Dr Simon Camby, Group Chief Education Officer, recently visited International School Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. He shares details of his fantastic experience working with colleagues to simplify and redefine high-quality teaching and learning in the school community. 

The quote from Leonardo da Vinci used as the title for this article was particularly relevant when I was working recently with the brilliant members of the leadership team at International School Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC).

Learning is the core business of any school. Easy to write, more challenging to get right. It is challenging because learning is a multi-faceted and multi-layered concept. Each educator, each parent and each student has their own known and unknown biases in relation to what learning could and should look like. In Cognita, we view high-quality learning as central to our core commitment to deliver excellence in Holistic Education.

ISHCMC is a K-12 IB (International Baccalaureate) World School with over 1,400 students. It is a diverse and rich learning context with over 58 nationalities in the student body. Simply, a great place to learn and work. The mission at ISHCMC is to inspire wellbeing and learning so students flourish as ‘Energised, Engaged and Empowered’ learners.

I spent time with the leadership team working on their revised definition of High-Quality Teaching and Learning. Our work built on extended engagement with the whole community which ensured multiple perspectives were incorporated into the thinking. Through a process of collaboration and refinement, we drafted a definition of High-Quality Teaching and Learning that honours the mission and ethos of ISHCMC.

We provide challenging, inquiry-based learning experiences for students to develop an authentic sense of belonging and agency.

Within this definition are four key concepts:

  1. Challenge
  2. Inquiry
  3. Belonging
  4. Agency

For each of these we agreed what key strands were included and drafted age-appropriate impact statements as a vehicle for benchmarking student growth.

I learned three key points from our time together:

  • Gaining wide and diverse perspectives supports rich thinking
  • Accepting that a definition can never cover all eventualities was a liberating agreement
  • Allowing for nuance in the way that the principles can been seen at different phases in the school and through different specialisms brings the definition to life in a meaningful and practical way

Of course, agreeing on the definition is the easy part! This must be activated through every aspect of the school so that it lives and breathes.

I am grateful to Kim Green (Head of School) and the whole team for welcoming me as part of this process. This was working proof that together, we are stronger. Above all, I respect their desire to make this work central to the school, accessible to all and as simple as possible. Maybe, living the words of Albert Einstein…

Everything should be made as simple as possible.

But not simpler.