BackSponsored Listings » Education » The Winter Bazaar at International School Saigon Pearl Showcases the Power of the IB PYP

Kitten Survivor, Snowy Kingdom, Toilet Tower Defense and Snacks But Weird were just a few of the large games placed on the floor beside their designers: Year Three students at International School Saigon Pearl (ISSP). The children laughed while excitedly showing off their creations and explaining the rules to parents as part of the school’s recent Winter Bazaar. A sign outside the room in English, Vietnamese and Korean announced: “How We Express Ourselves …. Board games help us learn and express our creativity.”

How We Express Ourselves signs also introduced areas of the school dedicated to song performances, street food stalls, an art gallery, and author signings for original feeling books. The phrase that each student-led activity centered around is one of the transdisciplinary themes for The International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Program (PYP) that ISSP recently received official authorization for. Along with Who We Are, Where we are in Place and Time, How the World Works, How We Organize Ourselves and Sharing the Planet, the theme of How We Express Ourselves was explored in different classes for each grade level, from early years (18-month-old students) up to Year 5 (11-year-old students). 

If you had come to the Bình Thạnh District school at this time several years ago, before it was an Authorized IB World School, you would have found a fairly typical Christmas-themed concert with performances of mostly Western songs. Instead, this year students were displaying ceramic mugs festooned with corn kernels that represent their understanding of texture as part of an investigation of how visual arts can convey emotions and ideas. Similarly, some of the younger students had illustrated books to express how they feel in various situations as prompted by situations such as “I am happy when … .”


Meanwhile, the oldest students were surrounded by handmade advertisements, logos and slogans for the popcorn, boba tea, cookies, noodles and other snacks they’d made and were selling as part of a mission to use creative expression for positive social change.


This evolution in winter festivities is emblematic of the school’s refocusing after it achieved the IB PYP distinction last year. Jason Barton, the school’s IB PYP Coordinator, explained: “As a school that has been commended for our shared commitment to leading a constructivist, inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning that promotes inquiry and the development of critical-thinking skills, I would say that some of the biggest changes are reflected in how students are developing their communication, social and creative thinking skills.” An event that involved communicating creative projects to invited families was an ideal way to showcase the changes. 

“Because the IB is such a powerful, renowned organization and holds itself and its schools to a high standard, it gave us a stronger structure,” noted Head of School, Lester Stephens. The IB PYP’s rigor allows the framework to foster and facilitate skill development, academic excellence, cultural understanding, respect, and empathy across years and disciplines. In addition to the transdisciplinary themes, it emphasizes developing ten IB learner profile attributes. Specifically, teachers and lessons aim to develop students who are “inquirers, thinkers, principled, caring, balanced, knowledgeable, communicators, open-minded, risk-takers, and reflective.”

But Lester stressed that “The DNA of the school is not the IB PYP, the DNA of ISSP is our community and core values.” Tiffany Proctor, Deputy Head of School, added that the IB PYP is simply an incredibly powerful tool that supports their overall mission of shaping the children into “Who we want them to be when we grow up.” And the type of people the ISSP wants to develop has always been global citizens who possess understanding, empathy, and profound connections to the world and its diverse people and places.

The core value of nurturing compassionate individuals concerned about the world around them informs one of the Bazaar’s most profound elements: its partnership with Saigon Children's Charity. Proceeds from tickets for each of the day’s activities as well as the snacks, in addition to Christmas cards and gifts sold by Saigonchildren directly will be used by the local charity to support less-fortunate children in the city. Last year, the school raised more than 130 million VND for scholarships and school repairs while collecting hundreds of books and toys that were donated to support disadvantaged children. This year they than raised more than VND154 million. The funds will be utilized to provide more scholarships and implement another significant school renovation project for children and families who are in the care of the Saigon Children's Charity

More than merely buying Bazaar tickets, family members are an integral part of the ISSP community. In fact, the close-knit relationship between the school and parents is what families most frequently cite as the school’s greatest strength. Regular conferences, technology platforms and showcases keep parents up-to-date with routine activities while community engagement activities such as Teachers’ Appreciation Day, Children’s Day, International Women’s Day, Hugging Day, Mid-Autumn Festival, Tet Festival, International Week and Book Week provide stellar opportunities to tighten community bonds. These opportunities to gather allow all members of the ISSP community: parents, grandparents, caregivers as well as staff and teachers to connect with each other.

The new IB PYP accreditation is strengthening this connection between students, parents and the school as well. As Jason noted, the framework has given new means to cultivate communication skills. Parents have a role in this process as exemplified by the Bazaar’s inclusion of questions parents could ask the students regarding their illustrated books. Simple prompts such as “How did you make your book?” and “Which colors did you use? Why?” not only connect with the theme of self-expression but establish constructive communication habits between children and parents to ensure that learning seamlessly transitions from school to home.

While a variety of pedagogical concepts and IB PYP educational goals were on display at the Winter Bazaar, one wouldn’t necessarily have noticed them. Rather, attendees would simply see kids laughing, joking and having fun with one another in the spirit of the season. This simultaneous pursuit of play and learning encapsulates the holistic education at International School Saigon Pearl.

International School Saigon Pearl (ISSP), is an early years & elementary school for children from 18 months to 11 years old located in Bình Thạnh district. ISSP is certified by two world-renowned educational accreditation organizations, including CIS (Council of International Schools) and NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges). ISSP has just been officially authorized as an IB World School for the Primary Years Programme (PYP) by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO). Please click here to book a tour of International School Saigon Pearl.

International School Saigon Pearl's website

International School Saigon Pearl's Facebook

+84 (028) 2222 7788

92 Đ. Nguyễn Hữu Cảnh, Phường 22, Bình Thạnh, TPHCMC

JavaScript must be enabled in order for you to use Google Maps.
However, it seems JavaScript is either disabled or not supported by your browser.
To view Google Maps, enable JavaScript by changing your browser options, and then try again.