Friday, 26 October 2012

Emergency Number

As you may be aware, we have a single trip emergency number that we give to parents to contact when their children are on residential trips.  This ensures that all emergencies are routed through a single point of contact here in HCMC (even when the trip is overseas).

The mobile phone number we have held for over a year now has ‘expired’ and we now have a new number.  Please make a note of the following number for all secondary school trips:
0909 026 547
For emergencies only
Richard Dyer
Head Teacher

From The Head Teacher

International Day 2012
International Day 2012 is drawing to a close, and the students and teachers are leaving for a well-earned half term break, their ears buzzing with the sounds of music from across the world, their stomachs full from tasting so many international delicacies and, I hope, their hearts and minds warmed by the friendship of the global community we share.

Enormous thanks are due to the many parents who contributed today.  The rooms were fabulous, as ever, and the games and food superb.  We had an overwhelming response to the call for auction prizes and the students gave generously to support the school community service projects.

The PTG Committee, led by Clare Nevin and assisted by Peter Gillmore, worked hard at the organisation for many weeks, pulling together volunteers from across our community.

Keep in touch

Twitter: @RichardMDyer

Richard Dyer
Head Teacher

How to maximise your memory

Forget rote learning, one of the best ways to commit something to memory is to think of associated images – the more outlandish, the better
From:, Saturday 14 January 2012 00.26 GMT

Photograph: Randy Mora/YCN
If you're revising for an exam, learning a new language, or just keen on maximising your memory for everyday life, here are some strategies that might help …


The brain is often likened to a muscle, the suggestion being that if you exercise it, its function will improve. A bodybuilder can strengthen his biceps by repeatedly lifting weights and so, the argument goes, you can improve your memory by repeating over and over to yourself (either out loud or sub-vocally) the information you wish to remember.

For years, researchers considered that "rehearsing" information in this way was necessary to retain it in your short-term memory and transfer it into long-term memory. This view fits with our instinct that if we want to remember something like a phone number, we say it to ourselves again and again in the hope that it "sticks". Generations of students have held fast to the principle that repeatedly reading through lecture notes and textbooks, attempting to rote learn the facts needed for exams, is the path to success.

There is evidence that the more an item is rehearsed, the greater the likelihood of long-term retention. In one study, participants were presented with a list of words and were asked to rehearse the list out loud. When asked to recall the words, memory retrieval improved as a direct function of the amount of rehearsal that was undertaken. However, in almost all circumstances, simple rote rehearsal is much less effective than strategies that involve thinking about the meaning of the information you are trying to remember.

'Elaborative' processing

Although many people imagine that actors memorise their lines using rote rehearsal, research conducted by the psychologist Helga Noice suggests that this is not always the case. Noice found that some actors learn their lines by focusing not on the words of the script, but on their underlying meaning and the motivations of the character who uses them. This is consistent with laboratory evidence – although rehearsing a list of words improves long-term memory for the material to some degree, a more effective strategy is so-called "elaborative" processing, which involves relating the information to associated facts and relevant knowledge. In one study, participants were asked to learn words using one of the following questions:
a) Is the word written in capital letters?
b) Does the word contain two or more syllables?
c) Does the word refer to an item of furniture?
Highest levels of recall were observed following question c, which involves deeper, more elaborative, meaning-based processing.

Another experiment involved participants learning sentences either by simply studying the sentence (eg "The doctor hated the lawyer") or by generating an elaborate continuation to the sentence (eg "The doctor hated the lawyer because of the malpractice suit"). The elaboration method improved memory for the sentence significantly, suggesting that the cognitive effort involved led to deeper encoding of the original sentence.

One study compared different kinds of elaboration to investigate which might be most useful when revising for exams. One group of participants was given topics in the form of questions to think about before reading a text, whereas another group was just asked to study the text. The researchers found that reviewing the text with relevant questions in mind improved retention and subsequent recall of the material.

Indeed, elaborative processing is such a powerful memorisation technique that it appears not to matter whether you are trying to learn the elaborated information. Researchers asked participants to carry out two tasks: checking if a word contained a particular letter, or thinking about the word's meaning. Half the participants thought the true purpose of the experiment was just to carry out the task, whereas the other half were told that they would be tested for recall. The results showed that whether or not people intend to learn is less important than how they process the information.


A visit to any bookshop will reveal myriad self-help books promoting the use of mnemonics as a means of improving your memory. The Method of Loci, perhaps the most well-known mnemonic technique, involves thinking of images that link the information you are trying to learn with familiar locations. So, when trying to remember a list of words, you might imagine walking between the various rooms in your home and in each one commit a word to memory by forming an image that combines the word with a distinguishing feature of the room. For example, if trying to remember the word "apple", you might imagine an apple bouncing on the sofa in your living room. Retrieving the list of words is achieved by mentally walking through the rooms of your house again. One study found that people using the Loci method could recall more than 90% of a list of 50 words after studying them just once.
Mnemonic strategies often lie behind the extraordinary feats of remembering achieved by memory champions such as Dominic O'Brien, the British author and eight-time winner of the World Memory Championships. O'Brien once famously spent 12 hours at a restaurant in London going through 54 packs of randomly ordered playing cards, studying each card once. He then managed to recall 2,800 of the 2,808 cards in the correct order, an astonishing level of success.

The American writer and memory champion Joshua Foer describes in his book, Moonwalking with Einstein, how he learned to use a particularly vivid form of Loci to remember playing cards. For example: "At the front door, I saw my friend Liz vivisecting a pig (two of hearts, two of diamonds, three of hearts) …" Foer's method, which allows him to associate multiple items with each mental location, led him to set a record at the 2006 US Memory Championships by memorising an entire pack of 52 cards in only 1min 40sec.

Techniques such as Loci can be readily adapted to help us remember appointments, birthdays, errands we need to run, etc. As illustrated by Foer's example, the key with mnemonics is creating the most striking visual images possible. The more ludicrous, creative and elaborative you can be, the greater the chance of success.

Retrieval practice

Evidence suggests that repeatedly testing yourself on the information you have learned can enhance retention considerably. The great memory researcher Endel Tulving was among the first to discover the merits of so-called "retrieval practice". In a number of experiments, participants learned lists of words in three conditions: standard (study, test, study, test); repeated study (study, study, study, test); and repeated test (study, test, test, test). The repeated study group had three times as much exposure to the words as the repeated test group. If learning occurs only when studying, it follows that they should have had better memory. But Tulving found equivalent immediate learning across conditions. However, if retention is measured after a one-week delay, repeated retrieval testing can lead to markedly better recall than repeated studying, even if the studying involves an elaborative learning strategy.

The importance of testing one's memory has been shown to apply to a number of everyday learning situations. The American psychologists Jeff Karpicke and Roddy Roediger investigated the most effective method for learning foreign languages. They found that repeated testing during the learning period resulted in 80% accurate vocabulary recall when examined a week later, whereas strategies used in language study guides saw success rates drop to 30%. Interestingly, when the researchers asked those who took part to predict their later performance, the participants didn't think the repeated testing method gave them any advantage.

This accords with other research indicating that when students are revising for exams, self-testing is a rarely used strategy. If students do self-test, it is often to assess what they've learned, rather than to enhance their long-term retention of the material. Perhaps the fact that repeated study feels less demanding than repeatedly testing yourself leads people to prefer the first approach. However, the evidence suggests strongly that active approaches to learning such as repeated retrieval practice can reap dividends.
• Dr Jon Simons is a cognitive neuroscientist based in the department of experimental psychology at the University of Cambridge. He leads an interdisciplinary research programme investigating the role of brain areas such as the frontal and parietal lobes in the strategic control of human memory. You can follow him on Twitter at @js_simons

The Little Prince

BIS has teamed up with Dragonfly Theatre Company to provide students and families with a unique opportunity to see the upcoming production of "The Little Prince".  English speaking, professional quality theatre has simply not been available in Ho Chi Minh City and yet it is a superb way of exciting children about the dramatic arts and improving their speaking and listening skills.  Dragonfly have already been in to school to perform in the AP1 Book Week assembly and to lead Year 4 students in a drama workshop.

The first performance takes place on Tuesday 6th November at 4:30pm at Hoàng Thái Thanh theatre, 36 Lê Quý Đôn street, District 3 and is currently only open to BIS students and families.  The show is 2 hours long including an interval.  Tickets for the general shows (on November 8th, 10th, 15th and 17th November) are 250,000 VND per seat but Dragonfly are offering seats to the special performance for 200,000 VND. You can choose and pay for your seats through your campus cashier.  The tickets are all the same price regardless of where you sit so it's a case of first come, first served.  They will be on sale from Wednesday 17th October.

Saigon Mathematics Competition

The Saigon Mathematics Competition  is a regular event held in a different school each year. This year's competition was held at ABC International School in Phu My Hung on October 6th. There were around 100 participants from a dozen schools and it took place on a Saturday morning. BIS was represented by 8 sixth form students. The competition lasted for 4 hours and consisted of 4 rounds: 1 individual and 3 team activities: Pass It Back, Crosswords and Dragon Run.

The Final activity, Dragon Run, was particularly exciting and we had to run around the auditorium to get the questions, go back quickly to our desks to answer them and finally rush again to the front to submit our answers. Jonathan from my math class was so overeager that he couldn't stop jumping after the run and forgot a few answers! Still BIS won the prize for best overall result.

I had already participated in the Saigon Senior Math Competition 3 years ago and had enjoyed the experience so much that I volunteered for this year's competition. I found that the facilities and the level of preparation were not as adequate this time. I hope that next year's organizers will take a bit more time to plan the activities.

Still it was a great experience but as I am graduating this year, this was the last time that I had the chance to participate. Many members of this year's team told me that they were looking forward to next year. We really hope to see many new faces join us on that occasion or at least come to support and cheer for their school!

Yong Whi Kim

"Both teams performed really well and did the school proud. Congratulations to BIS 1 ( Jae Ho Han, Won Jung Park, James Lee and Jung Minh Kang) for winning the competition and to BIS 2 ( Hieu Nguyen, Jonathon Low, Minh Chau Nguyen and Yong Whi Kim) who did extremely well to finish 3rd overall. As it was my first experience of the SMC, I was overwhelmed by the level of enthusiasm shown by all the participants.  Next stop is the Intermediate competition on 24th November hosted by AIS. Come on BIS, you have a lot to live up to!

Ben Sillitoe
Mathematics Teacher

Community – Thao Dien Disabled School

Every Thursday 20 BIS student volunteers from different year groups head down the road after school. The Thao Dien School for Disabled Children is a school located 5 minutes from ours and is one of our long-standing community links. One hundred and twenty children with mental disabilities attend the school and they are from all over HCMC and it’s provinces. Although they have to pay for it, the children’s parents send them to this school as it provides an education specific to their needs. The children really look forward to our visits. They have fun interacting with our students in the playground, playing with bean bags, hoops and balls and they also enjoy painting and drawing. After half term, Year 12s will be leading English lessons, teaching some of the their pupils vocabulary and songs. We look forward to extending our links with the school in November by welcoming them to BIS during Year 8 ILS lessons. Our Year 8 pupils will have the opportunity to plan activities and parties for the pupils of the Thao Dien Disabled School.

Emma Goodwin
Secondary Community Service Leader

Battle of the Bands 2012

After endless weeks of serious rehearsing, auditions and sound checks, the Battle of the Bands 2012 took place in the auditorium last Thursday. The evening began with the judges emerging through a cloud of smoke as the audience rushed from their seats to get a front row standing point.

The bands all played a fantastic mix of songs in many different and styles and were all well-rehearsed and full of energy when on the stage.  Songs as diverse as ‘Teen Spirit’ and ‘The Youths’ ukulele inspired  version of ‘Summer Vibe’ with lovely vocal harmonies.

The expectant crowd enjoyed an impromptu ‘Gangnam Style’ dance from members of the audience before the judges announced ‘The Unicorns’ as the KS3 winners and ‘Unplugged’ as the winners of KS4 and 5 and the overall competition winners were ‘Fat Cat’.  The judges commented on their stage presence and the tightness of the ensemble in their performances of ‘Gangnam Style’ and ‘Staying Alive’.
Sarah James
Head of Music

Monday, 15 October 2012

The IB Diploma Programme at BIS

As our Year 11 students immerse themselves in the process of choosing their IB Diploma Programme subjects for Year 12, I thought I’d take the opportunity to highlight what makes the IB Diploma Programme here at BIS the right choice.  First there are reasons relating to the Diploma Programme itself. 

There is a saying that education is what remains after what you learned has been forgotten.    While this is a simplistic view, it does highlight the point that the experience of school remains long after facts and skills have diminished. 

The Diploma Programme is, like no other post-16 education course, an connected total experience.  The core of Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge and Creativity, Action and Service (CAS) tie the six disparate subject parts together.  The core also challenges students intellectually as well as demanding that they challenge themselves through service and action and leadership.  A phrase attributed to Kurt Hahn that many will have seen in the context international education, “Plus est en vous” – there is more in you than you think, clearly lies at the heart of the Diploma Programme.

Here at BIS we offer that programme with benefits: 

· Making big leaps forward requires a stable platform from which to leap.  Taking off from a wobbly and unfamiliar surface can lead to uncertain direction and distance.  At BIS there is the benefit of a known, supportive school environment complemented by a supportive home environment during this time of intellectual change, challenge and growth.

· The course is short and fast and in such a short five term course, it’s essential to make the best use of every moment. So there is the benefit of being well-known to the teachers, right from day one of Year 12, so they can help the students hit the ground running, to start off at full speed. 

· At this age, students listen to each other as much as they listen to adults.  So we have a specialist tutor system in the Sixth Form, where Year 13 students are in the same small form group as Year 12s, for peer support and advice. 

· In fact, we allocate a larger team of support teachers  for our Sixth Form students than any other year group.  Alongside tutors, we have smaller subject classes, an IB Coordinator, and Extended Essay Coordinator, ToK teachers, CAS Coordinator, Careers and University Guidance Counsellor, Head of Sixth Form and Deputy Head of Sixth Form

· Setting up CAS projects for the core of the Diploma can be time consuming.  So we have well-established community links, forged over time, that can support our Sixth Formers in their CAS programmes.  We also now run the (Duke of Edinburgh) International Award for Young People Gold which fulfils many of the requirements of CAS.

With the Diploma Programme being the world’s best preparation for university and our Sixth Form being a superb environment to succeed, it is no surprise that our numbers grow year on year.

Richard Dyer
Head Teacher