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AIS School Prefects Interview CEO Clarence van der Wel

AIS celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. To celebrate this, our Head Boy Bao Khanh Phi and Head Girl Samadhi Jayasuriya took a trip down memory lane and interviewed our CEO Clarence van der Wel to discuss how it all started and his hopes for the future.


Mr van der Wel is General Director of the Australian International School and the APAC Regional CEO for the Inspired Education group.

Going back to 2005, the Thu Thiem area (which were wetlands), was sourced to build the ACG Vietnam school. At the same time AIS, founded by Thuy Nguyen and Nigel Russell, was a school located in District 1. Eventually, the ACG company owned both ACG Vietnam and AIS, and when AIS relocated to the Thu Thiem campus, the schools ran in parallel with different management teams until they merged in 2013. The school has been running as the Australian International School ever since. This might sound a bit complicated, but as Mr van der Wel said, “it’s good to understand a bit of the history” (and you never know if it may pop up in a trivia quiz!).

Initially, ACG Vietnam was only IB in the Primary school (PYP), offering Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels in the Middle and High School. On the other hand, AIS offered IB’s PYP and DP programs. When the merger of the two schools happened, it was decided that the curriculum would be combined into the two, offering IGCSE in the Middle School and IB PYP in Primary and then the IB Diploma in High School. The merger brought together about 1,000 students from all around the world, and we have continued to grow ever since, said Mr van der Wel.




In the past 15 years, one of the major achievements of AIS has been growing into the school it is now. Mr van der Wel said AIS is a truly international school, providing top-quality international education as well as encouraging and developing students to become articulate, confident and able to learn and withstand within the context of a very strong international curriculum. Another major achievement of the school, he added, is that it has cemented itself as a premium international school. Seeing how the school grew and matured as the quality of education improved to become one of the top international schools in Ho Chi Minh City is considered one of the other major achievements. Additionally, the ongoing investment and the constant improving of the site and the facilities within the school itself is also considered one of the major achievements.

As well as academic work, the school looks to develop the whole student body, and it successfully does that through two curriculums. The first curriculum consists of what the students learn in the school subjects. The second is more “hidden”, which goes on “behind the scenes” through a range of activities. The students are able to bond with each other, develop their soft skills and “the EQ in order to succeed when they finally graduate from school” - this is done especially well with the IB CAS program.




During his previous visits to AIS, Mr van der Wel observed teachers who show great passion for teaching, genuine care for students’ learning and wellbeing, and are experts in the subjects they teach. All this truly highlights a school community that leads its students to a brighter future.

In 15 years from now there is a hope to see the school “bursting at its seams with students” and remain as one of the absolutely top premium schools in HCMC. Mr van der Wel said: “One of the hallmarks of measuring success in a school is not just about the academic results each year, but it’s actually what the graduates achieve when they leave school.” We have amazing alumni students who are making great contributions to the workforce and society at large, so we hope future graduating students go on to do great things within society.