Friday, 29 March 2013

From The Head Teacher

This has been a fabulous final two weeks and a fitting culmination of an exceptional term.

Highlights this week included the Year 10-12 Inter-house Swimming Gala and, of course, our annual production which this year featured Guys and Dolls.  Students hosted our annual Easter Party for the children of the Mai Tam House of Hope.

Last week and through the weekend, we participated in the 4th annual SAIMUN Model United Nations conference and held our own inaugural Inter-house Drama Competition. 

In Kuala Lumpur, the school was represented at the IB Asia Pacific Annual Conference. Ms. Mary Morrison and Mr. Ben Turner presented to international conference delegates on the work we are doing at BIS to ensure that the IB Learner Profile is embedded in learning though our staff performance management and professional development systems. 

This coming weekend, Year 12 students will attend a “Workshop on Creative Thinking for Leaders of the Future” by Professor John Spinks, Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Hong Kong University.

So, pretty much business as usual for our vibrant, committed school community.  I wish you all a safe and restful break and look forward to seeing you all again on Monday 15th April.

Thank you to our outgoing Head Students

In our end of term assembly, our outgoing Head Students handed over to our new team.  Annette Wu, Head Girl, Nicholas Yap, Head Boy,  Rhianne Williams, Deputy Head Girl and Vasco Egert, Deputy Head Boy have done an outstanding job since this time last year and they now step down to concentrate on the all-important IB Diploma examinations.  They have represented the school extremely well, led the prefect team superbly and are collectively the epitome of all we stand for and value.    We will thank them in person at the Graduation Ceremony next term, but in the meantime, a huge THANK YOU from all of us at BIS.

Congratulations to our new Head Students 2013-14


House Drama

On Thursday 21st March, BIS held the first house drama event for several years. Around 10 members each of the four houses (Dalat, Hue, Saigon and Hanoi) worked extremely hard over the last two months, writing scripts, planning staging and rehearsing for hours, in preparation for this event. The theme this year was ‘A Modernised Fairytale’ and required the teams to put their own creative spins on some classic stories in a ten minute timeslot! The audience was thoroughly entertained by the clever adaptations and the event was a huge success. In the end, Dalat (Cinderella) and Hue (The Emperor’s New Clothes) came joint third, Saigon (Sleeping Beauty) came second and Hanoi took first place with their version of Little Red Riding-Hood. The expert judges (Miss Sargent and Mrs Astley) also awarded several individual awards; Best Actor: Simon Arts; Best Actress: Ellie Spencer-Harty; Best Theme: Dalat; Best Script: Saigon; Best Costumes: Hue. Well done to all the students involved for their hard work and brilliant performances!

Fiona Read
Biology Teacher


SAIMUN Model United Nations

This past weekend the 4th annual SAIMUN Model United Nations conference took place in District 7. The three day conference brings together student delegates from across Ho Chi Minh City, and even from as far afield as Phnom Penh in Cambodia.

The students represent nations across the globe on issues that are a pressing concern for all of us: women’s rights in South Asia; global climate change; Combatting sea piracy; fighting drug cartels in Latin America and dealing with current global conflicts in Sudan and Syria. These wide ranging topics were debated across 5 different diplomatic councils: The General Assembly; Environmental council; the Economic and Social council; Human Rights council and The Security council.

All of the delegates knew it was going to be a challenging conference and as always the debate was impassioned, the speeches thoughtful and lucid and the resolutions thorough and robustly tested. Through collaboration in lobbying and submitting resolutions, debating on amendments, making persuasive and often pointed speeches and asking insightful points of information (POIs) the conference succeeded in its goal to discuss and propose viable solutions to the pressing problems we face in today’s world. The BIS delegation had delegates agreeing to act as the “main submitter” in every council; they were charged with proposing and taking responsibility for resolutions. Impressively, over half successfully passed their resolutions in the face of often fierce debate. No less than seven BIS delegates won accolades for their oratory skills and diplomacy, from “Most likely to be secretary general”, “Most passionate delegate” and “Most articulate delegate” through to the rather grand “Most likely to facilitate world peace”.

When the dust settled at the end of the conference on Sunday and the Secretary General brought proceedings to a close with the swift strike of her gavel all the students could be rightly proud of their efforts. They have demonstrated understanding of the issues, sensitivity, compassion, empathy and considerable speaking and debating skills. The collaboration, persistence and depth of thought demonstrated across all of the councils was inspiring, and both Mr. Gamwell and Miss Smith would like to congratulate all of the delegates for another fantastic MUN conference.




Mai Tam Shelter Easter Party

On Tuesday the 26th March we had the pleasure of inviting 40 children from the Mai Tam Shelter to BIS for an Easter Party. We organised a variety of Easter themed activities that included Easter egg decorating, mask colouring, ball games and “rabbit races”. Without even seeing the festivities in the gym, the children were brimming with excitement; their smiles wide and cheery. Immediately upon entering, the kids ran around the gym, squealing with excitement and joy. The children do not have a large space to play in at the shelter so being able to run around the gym is liberating for them. The activities were done enthusiastically, and the event ended on a high with a dance performance from the children.

The event was fantastic as it enabled us to interact with the children and see the effects of our charity work on a one to one basis, and it was very rewarding to see how excited they were to be able to run around and enjoy time with the students and teachers and we are happy that this is now a well-established partnership. You can tell the children feel comfortable in our school and enjoying the activities as they have now been invited to several parties. The children really participated with the students, playing games with them, having conversations, and we had a chance to get to know the children better. Everyone made an effort which resulted in a very fun and festive atmosphere for the kids.

On behalf of year 10, we would to say that it was an amazing experience all round and we look forward to continuing this relationship by hosting other events like it. We learnt about what kind of space they live in, how small it is and why it is important for us to hold these events. We learned how funds we raise at school are spent at Mai Tam and how much they appreciate our support. We really hope to see the children again soon.

Maddie 10S, Ellie 10S and Samantha 10N

GINS Conferences 2013

What is GINS? It stands for Global Issues Network, Saigon. GIN is a worldwide organisation for education on global issues, inspired by the book High Noon by Jean-Francois Rischard explaining that we have just 20 years to solve 20 problems.

When was it? Held on 8, 9th and 10th March.

Where was it? This year it was hosted by ISHCMC.

Who went? We sent BIS representatives from Year 12 this time but next year we would like to send students from Year 6 upwards. Students from all around the city attended – from both international schools and Vietnamese universities. Over 300 students attended!

What did it involve? It is a provision for increasing global awareness on a local scale for students allowing students to challenge their skills in discussion, debate, problem solving, budget controlling, leadership and group work, presentations, films, workshop leading, teaching, public speaking…see the website:

What did the BIS delegates think of it?

The GANGS sessions were excellent. We discussed and set SMART targets on trying to overcome Deforestation (the winners of the GANG competition were human trafficking, Illegal Drugs and Poverty). I employed my motivational skills to question others in the group, suggest ideas and enable us to formulate a plan of action. Nghia Mai Year 12

I enjoyed it because there were so many great minds who thought differently. I was amazed to find a year 7 coming up with innovative ideas like finding a NGO for Fishing and asked them for help to make our solutions more achievable when I was in the Fisheries depletion committee for GANGS. I really enjoyed these enriching sessions. We also learned from the student led workshops on how to deal with problems and learnt new activities to enhance our experiences in our service communities. I was told by my peers that I was very inspiring because of the actions have taken in my community service commitments which they impressive. I would recommend other people to join next year so that they can find out that Service is more than joining a Community Service club, its learning new ways of being creative, learning about yourself and being motivated for a cause. Adam Matsukai Year 12

It was an extremely enlightening conference to attend and I would definitely recommend this conference to anyone else who is interested in learning more about Community Service, meeting new people, making new friends, and learning about global issues as well as starting a project that will help this world issue in the future.

In my opinion the main values of this conference were: teamwork, global awareness, being able to share your opinion, and definitely getting you to work with people you are not used to. Throughout the conference I think I learnt a lot of things. One of the main things I have learnt from this conference is that you are not always going to be able to work with people you are comfortable with. And for this reason, the GIN conference helps its delegate, without realizing that it does, to improve their communication skills and help them get comfortable with other people. Personally, I think everyone who went to the conference was inspired to do something or the other. I don’t think there was a person in there who didn’t take something back, whether it was from the student ted talks, the guest key note speaker, or the motivational speeches by the students or the workshops. Although, the thing I was most inspired by was the amount of effort put into getting the conference organized. I realized this when I got home after the second day, after the amazing race, how difficult it would have been to organize the entire three days and ensure it runs the way it does. Keeping that in mind, it inspired me to try and initiate my own projects sometime in the future. Hetvi Shah Year 12

Should you be involved next year? Most definitely YES!!!

When is it next year? March 2014 hosted by SSIS

Look out for the advertising in term 1 next year and get ready to sign up!

Emma Morris
Community Service Projects Manager


Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Prefect Leadership Training

On Saturday 16th March 2013, 28 recently chosen prefects spent the day in school, stepping out of their comfort zones, pushing their personal boundaries and developing their skills in team work, decision making and leadership.  This day is one of the privileges of the prefect role;  it is an opportunity for students to learn skills that will help them in their positions of responsibility, now and in the future.

The day was ably led by our own ex-navy Major, Mr. Rad Lowry, assisted by Mrs. Anne-Marie Cowan (Head of Sixth Form), Mr. Peter Gillmore (Deputy Head) and me.  After a gentle introduction to some theoretical aspects of leadership, students were put through their paces in a series of exercises and simulations.  These were designed to provide contexts for examining team behaviours, practising leadership and exploring rational and interpersonal aspects of decision making.

Laughter, surprise and an element of discomfort characterised the experiences, and students shone as they interacted with their customary respect, care and curiosity.

Richard Dyer
Head Teacher


Bridges – Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace

Opening remarks

Nicholas Yap – Head Boy

On behalf of the students of The British International School, I am delighted to welcome Professor Ngô Bảo Châu, the 2010 Fields Medal Recipient, as our keynote speaker in the 4th ASEAN event series “Bridges –Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace”.  This visit is facilitated by the Vienna-based International Peace Foundation and Viet Nam’s Ministry of Education and Training

Professor Ngô Bảo Châu is the fifth keynote speaker visiting Vietnam as part of the 4th ASEAN “Bridges” programme,  after the visits of Economics Nobel Laureate Prof. Roger B. Myerson,  Medicine Nobel Laureate Prof. Harald zur Hausen, Physics Nobel Laureate Douglas D. Osheroff and Chemistry Nobel Laureate Prof. Sir Harold W. Kroto.  The 4th ASEAN “Bridges” event series follows from 450 events which the International Peace Foundation has hosted in Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Cambodia since 2003.

Thirty eight Nobel Laureates as well as 18 other keynote speakers and artists have participated in these events aimed to support education in the ASEAN region.  These speakers have included Vladimir Ashkenazy, Dr. Hans Blix, Jackie Chan, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Vanessa Mae, Jessye Norman, Dame Anita Roddick, Oliver Stone and Dr. James Wolfensohn.  The programme deals with the overall theme of "building a culture of peace and development in a globalized world", bridging Vietnamese and foreign perspectives.

The topics cover a wide range of issues and especially highlight the challenges of both globalization and regionalism and its impact on development and international cooperation. The aim of “Bridges” is to facilitate and strengthen dialogue and communication between societies in Southeast Asia with their multiple cultures and faiths as well as with peoples in other parts of the world to promote understanding and trust.

The events build bridges through Nobel Laureates with local universities and other institutions in Southeast Asia to establish long-term relationships which may result in common research programs and other forms of collaboration. By enhancing science, technology and education as a basis for peace and development the events aim towards a better cooperation for the advancement of peace, freedom and security in the region with the active involvement of the young generation, ASEAN’s key to the future.

Annette Wu - Head Girl

Professor Ngô Bảo Châu is a mathematician at the University of Chicago who was awarded the Fields Medal in 2010 and who is best known for proving the fundamental lemma for automorphic forms.

Professor Châu was born in 1972 in Hanoi and at the age of 15 was admitted into a mathematics-specializing class of the Vietnam National University High School. In grades 11 and 12 he participated in the 29th and 30th International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) and became the first Vietnamese student to win two gold medals, of which the first was won with a perfect score.

After high school Ngô Bảo Châu went on to study at the École Normale Supérieure. He obtained a PhD in 1997 from the Universite Paris-Sud. He became member of CNRS at the Paris Trieze University, where he stayed from 1998 to 2005. Professor Châu became professor at Paris-Sud Onze University in 2005.

Also in 2005 he received the title of professor in Vietnam and became the youngest professor ever in Vietnam at the age of 33. Since 2007 he has worked at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey. He joined the mathematics faculty at the University of Chicago in 2010, and was appointed in 2011 by the Prime Minister of Vietnam to head the Vietnam Institute for Advanced Study in Mathematics in Hanoi. In 2010 Professor. Châu was awarded the Fields Medal in a ceremony at the International Congress of Mathematicians meeting in Hyderabad.

He was praised for his "brilliant proof" of a 30-year-old mathematical conundrum known as the fundamental lemma. This proof offered a key stepping stone to establishing and exploring a revolutionary theory put forward in 1979 by Canadian-American mathematician Professor Robert Langlands that connected two branches of mathematics called number theory and group theory.

"It's as if people were working on the far side of the river waiting for someone to throw this bridge across," Prof. Peter Sarnak, a number theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, said of Professor Châu's historic breakthrough. "And now all of sudden everyone's work on the other side of the river has been proven"

Professor Châu's proof of the general case was selected by Time magazine as one of the top ten scientific discoveries of 2009.  The Fields Medal, founded by the Canadian John Fields and first awarded in 1936, is widely viewed as the highest honour a mathematician can receive.

We are indeed honoured and delighted to welcome Professor Châu to throw some bridges across our intellectual and social rivers here at the British International School. I would now like to welcome Mr. Richard Dyer, Head Teacher at BIS, to deliver his opening address.

Mr. Dyer’s opening address

Ladies and gentlemen, students, honoured guests, Mr. Daniel Bednarik, Mr. Uwe Morowetz,  Professor Ngô Bảo Châu. It is indeed an honour and a privilege for BIS to host today’s International Peace Foundation’s  Bridges Dialogue and to welcome Professor Ngô Bảo Châu, one of the most distinguished mathematicians of our time and the first Vietnamese recipient of the highest honour in mathematics, the Fields Medal.  It is a particular privilege for the British International School, Ho Chi Minh City, to be able to support the cause of the International Peace Foundation, a cause close to my heart and close to the hearts of all of the BIS community.
As a head teacher, I rarely get a chance to talk about my own specialist subject, the subject I spent some 25 years teaching.  That subject is mathematics and now I have a stage, an audience and a distinguished  mathematician, so I can’t resist.  So, please indulge me for a few brief moments while I share some thoughts about mathematics, about the mission of the British International School and about how that connects with the mission of the Bridges programme.

Mathematics is awesome.  I don’t say that in the trivial manner which is implied by the use of the word  awesome.  Awesome has been over-used in recent years and has lost some of its power, its glow.  Perhaps I should say, “Mathematics is awe-inspiring.”  Mathematics has huge potential to inspire awe and wonder, arouse enormous respect, and even fear and anxiety. That is the nature of awe, that is the nature of things that are truly awesome.

Let me see if I can bring that home to you.  We have all, at some point in our education, had experience of that most fundamental of quantities, the number that appears, as if by magic when we divide the  distance round the circumference of a circle by the distance across the centre.  Do this with any circle, anywhere and out pops the number which starts off 3.14159265358979323… and on it goes, forever, never repeating, never ending, never showing any sort of pattern.  It is called “irrational” .  It’s called “transcendental”  -  evocative and awe-inspiring terms in themselves.  Isn’t that strange?  A number so fundamental in the universe, and yet it displays no pattern.

It pops up later in mathematics with alarming frequency, connecting branches of mathematics that initially seemed disconnected.  Building bridges, if you like.  The number is so fundamental to mathematics and to the universe that every culture on earth has the same name for it, pi.  Even in school, we get a glimpse of its  central role in building bridges to connect different branches of mathematics with Euler’s famous formula, ( ) I first encountered this simple looking formula as a 17 year old sixth former and this formula still fills me with awe and wonder today.
The number π kept popping up in my own fumbling with elementary mathematics after leaving school.  I remember the sense of awe, verging on disbelief, when, with just one piece of plain paper and a pencil, a few mathematical symbols could describe the structure of space and time in the universe, and, in less than one side of A4 paper, predict the existence of black holes.  π was on that page.  Pencil, paper and mathematics.  You can predict the existence of black holes without leaving the room, without leaving your seat.  If that isn’t awesome, I’m not sure what is! 
If we regard mathematics as a tool, it surely must be one the most significant and powerful tools that humankind has at its disposal.  To have Professor Châu, one of the world’s most distinguished mathematicians turning his mathematical talents to the cause of peace and inter-cultural cooperation is surely an awesome and awe-inspiring use of that tool.
As a school, we have a well-established bridge that connects us to the International Peace Foundation and the work of the Bridges programme and it is a pleasure today to be supporting the work of the Foundation.  Our students are all working towards the Diploma of the International Baccalaureate, the IB.  The IB has a mission which is unashamedly altruistic and audaciously ambitious.  The mission is to, “create a better, more peaceful world through inter-cultural understanding and respect”and to do so through education.
That is an awe-inspiring mission and we are proud to be involved, we are proud to help our intelligent, respectful, caring young global citizens prepare to step up and to play their part for the future peace and security of the world that we pass on to them. We are proud also, to now be able to play our part in supporting the International Peace Foundation in their mission and perhaps instil a sense of awe and wonder in the young hearts and minds before me today.
It now gives me great pleasure to welcome our distinguished guest, the mathematician who first proved the fundamental lemma for Lie algebras and for unitary groups, recipient of the Oberwolfach Prize and  the Prix Sophie Germain de l’Académie des Sciences de Paris.  Head of the Vietnam Institute for Advanced Study in Mathematics in Hanoi and Recipient of the 2010 Fields Medal for proving the fundamental lemma for the    general case, and the first recipient from a less economically developed country.
Please welcome Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, Professor Ngô Bảo Châu