers threw an organic powdered paint called gulal over each other. It was a wonderful day of colour, learning and fun.

At Australian International School (AIS), we aim to develop students with an international mindset. We want our students to see themselves as connected to the global community and appreciate and value the diversity of cultures in the world by making an effort to learn more about them. Through our Primary Years Curriculum, we are able to foster this key mindset to ensure our students prepared for the challenges of an increasingly diverse global community.

#AISinclusivity #AllCulturesAllReligionsAllColours

Rachel Laffey


Helping students to cope in challenging times

For most of the month since my previous newsletter message, school has been closed because of the Tet holiday and then the directive from the HCMC authorities for schools to operate online until February 28th. With little to report on in terms of school activities, and with students facing the stresses associated with a return to online learning and uncertainty about the potential ongoing impacts of the COVID epidemic on their schooling and academic progress, I thought it would be worthwhile to revisit an article that I penned three years ago about how to foster resilience and success in your children.

The students who have coped best with the challenges in their lives posed by the COVID pandemic are those who are resilient. Resilience can be defined as ‘the capacity to prepare for disruptions, recover from shocks and stresses, and adapt and grow from a disruptive experience”.

As parents you can help your child develop resilience by helping them to:

  • Develop a growth mindset. In its simplest sense, this is about having a ‘can do’ attitude. Students who have a growth mindset don’t run away from challenges and the possibility of failure. They understand that with persistence and continued effort they can succeed in the end. This gives them confidence that they can overcome their challenges.
  • Be connected. Encourage them to stay in touch with friends, family and their teachers. This gives them a sense of belonging and social support, and thus a sense of security.
  • Talk to you about what they are going through. Talk with them about what they are experiencing and feeling. This will help them to process what they are going through and give you the opportunity to challenge any unrealistic thinking and help them look at the situation in a broader context and keep a longer-term view.
  • Be positive & confident. Encourage them to keep things in perspective and keep an optimistic outlook. Talk with them about ways that they successfully coped with challenges in the past. This will help them develop a “survivor mentality” and the belief that they can and will get through current and future challenges. Help them find and do things that they are good at. This builds confidence and makes them feel positive about themselves.
  • Set goals and take steps toward achieving them. This gives them a sense of control and the belief that by making choices and taking action they can bounce back from life’s challenges.
  • Understand that change is a part of life. This is a reality for everyone. Remind them that they have already coped with many changes in their lives – one of the biggest being moving from primary to secondary school, and for some, the even bigger change of moving to another country – and that they can and will cope with future changes and challenges.
  • Practise self-care. Teach them the importance of eating properly, exercising and sleeping well. This keeps them balanced and helps them deal better with stressful situations and times.

While there are many things you can do to help your child develop resilience there are also things that you should also try to avoid. In particular, try not to be a ‘helicopter’ parent constantly hovering, ready to intervene whenever your child faces the slightest adversity or challenge; or a ‘bulldozer parent’ smoothing the path for your child and doing everything on their behalf. Now that they are in high school, developing into young adults, take a step back. Allow them to develop independence and resilience by letting them take responsibility for solving problems and overcoming challenges.

Sources and further reading:

Mark Vella – Deputy Executive and Secondary Principal


Growing Great Children at AIS

Our Kindergarten children have been learning about living things and what they need to survive. They have been asking questions, researching, and investigating their ideas. They have used their environment to engage in their ‘Sharing the planet’ unit of inquiry. Ashton and Minh Khoa, from our Lotus Kindergarten, went exploring around their playground and stumbled across some leaves lying on the ground. They become curious as they examined the leaves and shared their prior knowledge about trees and leaves. They then wondered if the leaves would grow again and decided to do an experiment. They placed some soil and their leaf into a container. “Plants need water and sun to grow,” shared Ashton. When they arrived back in the classroom they shared their experiment with their classmates. They asked the class what they thought would happen to the leaves – “will the leaves grow or not?” The children decided they would write their names on the paper that said ‘Not grow’ or ‘It will grow’ to show what they thought would happen. Then they had a great discussion around the maths words ‘more’ and ‘less’. More children thought that the leaves would grow!

AIS Kindergarten environments provide opportunities so that our learners can be the author of their own learning. Through playful exploration, inquiry and discovery we build caring, confident, capable and curious learners (our CORE values). We wanted to take this opportunity to share one of our beautiful learning engagements with you that celebrates our CORE values here in AIS Kindergarten.

I wonder what has happened to the leaves over the spring break?


Australian International School’s 2021 Baccalaureate Visual Arts Exhibition

Australian International School’s (AIS) annual exhibition showcasing artwork created by International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Visual Arts students is underway.

On Friday, April 2nd, the third floor of the international school transformed into an art gallery that featured visual pieces from 12 graduating students. The IB program requires students to complete a creativity, activity, service (CAS) project and those in the visual art department created projects of thematically linked pieces that spanned mediums from paintings to sculptures to photographs and mixed media installations.

The gallery of featured works offered students an opportunity to show their peers, teachers and parents what they had been working on and explain their process and motivations. The diverse works touched on topics such as migration, social media personas, beauty standards, and family bonds. Thanh Thao, for example, explained to Saigoneer that she chose to focus on the effects of the American War in her project “Emotion,” in part to honor her aunt who was killed during strategic bombings in Northern Vietnam. Thao hadn’t originally planned to pursue art, but found the program to be a nice balance with her academic coursework. She will study medicine in Australia next year.

For some of the AIS students, the exhibition is the first of likely many in their artistic careers. Hoang Nhat Anh, for example, will attend the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design in the fall after being predicted to score 44 out of 45 on the IB examinations. Her work focuses on modernization and the evolution of culture amidst urbanization. When discussing her artwork she admitted that it was probably more challenging to work on the projects than in past years because of COVID-19, but the dedication of her teachers and the support of her peers made it a successful year.

The exhibition is a perfect example of the school’s emphasis on providing a well-rounded education that encourages creative development and leadership skills alongside academic success.



CAS Block Party

The Class of 2021 celebrated successful completion of their Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) requirement for the IB Core on Tuesday, 23 March in the AIS IB Centre. Ms. Lynette Hutting, CAS Coordinator, thanked students for their participation in over 100 Service Projects that helped hundreds of people in the school and wider communities.

Some of the service highlights from the past two years include flood relief in Central Vietnam, supplies for the elderly and homeless in Ho Chi Minh City, visits to orphanages across Vietnam, beach clean-ups, teaching deaf teenagers to play basketball and raising awareness for serious diseases like cancer.

Even COVID lockdowns couldn’t stop our CAS students. At home, they continued to take on new challenges and risks. They learned to bake, blog, draw, paint, sew, sculpt, play new instruments, learn new languages, care for neighbours’ animals and gardens, do yoga, play tennis, badminton, basketball, swim, jog and cycle.

Once the students returned to school, they took the initiative and planned sports tournaments, science and economics competitions and free music concerts. They taught music lessons and language lessons in their mother tongues, they started online communities. In total, the students completed over 1500 Experiences!

While some Experiences were school-based such as House Dance competitions and the school productions, the majority originated from the students’ own initiative and concern for their community. Because of our students’ CAS Experiences, the lives of hundreds of people in Vietnam have been improved. Now that’s People Power!

Congratulations to the Class of 2021 for being so caring and compassionate. You truly embody the spirit and values of AIS.

Lynette Hutting


Saigon Schools Create a Productive Learning Environment

“If we get the environment right, it naturally lends itself to teaching and learning…if students feel safe and happy, learning can happen,” explains Beth Wills, Deputy Primary and Kindergarten Principal at the Australian International School.



It seems obvious that a comfortable, secure, and encouraging school environment makes for happier and thus more engaged students, but what exactly does that look like? Saigoneer visited the Australian International School (AIS) late last month to hear how faculty members create such a space.
“What makes a really healthy learning environment is one where students have an input into what that environment looks like…one where they see themselves represented and one where they’ve contributed to spaces to make them work better,” explains Davina McCarthy, AIS’ Executive Principal.
One notices this philosophy in action throughout the main Thu Thiem campus and kindergarten /primary campus in Thao Dien, but perhaps the most illustrative example is a new room in Thu Thiem. Students wanted a quiet place to avoid the constant distraction of electronics, so what was once a simple storage space near the cafeteria has been transformed into a quiet recreational area for board games and community time. Upper-level students working on their CAS (creativity, activity, service) projects have been tasked with designing everything from furniture to decor, which gives them a greater sense of ownership while providing them opportunities to develop leadership and collaborative skills.
The staff’s eagerness to respond to student feedback is also seen in the cafeteria, which just installed new fans, cafe-style seating and healthier snacks. Similarly, the Thao Dien campus’ library was made more welcoming via the introduction of student artwork on the walls, and the new dormitories added a room to enjoy family-style breakfasts that “feel more like home,” according to Davina. More than mere aesthetic changes, listening to students has a fundamental effect on how they view their potential as active problem solvers. “What’s lovely is that it inspires other classes to have ideas and share because they can see we take action,” says Beth.




AIS recently unveiled the city’s first international school boarding options alongside a state-of-the-art new library and space for IB (International Baccalaureate) students. The facilities include areas to comfortably cooperate in and share, which is essential for developing the skills students will need in the real world. The standards set by the two new spaces also gave staff an opportunity to review older parts of the school to see what can be renovated. A perfect example is the new garden area that was established in what was previously an empty alcove at the Thu Thiem campus.


The new plant-filled nook also reflects the school’s commitment to instilling sustainable, eco-friendly mindsets via practical projects and experiences. Many of the newly designed spaces rely on repurposed and reused materials, and secondary students are currently leading primary students in a project to make garden boxes. Davina says that “if you generate that interest in school, it’s probably there for the rest of their lives.”

The environmental initiatives are linked to the UNESCO goals which are seen on posters throughout the building. They are joined by posters of iconic Australian citizens and places as part of the school’s attempts to celebrate their unique identity and core values. Instilling a globally responsible mindset includes considering complicated histories, and therefore the school flies an indigenous flag alongside the Australian flag. Similarly, one of two winning submissions for a mural contest at the Thao Dien campus includes an aboriginal-style turtle.

The turtle is an important symbol in Vietnam, as well as Australia, which is in line with AIS’s championing of Vietnam in its decor. For example, when Saigoneer visited, Tet decorations were prominently displayed. Moreover, part of the school’s efforts to use responsible materials involves traditional Vietnamese items such as woven baskets that are ubiquitous in homes throughout the country. This gives international students an opportunity to simultaneously learn about Vietnamese culture and also see how one can responsibly source and re-purpose items.

The staff also enjoys a sense of ownership of the school. With a few exceptions, they are allowed to decorate their offices, classrooms, and hallways to highlight their interests. Davina says it makes them more excited to come into work, and that passion is then passed on to students. Teachers will also often ask students for their artwork to hang on their wall, which “really makes their eyes light up when they see it,” Beth adds.

Simply put, “atmosphere and surroundings lift morale,” says Davina. And while the school is planning some large projects, such as putting a roof over the sports field to go along with the recently constructed library and IB room, the small details are just as important. From green spaces to students’ artwork on the wall, to layout modifications, everywhere one looks, one can see examples of how AIS relies on student input to make changes that make the school “a welcoming place, a place where you want to be,” according to Beth.



Speaking, Showcasing, and Sharing – AIS English Virtual Book Sale

Australian International School’s (AIS) Year 7 English students are busy gearing up for AIS’s English Department’s annual Virtual Book Sale. The event will take place on Thursday, April 22nd and will be the third of its kind held at the school.

Ms Lynette Hutting, who devised the concept, shared “The Virtual Book Sale doesn’t involve selling real books or making real money. It is really an opportunity for our students to try out their best persuasive speaking skills in English. The student’s task is to convince fellow students in the other classes who visit their bookstall to read and enjoy the book they read this term. In essence, they are making recommendations for their Summer Reading.”

While the Book Sale is scheduled for next month, it actually began at the start of Term 3 when students selected a novel of their own choice from the school library. During the course of the term, students have been logging their reading progress in individual reading journals. They also have been designing posters of their novels and authors to decorate their bookstalls and practice their sales pitches for the big event.

On the day itself, students will showcase their novels to students from other classes, teachers and administrators and try to persuade them to buy the books (virtually, of course!). If shoppers are swayed to “buy” their books, the booksellers will give them a “sales receipt” that will be put into the “Book Box” for the raffle at the end of the sale. Prizes will be given to one lucky student shopper and one lucky bookseller.

The event is a great way of introducing attendees to the wealth of Young Adult fiction available in AIS’s school library, giving them plenty of good recommendations for their Summer Reading. Most importantly, however, the Virtual Book Sale also provides the “booksellers” with plenty of opportunities to enjoy the magic of literature while practicing and refining their persuasive speaking skills in English.

Speaking on their experiences as a seller of the event last year, AIS student, Yuna Roh shared, “As I talked to more and more people at the Book Sale, I became more comfortable. I was very nervous with the first person I spoke to and with the last person I knew what to say and felt confident. I started not to be nervous talking to people in English after the Book Sale.”

The Virtual Book Sale is one of many interesting initiatives at AIS to encourage students to get out of the classroom and put the skills they have learnt into practice in hands-on settings. To learn more about AIS’s approach to education for lower secondary school students, download a copy of AIS’s Curriculum Handbook here.

Rob Haggett 


From Books, Rackets to Robots – After School Activities at AIS Primary

Following on from last week’s exploration of Australian International School’s (AIS) range of after school activities (ASA) at AIS Secondary, this week we look into what ASAs AIS Primary has to offer. For AIS’s primary schoolchildren, much like our secondary students, the school understands the importance of providing them experiences that go beyond the classroom. As a result, AIS implements a diverse and wide-ranging programme of activities to provide social, emotional, and academic development; and promote both physical health and mental well-being.

Academic and Languages

Promoting the opportunity for students to delve a bit deeper into their enjoyment of reading and writing, AIS holds specific clubs on both. AIS’s Reading Club seeks to encourage students to read and discuss their views after reading an agreed chosen book together, while its Creative Writing Club exposes schoolchildren to different writing styles and techniques. Additionally, for those students who are particularly passionate about learning a second (or third) language, AIS holds dedicated clubs for them, such as the Chinese Language Club, where students are supported to complete their Chinese homework and practice their skills.

Sports and Martial Arts

With AIS’s fantastic sporting facilities the range of ASAs is extensive. From tennis, football to swimming, AIS ensures there is something for every student who would like to do something a little more physical after school. One example of this is martial arts. At AIS, primary school students have the opportunity to try their hand at not just one martial art, but two, Kung Fu and Taekwondo.

Arts, Crafts, and Performing Arts

AIS’s array of arts activities also range considerably. From Step-by-Step Drawing, to help instruct students who are first getting exposed to the subject, to Cartoon Art, where students can learn how to draw their favourite cartoon characters. For performing arts, AIS holds its own Dance, Ballet and Hip-Hop Dance Clubs, all designed to help students improve their coordination, agility and flexibility by learning and practicing dance moves and routines.

Something Completely Different

For students who would like to try their hand at something completely new, AIS provides a series of unique and engaging ASAs. One example is The Green Team, where schoolchildren are invited to take part in an exciting new initiative to create a sustainable garden at AIS Cherry Blossom. Another is AIS’s Cooking Class, which seeks to teach students not only how to cook, but also on the importance of developing lifetime healthy food habits. A further example is Robotics, here, students have the chance to learn the fundamentals of robotic design, learning about sensors, or discovering ways that gears and pulleys create movement.

Much like last week, the above activities are just a snapshot of what is on offer at AIS, and they are constantly being updated and reviewed. If students and teachers are keen to get something off the ground, AIS is always keen to listen and set them up wherever possible.

To keep up to date with all the goings on at AIS, follow us on Facebook here.

Rob Haggett