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How Sixth Form Prepares British International School Students to Thrive

“It’s not just about getting into university, it’s what you’ll do there, and after, will you thrive?” Sean O’Neill, Headteacher at British International School, Ho Chi Minh City explains.

Sixth Form is the British term for the final two years of a high school education. “Education is all about transformation,” Sean says, and Sixth Form is when students “really take the step to true independence…and make choices to shape their futures.”

Sixth Form is also when BIS students move from the British curriculum to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). The academic success of BIS students speaks for itself, as this past year they scored 32nd out of 3,020 schools worldwide in their IB examinations with an average score of 38 out of 45, compared to the global average of 29.92. Overall, 98.9% of BIS students pass the examination and go on to study at some of the top institutions in the world, including the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, Seoul National University, and the University of Tokyo, amongst many others.

But, as Sean says, it’s not just about getting into a top school, but being prepared for what awaits. BIS readies students via its rigorous academic and co-curricular programs. By their final two years of study, the relationship between students and teachers has transitioned into one of mentee and mentor, which reflects what pupils will experience in the real world. Similarly, their daily schedules open up and they are introduced to the free time that fosters self-motivated learning.

A key component of becoming passionate, independent thinkers is being able to pursue areas of interest. Thus, BIS students take an active role in designing their own curriculums, and the administration asks for their input when considering what areas of expertise new teachers should have. Because BIS is a fairly large school, it can offer courses that are not common everywhere, such as a literature & performance, sports exercise & health science, environmental systems and societies and higher level computer science. 

BIS is unique amongst Saigon’s IB schools in adhering to the British curriculum until Sixth Form. The curriculum prepares students for the academic challenges ahead by carefully adding academic skills to students' programs throughout their Secondary education. For example, in year 8 they learn how to write academic papers, and in year 9, they receive training on research and study methods. These skills are necessary not only for Sixth Form and university but in many professional settings they will encounter after. Similarly, two years before the IB program students sit for British examinations which ultimately makes them better prepared for the eventual IB exams that go so far in determining university admission, Sean notes.

Of course, school is not all about test scores and scholarship offers. A good school produces global citizens that contribute to the world while also having healthy, satisfying private lives. Thus, BIS facilities a large number of co-curricular sports, arts and service programs. These help students develop important leadership and interpersonal skills, as well as further explore their hobbies, such as in the recently founded student-run Club Cure that promotes environmental sustainability. And typical coursework across all ages is supplemented by collaborations with New York’s famed music and art school, Juilliard, UNICEF and a STEAM partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

This diversity of clubs and activities helps students develop into well-rounded young adults, but the school knows it is also important to directly address wellbeing, and Sean notes “you show what you value by the time you devote to it.” Thus, the curriculum includes a bespoke wellbeing program, based on the field of positive psychology but specifically designed for BIS students, and teachers and counselors are trained to provide personalized support.

The IBDP courses, the opportunity to be challenged in a personally designed curriculum, the range of extracurricular choices, and the wellness classes all combine to make Sixth Form a unique time for BIS students. The goal isn’t just to get good grades and accepted into a top university but, according to Sean, to become a young adult with a “positive sense of self, positive relationship with others and a positive relationship with the world.”


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BIS HCMC, SECONDARY CAMPUS | 246 Nguyen Van Huong Street, D.2, HCMC



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