Exam marks are no longer considered the be-all-and-end-all of education, but when a school is performing consistently higher than World average in terms of academic results, you can be sure they’re getting something right. At International School Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC), when pass rates in 2016/17 Academic year for the International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB DP) has continue to set new record with their result. Valedictorian Yeji has brought great prestige to ISHCMC for her rare 45/45 perfect mark that more than qualifies her for entrance into Yonsei University – Korea’s top medical university.

All students study the IB at ISHCMC so it is remarkable that 98% of the school’s students passed the 2017 exam, achieving an average of 32.5 points out of the maximum of 45—significantly higher than the world average score, which sits at 30 points. This has all had a significant impact on ISHCMC students’ prospects for high-quality tertiary education: according to the Center for Educational Improvement, a survey of 150 universities revealed that IB graduates were more likely to be considered for admission than a student studying a national program, due to “the breath of the curriculum, development of critical thinking, time management skills, and communication skills.” For this reason, ISHCMC’s students’ steady performance above global averages is instrumental in opening doors to better pathways beyond their formative years.

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As the first international school to be established in Ho Chi Minh City, ISHCMC has a long history of providing the best support platform for students in achieving excellence in academic success. They’ve had a long time to get the formula right: the school first opened in 1993 on a single campus in District 3, and now runs two locations in District 2—with the new secondary school receiving much attention in recent months for its leading-edge teaching methods and groundbreaking educational facilities.

According to Head of School Adrian Watts, the academic successes of the students are confirming the effectiveness of ISHCMC’s approach. “Our confidence comes from how our students are changing, and where they are now,” he explains. “A while ago, I attended the IB Diploma art exhibition, talking to the students about their work, and getting them to articulate what was really behind it. I’ve been working with the IB now for over 30 years, But the students coming through here now are far more articulate about social issues, about cultural issues, about international issues, and about politics. A lot of their work is actually driven by a different level of thinking. I think that’s the product of the changes that have been taking place during the last four years here at ISHCMC.”

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This deeper level of thought and broader approach to knowledge acquisition and understanding is very likely to be what is responsible for the students’ exceptional grades in the IB DP exams. “”It’s the way we approach work, and the way that it’s no longer about the ‘product’ as much as it is about the process you go through to get there,” describes Mr. Watts. “It’s about that deeper layer of thinking, that deeper understanding. At the end of that, you do get the ‘product,’ but it’s of a much higher quality. This type of learning starts as early as our KG, Grade 1 and Grade 2 classes, they’ve become so much more confident and believe in what they’re doing. So if you ask how can we be confident, it’s just seeing the end result, the end product.”

If the “end product” can be expressed in numbers, it’s clear that ISHCMC delivers on the data. 60% of ISHCMC’s class of 2017 received the prestigious IB Bilingual Diploma, more than double the 29% of bilingual diplomas achieved by all IB DP students globally. This is reflective of the school’s diversity—with 15 nationalities represented in the class of 2017, and over 50 nationalities represented throughout the school’s population. One further contributing factor to the students’ successful results is the fact that 82% of them were prepared for the IB DP program by having undertaken the IB Middle Years Program at the school earlier on in their studies—28% of the class had started out at ISHCMC in the IB Primary Years Program. Participating in the IB Middle Years Program is generally regarded as the best-prepared students can receive in order to successfully navigate the IB DP—as amply demonstrated by the 2017 results.

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“We’ve been very successful here,” claims Mr. Watts. “I’m really proud of the ISHCMC teachers because they’ve embraced the idea of constructivist learning. Even in the IB DP where it is very content-heavy, our teachers base this around a constructivist approach. That’s very powerful because instead of having to learn the information, our students know the information. So when it comes to an examination the students have a deeper understanding, it’s not something that’s just a superficial facade. They’ve actually gone deeper, so when they get their questions, they know what they’re talking about.”