Mid-2023 will herald a change of guard at a top international school in Saigon, with the arrival of new a Executive Principal and highly-regarded educator Jon Standen. With over 30 years of experience in the sector – including 16 as an Executive Principal at leading schools in England and Thailand – Executive Principal Standen is ideally equipped to lead the Australian International School into the new academic year and beyond.
Considered to be one of the region’s premier schools, AIS is proud to be an Inspired school, and excited about further strengthening its world-class reputation under the tutelage of Executive Principal Standen.
Tell us about your background.
I originally trained as a history teacher and early on in my career also taught government, politics and Latin and was heavily involved in school sport. I have a proven track record of successful leadership, having led three top schools – The Crypt School, Plymouth College and currently Harrow International School Bangkok. These roles have given me a sound understanding of both the educational side and the operational/business side of schools.
What makes a great school?
A great international school provides the very best academic education and reflects the cultures of all its students. While excellent examinations results unlock the door to the best universities and employers, success in life is determined by more than grades. A great school delivers a holistic education and develops emotionally intelligent young people who enjoy happy, successful lives. Staff are at the heart of every school’s success – they model the school values, are passionate and skilful teachers, and place a premium on empowering students to unlock their potential. Ultimately education in the very best schools is inspiring, culturally rich, aspirational and life enhancing.
What attracted you to AIS?
The ethos of the school, and that of Inspired Group, aligns with my own educational philosophy. AIS Saigon offers a holistic education which is essential to helping our students develop resilience and become well-rounded individuals with the skills to work within teams as well as lead them. This is a school that develops people who can make decisions, run businesses, and be creative.
What excites you most about the role?
I’m looking forward to applying all I’ve learned about leading schools in the UK and internationally to AIS Saigon. As good as any school is, there are always aspects which can be improved, and I’m here to ensure AIS Saigon remains one of the very best schools in the region.
What do you love most about working in education?
Even after thirty years, I wake up every morning with a buzz of excitement, looking forward to seeing our students learn and develop their skills. Teaching and leading schools is what for me meets the definition of the Japanese concept “ikigai” or meaning of life. It’s something I enjoy, it benefits others and is worthy, and it’s a meaningful career.
What are you most proud of?
Results day is always a highlight. In each school I’ve led, examination results have improved. I get great satisfaction from seeing students achieve places at their chosen universities. I’m also proud that several members of teams I’ve led have become Heads/Executive Principals of their own schools. There have of course been many other high points. The Crypt School became a Teaching School under my leadership and I was recognised as a ‘National Leader of Education’ by the government in the United Kingdom. This year at Harrow International School Bangkok we were awarded the prestigious Asian Parent Top International School award, and also during my time there the school joined the top 1% of schools worldwide, an achievement everyone is hugely proud of.
What sort of leader are you?
I’m visible, approachable, a good listener and problem solver. I like to think I show up, and when there’s something difficult to deal with I ‘walk into the wind’. But leadership isn’t just about one person, it has to be distributed in order for a school to function well. I enjoy building teams and I hope I model the qualities we wish to see our students develop. I also aim for perfection – it’s pretty hard to achieve, but even if you fall just short you’ll be well ahead of competitors.
What are your main priorities as Executive Principal?
My overarching aim is to ensure AIS Saigon students have the best learning and educational journey, so that when they leave school they’re future ready and emphatically set up for life in the real world.
What are your thoughts on Vietnam’s educational landscape?
Education in Ho Chi Minh City is a crowded marketplace, with many competitors. There’s no room for complacency, you have to strive to be the very best you can. Schools like AIS Saigon also have to be conscious of the role they play in the broader local community, working to support students who do not enjoy such a privileged education.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
My wife Suzie and I enjoy playing golf and travelling, and we’re looking forward to visiting different areas of Vietnam and learning about its culture and cuisine. We have grown up sons, two rescue dogs and a rescue cat.
What advice can you share with students?
Try to be the best person you can be. Be organised and don’t procrastinate. Dream big and aspire to achieve great things – and be kind, always. Each term, as well as trying to close gaps in your academic understanding, identify a personal skill or quality you’d like to develop. Know that life will challenge you, develop resilience and perseverance, and try to see the glass half full.