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  • Writer's pictureKim Green

Head of School Message - 6th December

Over the last week we have been excited to celebrate our 30th Anniversary at our 30th Birthday Assembly and our 30th Anniversary Charity Gala.


As the first international school in Saigon, we are pioneers of adaptive education that has intentionally created space for our children to thrive. Over 30 years we have been an established leader in internationally minded, holistic education. Over 30 years ISHCMC has created a legacy and set the foundations for our community to continue thriving into the future. We are THE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL in Ho Chi Minh City.



On Friday 01 December at our 30th Birthday Assembly and on Saturday 02 December at our 30th Anniversary Gala we celebrated our very special school community. A community with a strong collaborative spirit and innovative mindset. A community with a shared commitment to inspiring wellbeing and learning so that each person who is part of our diverse, internationally minded ISHCMC, flourish as energised, engaged and empowered learners.


At the 30th Anniversary it was my pleasure to stand before our community as one of eight Head of Schools that have had the privilege of leading our beautiful community through time. Each of our Headmasters have been the lead architect of building our legacy.



Our founding Head of School Peter Gittins in 1993 opened the International Grammar School on the District 3 campus with 20 students and set the foundations for our ISHCMC culture. A culture that honours our home here in Vietnam and empowers a sense of belonging for our diverse international community that has the privilege of being part of ISHCMC.


In 1996 he was followed by Neil McWilliam who led the school through its first rebranding process which resulted in the birth of The International School of Ho Chi Minh City, the relocation of the school to District 2 (our current primary school campus) and the authorization of the IB Diploma programme in 1998. Making ISHCMC the first school in HCMC to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme and to be an IB World School.



He was followed by our longest serving Head of School Sean O’Maonaigh. In Sean’s twelve years he led the process of gaining our first external international accreditation, he graduated our first IB Diploma Cohort in 2000, he led the authorization of the IB Primary Years Programme in 2001 and stood on the stage to celebrate our 10th anniversary. Not stopping there he led the school through the IB Middle Years Programme authorization in 2004 making us the first three programme IB school in HCMC, and gained additional external international accreditation in 2008 that enabled our High School diploma to be recognised in US and beyond for university entrance. Prior to the end of his tenure he celebrated our 15 year milestone.


In 2011 we became part of the Cognita School family at which time Alun Cooper joined as our fourth Head of School and was shortly followed by an interim Head of School Jeff Wormstaff in 2012.



Then Simon Leslie joined ISHCMC in 2013 as Head of School and proudly led the community through our 20th anniversary celebrations. He led the creation of a new school mission and vision and introduced our 3E, energise, engage and empower, which continue to be the key outcomes for all learners at ISHCMC.



In 2015 Adrian Watts moved into the Head of School role. He embedded the 3E and challenged teaching and learning practices to position ISHCMC as an innovative and progressive school in the eyes of parents, educators and students. He led the implementation of Positive Education and Mindfulness and the strong focus we still have on wellbeing and our culture of care. Adrian led the renovation of our primary campus and the design and build of our secondary school campus with the strong support of our Cognita Schools Group. Prior to the end of his tenure, he led the 25th anniversary celebrations and navigated the community through the first seven months of the COVID landscape.



Twenty years after Sean graduated as the first IB Diploma cohort I had the joy of joining ISHCMC and turning the tassels on the graduation caps of our 20th IB Diploma Graduating class. A courageous group of students who taught us all about resilience and empathy.


On my arrival I had the pleasure of being welcomed and embraced into my new home - Vietnam and ISHCMC, now a school of 1500. On my arrival I immediately felt the ISHCMC superpower - our community.



As a community we have traveled through time together. We have witnessed, been connected to and been a part of significant personal, local, national and global events in which we as a community have been able to celebrate together and share joy on many occasions, at other times we have cried and leaned on each other for support and courage.


Through all of these years and experiences that have touched humankind and each of us the happy and the heartbreaking, we continue to stand together in unity valuing each other's identities, gifts and talents and drawing on these to continuously create the most magical space for our children and adults to learn and to grow so that we are all able to make our world a better place. One that is ultimately a world of peace, joy, happiness and where we all thrive.



As the current Head of School, I have deep gratitude for our school's remarkable history and journey. Our celebrations have been not only of our past achievements and legacy but also a recognition of all the dedicated individuals who have and continue to create our school’s success.


The special ingredient to our superpower is not a secret to anyone at ISHCMC, it is our people: past, present and future. Students, Teachers, staff, parents, alumni, our Cognita Schools Group, our Governors and the many organizations that we partner with such as the Ministry of Education and Training, Embassies, Corporates and NGOs. Our people are the heart and soul of our school. Our people have built our legacy and will take us into the future.



Our flourishing community is a testament to our collective commitment to energize, engage, and empower our learners, creating an environment where curiosity thrives, achievement is celebrated, empathy is fostered, and resilience is instilled. A commitment to creating a strong culture of CARE.

Everything we do at ISHCMC we do with intention. As we look forward into our next 30 years our intention is to

  • enhance inter-cultural understandings and teaching and learning in our Vietnam context

  • offer memorable experiences, and

  • champion inclusion, diversity and justice

Ultimately, we will be

  • co-creating a journey in our rapidly evolving world in which everyone thrives

How will we do that, you ask? We do that by purposefully designing and celebrating our culture of CARE, promoting systems of growth, and nurturing leadership. To do this we will leverage

  • Our influence

  • Our campuses

  • Our community

We will be

  • Open-minded

  • Empowering

  • Caring, and

  • Inclusive

We will stand against

  • Exclusion and

  • Rigid education that limits self-expression and grow

Through our intentional actions we promise

  • Individual pathways

  • Space for expression and

  • Sense of belonging

We are The International School of Ho Chi Minh City. #proudtobeISHCMC for 30 years



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