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As our students in grades 5-12 return from their school trips today, I want to remind everyone of the intent and the importance of these trips. There is always an academic component to each trip. Students are still “learning” within the scope of our master curriculum of knowledge, skills and understandings. What is nice is that they can do so in the “real world” and not in the classroom. As we work to bring more real situations into the learning environment, these trips are an excellent opportunity to realise that goal we have for students. Secondly, our hope is that students will see an “insider’s” view into the culture and regions of Vietnam. Even for our Vietnamese students, these trips offer a glimpse into their own culture that they might not already get. Third, most of the trips include a service component as we seek to fulfill our strategy and demonstrate our values about helping others. Fourth, it is an opportunity to cement friendships, make new ones, and have a common experience together with faculty and staff that will be built upon for the rest of the school year. Fifth, it gives the students another experience away from home as they move from dependence to interdependence to independence from their parents and families. Sixth, there is often a physically challenging component which can only be accomplished in the countryside. Seventh is that students experience things that they otherwise might not have the chance to experience.
So you can see that there several objectives with these trips, all of them extremely valuable in the growth and development of our students. And I am always amazed when I go to alumni reunions around the world and one of the first memories that comes up for the departed students is a school trip experience.
None of this would be possible without the willingness and dedication of our faculty, administration and staff. I repeat my comments from last year around this time that need no editing or changing:
“Our faculty and staff as a whole are second to none when it comes to going above and beyond the call of duty to have a positive impact on students. And it is more than giving up their personal lives for 3-5 days 24/7. It is extending their reach to connect, support, cajole and appreciate students while together on these trips. Whether it is working on a sustainability project together, brushing teeth together, taking a hike together on a mountain or through a forest, building a boat together, facilitating a science, mathematics or cultural studies lesson, or performing a service learning activity together, our faculty and staff willingly give of themselves in ways that I appreciate so much.”
What is interesting to me is the perception that because we put a focus on things like school trips or service learning or co-curricular participation, we sometimes get labeled as “less rigorous.” There is a belief among some that unless we spend 100% of our time in the classroom on academic subjects, we have a lower achievement rate and our students do not get into the schools of their choice.
It is quite the contrary. We know that our students are sought after by universities, precisely because of some of these life changing experiences.
Here is a link to our High School Profile that lists all the universities to which last year’s graduating class were accepted along with a bold designation to indicate where they are actually attending. We are proud of the achievements of our students and where they are studying at the tertiary level. We believe in our Mission, Vision, Values and Beliefs and work hard everyday to fulfill them all. This includes having high academic expectations which has enabled them to be accepted at some of the best universities around the world.
I hope this helps put some perspective on the level of rigour at UNIS Hanoi and if you would like to read in more detail about the impact of Trip Week on our students, please see our first edition of UNiquely UNIS (Summer 2016 p.26-29) in which we feature the UNIS Hanoi “Week Without Wall”.
Finally I would like to thank everyone who attended the Community Meeting with me earlier this week. For those that were unable to attend but might be interested in the discussions that we had around IB Diploma results, the Campus Development progress and the new approach this year for the Cafeteria, you can watch the live feed recording on our UNIS Hanoi Facebook page and read the meeting minutes here.