For more than 1,000 years, boarding schools have been a popular education model for families in the United Kingdom, and this year the first premium international school in Saigon is bringing the option to Vietnam.
With origins in monastery education, boarding schools provide primary- or secondary-school students with a place to live and eat at or near their school under the supervision of their educators. Many parents choose the model when they cannot provide daily transportation, often because they live too far from the school they think is the best fit for their children.
Considering the importance that families in Vietnam place on their children’s education, it’s not surprising that people in rural areas or smaller cities send their children to Saigon to study at elite schools. Doing so usually involves students needing to rent a room without supervision or stay with family members. But now a better option has emerged: Australia International School (AIS) in District 2 is opening its premium boarding school for fall 2020 enrollment for students in years 7-13. The flexible boarding options mean students can enjoy all the benefits of international education while still remaining connected to their native culture and within convenient reach of their families.
The Value of Boarding Schools
The merits of boarding schools have been debated extensively in the west, with experts pointing to a variety of benefits. In addition to the obvious logistics of allowing students to attend class without long or impossible commutes, it fosters a variety of opportunities to grow personally and academically.
Many students struggle to adapt to the freedoms and responsibilities they encounter when attending university. Living independently, managing one’s time and schedule, and handling such tasks as laundry and cooking can all be overwhelming for young adults who have lived at home their entire lives. A boarding school, however, prepares them by introducing them to a similar environment, but with more rules and oversight by school staff.
Being at the AIS for longer hours also makes it easier for students to be involved in the school’s wide range of extracurricular organizations and activities. It also makes it more convenient to meet with teachers and study with one another.
Being surrounded by peers in a safe and inviting environment not only improves social skills and fosters life-long friendships, but for non-native English speakers, it represents an ideal immersion for language acquisition. Like all of its classwork and extracurriculars, AIS’ dormitories and activities associated with the boarding school are all conducted in English and thus provide extra opportunities to hone their fluency.
AIS students reflect a diverse mix of backgrounds and cultures, and living in this environment instead of simply studying in it enhances the development of a global mindset and soft skills. Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the UK’s Independent Schools Council, explains that it allows students to “build skills and enthusiasm and help develop personality characteristics such as teamwork, resilience and concentration — all of which can be just as important to a young person’s life as Latin or physics.”
Nearly all AIS graduates attend prestigious universities around the world, so it’s essential they are prepared to move away from home. As Forbes noted, “78% of boarding school grads felt well prepared for the non-academic aspects of college life, such as independence, social life, and time management, compared to 36% of private day and 23% of public school students.” Thus, in the same way that AIS’ rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum prepares pupils for university classrooms, boarding prepares them for the experience’s lifestyle.
When designing their boarding school system, AIS sought the advice of experienced professionals in the Inspired network. The collection of 64 schools on five continents includes numerous boarding schools in the UK, Switzerland and Spain. AIS joined Inspired last year and immediately began collaborating on curriculum, learning methods and information exchange. The AIS team has also taken advantage of their knowledge when establishing its boarding program.
A special area on the upper floor of the school has been constructed to make room for two-person dorm rooms. The modern but comfortable space includes shared bathrooms, a cafeteria, laundry service, lounge and break-out areas, and a cinema. Students are separated according to gender and activities are closely monitored with, curfews and restrictions to ensure students behave as they would in their family homes.
Flexible boarding schedules have recently gained popularity in the west and may prove appealing in Saigon. Partial boarding allows students to return home for weekends to spend time with their families. Students can also opt to stay in the dorms all week long during the fall and spring semester, which makes sense for students whose hometowns or families might be in other countries.
As education opportunities improve across Vietnam, AIS continues to lead the way with its boarding school. The first of its kind in Saigon, it represents not only a solution for families that may not live in the city, but a unique opportunity for students to mature and prepare for a successful, independent life.
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