School on a Hill

In the world of international schools, the newly opened Anne Hill International School aims to stand out

Anne Hill is owner and principal of Anne Hill International School—a new International School in Ho Chi Minh City, which caters to children from 18 months to six years. Anne is a Singaporean who has lived and taught in many countries with a long-standing career in early childhood development. In this article she discusses upcoming plans for her school and her views on pre-school education in Vietnam.

Why did you choose to start a school in Vietnam?

Having been in early childhood development for 27 years in various capacities—teacher, principal and owner—for a very long time I have wanted to bring this all together in a meaningful way. It helped that I have close relatives residing in Vietnam, which gave me more reasons for coming here. I have not only chosen to be the principal, I have actually invested my own money. I ran my own school in Singapore (called Tots & Kids) from 1990 to 2000. At that time, private childcare education was becoming popular among Singaporeans and the expat community. We started with 12 children and by the second year we had over 120 students. Many parents have asked me if I am a businesswoman. I am an educator first, then a businesswoman with a long-term view. Our investment decisions are built on this fundamental principle.

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What will convince parents to send their kids to your school?

To start, the curriculum we offer and our responsiveness in dealing with changing needs. Our teaching methods incorporate the Maria Montessori Approach, the Jolly Phonics program and thematic-based learning. We pay close attention to introducing creative and outside-of-the-box learning activities, ensuring classes are engaging for the children. Hence, our motto: ‘Learn, Grow, and Play’ the AHI way.

We emphasize child-centered education as opposed to teacher-led classes. Nowadays, children are often focused on the digital and visual, and we believe outdoor play, social interaction and hands-on activities are just as important. Children need to be engaged with other children to learn core skills such as sharing through physical games and outdoor activities, communication, tolerance and basic reading. Responding to parents’ requests, we will also be running swimming programs and other physical activities such as Zumba classes. Secondly, we have a strong emphasis on teaching quality, health, safety and hygiene standards. It helps that we are a mid-sized school in a single location where everything is under one roof supervised by one principal. This allows us to pay close attention to quality, and we ensure a low student teacher ratio, something that is foremost on parents’ minds. Thirdly: our location and facilities. We sit on 20,000 square feet of land on Giang Van Minh in District 2, walking distance from The Vista apartments and Villa Riviera compound. More than half of the land is dedicated to outdoor play areas. Our classrooms were purpose-built to fit our teaching methods and with comfort and space in mind. Aside from the traditional playground, we have introduced novel activities such as an outdoor water play area, an eco-garden, a mini putting green and a custom-built trampoline catering to young children, the first of its kind in Vietnam.

Mothers and fathers play an important role in shaping a child’s well-being in the early stages of their development. We make every effort to engage parents, from weekly handwritten reports and personalized feedback, to workshops and joint child and parent activities. Finally, we want to ensure good quality education is affordable. We have pegged our pricing competitively to meet the needs of discerning parents, while at the same time providing additional value wherever possible, such as extended opening hours till 5pm daily.

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What would you like your kids to take away from their time at your school?

Our school emphasizes physical, intellectual, emotional and social development, abbreviated as PIES. Aside from providing children with a good foundation for mainstream school (such as a good command of English, phonetics and basic mathematics), we want our children to be gracious, civic and environmentally conscious, worldly, and to seek out fun and meaningful activities. Above all, we want the children to relish their childhood.

What are your current and future plans for the school?

We are encouraged by the high turnout at our open house on May 22. Since then, the interest has been overwhelming. Our immediate focus is to ensure we are ready to accommodate students for our first semester in August. This school has been one year in preparation beginning with site location, construction and licensing requirements. Over the past several months, a lot of work has been put into preparing programs, teaching materials, staffing, meal planning and ensuring that the school runs smoothly from day one. Right now it is about applying the final touches and rehearsing for the start of school.

What is your view on early education in Vietnam?

Rapid economic development along with demographics, technology and lifestyle changes are reshaping educational needs of the middle class and the expat community. Parents are a lot more involved in the education process and seeking high-quality, affordable education for their children. Expats will be looking for the same standard they have been enjoying in other countries. Regulations will evolve to meet this need and so will the services offered by existing and new schools.

IMAGES BY NGOC TRAN & ANNE HILL INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL

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