Hanoi, Vietnam Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam 11/23/20

Background Information:

1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?

Parent.

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2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?

Reception (Kindergarten) and 2nd grade (2019-2020); 1st and 3rd grade (2020-2021).

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3. What years did you live here?

2019-2020, so far.

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4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?

Government.

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5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?

Yes, there are other schools. We chose Concordia because of its reputation as a student-focused school that welcomes parent involvement and where children are respected and loved. Concordia has excelled our expectations in every possible way. At Concordia, our children enjoy a safe and caring environment that allows students to develop their learning potential and grow as global citizens. We enjoy having a personal relationship with teachers and staff, and the school community is outstanding. We found the school and its community to be extremely welcoming to all new families. More importantly, we deeply appreciate that Concordia is dedicated to teaching the same values we practice as a family, in addition to stellar academics. Concordia’s mission is as follows: “At Concordia, students, teachers, and parents are dedicated to academics, creativity, and service in a caring and engaging community of learners discovering their talents as scholars, artists and athletes.”

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Admissions & Welcome:

1. Are the admissions and placement procedures clearly stated to prospective families, either on the school website or through other means of communication?

Yes, admission and placement procedures are clearly communicated to prospective families and are very transparent and upfront. The Director of Admissions is a remarkable person who strives to make connections with parents and students through the application process and beyond. Our experience was exceptionally smooth, and we were able to focus on other pre-departure arrangements, confident that school was all sorted out. The website has a wealth of information and the admissions department is always ready to answer questions. We were also put in contact with sponsors, families currently at school, who were very gracious before and upon our arrival at post.

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2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?

School connects new and existing families during the admission process, high school students take part in orientation for new families by serving as tour guides during campus visits. New students are invited to sit with the counselor for lunch at the cafeteria. My children knew the names of new arrivals joining their class beforehand and were prepared by their teachers to be welcoming and helpful while their new classmate settled in. The Parent Support Organization (PSO) organizes a monthly coffee morning to inform parents of upcoming events and special activities, and the school also takes the occasion to do presentations for parents. It is a great opportunity to meet parents with students in different grades than your own. The school calendar usually includes a welcome picnic and a cocktail social towards the start of the school year. Community is at the heart of all activities at Concordia. With a small number of classrooms and low student-teacher ratio, Concordia feels like a family where children from all age groups know each other and interact on a regular basis, and teachers know students not in their classrooms by name.

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Administration & School Procedures:

1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?

Communication between teachers and parents is highly effective. A weekly email with updates is sent by teachers to all parents in the classroom, and separate emails are sent when there are special news or events. Administration sends a weekly update, and the Head of School sends a bi-weekly update. Teachers respond to emails promptly, as does the staff. Email addresses for all staff and teachers are available on the website.

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2. Aside from school fees, are there required expenses such as uniforms, laptops/tablets, musical instruments, or field trips that parents are expected to cover? What are the approximate costs?

Yes. All students are required to wear uniform polo shirts (about US$17 each). P.E. shirts are required for students in grades 4-12 (about US$17 each) and P.E. shorts are required for students in grades 6-12 (about US$13 each). We also purchased the uniform hoodie (about US$22) for when it is cooler as all tops must be approved uniform wear. Students are allowed to wear undershirts instead, as long as they are plain white. Students in Elementary School do not have to purchase devices (they have classroom tablets) and we did not have to pay for my children to go on field trips (unless we wanted to order lunch to go from the cafeteria.) Hot lunches are available at the cafeteria at the approximate cost of US$3 per meal.

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Academics & Resources:

1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?

Yes, there are three counselors dedicated each to the elementary level, Middle School and High School. Elementary School students have guidance as a special course, taught by the counselor on a regular rotation with the other specials (music, P.E., art, library). The Elementary Counseling program (Second Step Social-Emotional Learning) is designed to support the whole child, socially, emotionally and academically. Counselors are not only familiar with universities worldwide, but they prepare students through a four-year track University Counseling program.

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2. Is there before and/or after-school daycare available? What are the costs?

No.

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3. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?

Concordia has a fantastic library! In addition to physical books, students have access to several database subscriptions for on and off-campus learning, which was fundamental during the Covid-19 school closure. Books are up-to-date and new books are frequently added to the collection. Students and even parents can borrow books to read at home. Though most books are in English, there are books in other languages as well (Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Spanish). The library, as the rest of the campus, is bright, colorful, and students genuinely enjoy spending time there.

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4. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?

Concordia has a robotics and STEAM lab, which includes a 3D printer, and offers courses such as STEAM and Robotics to High School students, along with STEAM and Robotics after-school programs for Middle School students. The school provides Chromebooks for its elementary students but asks Middle and High School students to provide their own computers. The school library also has computers available. Furthermore, Concordia instructs and supervises technology to open new worlds of learning, active inquiry, and expression for students. The school is committed to building a community where collaboration empowers differentiated learning. Concordia wants to inspire and challenge students to see themselves as creators of ideas, and strives to enrich student learning and achievement using technology. Concordia maintains the latest technologies and a hugely available, scalable, high-capacity wireless Internet connection. Students have access to a wide variety of online tools in a 1:1 device environment with access to libraries, online educational tools, audio/visual equipment, cameras and microphones as needed. In the Makerspace, students have supervised access to all the tech equipment, supplies and tools for completing engineering projects and maker experiments.
Being essential for success in modern society, Technology and Information Literacy at Concordia is not a class, but a continuum of skills and training integrated across the entire curriculum. They are developed through close collaboration among tech staff, teachers, and library and curriculum development staff. Technology integration empowers and enriches student-centered learning, which will help prepare them for their future.

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5. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?

The school teaches Technology and Information Literacy, and the corresponding skills are developed through training fully integrated in the curriculum. Students sign agreements for proper use of technology and learn to be intentional about safeguarding their online privacy, avoiding distractions, caring for the equipment, and taking responsibility for their online footprint. Students in Elementary School use devices supplied by the school. Middle School and High School students are required to bring their own laptop for use in the classroom.

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6. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?

Students have access to a state-of-the-art gym and a full-size soccer field.

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7. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?

The teacher-to-student ratio in my children’s classrooms has been no more than 10:1.

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8. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?

Yes, Concordia offers AP classes in upper grades. Qualifying students may elect to take 1 AP course in Grade 10, up to 3 AP courses in Grade 11, and up to 4 AP courses in Grade 12. A range of 10-12 AP courses is offered each year, from History to Biology to Calculus. The AP courses offered for the 2020-21 academic year include:
AP Language and Composition
AP World History
AP Economics
AP Computer Science
AP Calculus (AB & BC)
AP Chemistry
AP Environmental Science
AP Statistics
AP Comparative Government
AP Mandarin
Concordia rotates AP Environmental Science & AP Chemistry, AP Biology & AP Physics, offering these sets of AP courses every other year, to allow students to take the full range of AP STEM courses, and also rotates AP Language and AP Literature. AP Mandarin is a new offering in 2020-2021.

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9. Are students generally challenged appropriately by the curriculum? Please describe any particular strengths or weaknesses in this area. Do you have any thoughts how the curriculum is applied and implemented at this school?

Yes. Concordia is known for its rigorous academic curriculum, designed to tailor to the needs of each individual student. An example of this is the Reading/Writing Workshop curriculum, which allows each individual student to select books from her or his individual level. Teachers work with students and regularly assess them, and students can move up a level, ranging from A to Z, whenever deemed ready by the teacher. The levels move quickly at the lower levels, giving students a taste of success and helping develop a love of reading.

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10. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?

Yes. My children have math and reading homework daily. I was especially thankful for homework once the Covid-19 related school closure happened, as I was well aware of what my children were currently learning and how they went about working on their assignments.

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11. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?

Students in Elementary School have music and art classes weekly, on a rotation basis. They have access to an indoor creative space: lower elementary grades use the Interest Center and upper elementary grades use the Makerspace. Concordia boasts a strong visual arts program that encourages students to think creatively and work with a range of materials and mediums, learning about different artists and styles in the process. Elementary students all participate in school concerts, singing and/or playing instruments, which both introduces the students to music and helps make them more comfortable standing in front of people. Concordia also offers a drama program for Middle and High School students, and each group performs plays every year.

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12. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?

All homeroom teachers and teachers of special classes such as P.E., music and art are native English speakers. All teachers, including TAs and language instructors, speak English fluently.

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13. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

At the Elementary School level, Concordia does not offer a formalized program to support gifted students. However, by nature, Concordia’s differentiated program meets the learning needs of all students, providing a challenge level that meets each unique need. In addition to the above-mentioned AP courses, Concordia offers admission to the US-based National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) for qualifying students in Grades 6-8, and the National Honor Society (NHS) for students in Grades 10-12. Students are selected for NJHS and NHS admission by their teachers based on four criteria: academics, character, leadership, and services. Concordia NJHS and NHS students regularly engage in student-led service activities to help and support the greater Vietnam community, from teaching English in remote areas to raising money, food and clothing for the needy. For example, NJHS students initiated a Concordia fundraiser to support those affected by Covid-19. They raised VND110 million and, working with the Hanoi People’s Committee, the Hanoi Department of Education and the Vietnam Fatherland Front, distributed VND1 million each to Kindergarten teachers in the Hanoi area who had been out of work during the quarantine period.

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14. What services are available for students with learning disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

At the Elementary School level, Concordia does not offer a formalized program to support children with learning exceptionalities. If a child comes to Concordia with an IEP, Concordia can meet classroom level accommodations, but does not offer program modifications to meet the learning needs of students who have been diagnosed as having learning difficulties. Concordia does not offer any therapy nor diagnostic services, rather referring students to local area professional providers, when available.

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15. What services are available for students with physical disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

Both school buildings have elevators, entrance ramps, and wheelchair-accessible restroom facilities.

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16. What services are provided for speakers of English as a second language at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.

Students have dedicated EAL (English as an Additional Language) classes, in-class support, and are monitored by EAL specialists and their homeroom teachers. From the schools’ website: “The EAL program enables students to develop their English in both academic and social settings. The program uses a collaborative model to develop students in the areas of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Students learn, for example, to explain scientific experiments and justify why they solved a math problem the way they did. Students learn to retell and summarize stories as well as discuss character traits and identify the beginning, middle, and end of a story. Students learn to compare and contrast, discuss and debate, and give opinions. In the end, the students learn to think in English, enabling them to fully take part in and be successful at Concordia.”

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17. What extra-curricular activities (including sports) are available at this school? Have your children participated in these activities? What activities do you feel are missing at the school?

Students in grades 1-5 can opt to participate in after-school activities twice a week during four sessions (Sep-early Oct, late Oct-Dec, Feb-early Apr, late Apr-May). On those days, participating students stay in school for one extra hour. Students in 4th and 5th grade can also participate in a developmental sports program (soccer in session 1, volleyball in session 2, basketball in session 3) and during session 4 in the Fine Arts Academy, a music program which includes a performance in the elementary spring concert. These optional programs are free of charge, with a few exceptions (Beginning Strings during session 1 cost approximately US$65.) My children have participated in after-school activities of many different kinds, and we do not feel there are any activities missing at the school.

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Social & Emotional Well-Being:

1. What is the climate for LGBT+ kids at this school? Are there resources they can draw upon? Does there appear to be any exclusionary behavior?

While I do not have any information regarding the subject, I imagine the counseling department offers support for all emotional needs of students. To my knowledge there are no episodes of exclusionary behavior, motivated by sexual orientation or otherwise.

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2. What is the climate for children with special needs? Is there a general attitude of inclusion for children with special needs?

Yes, absolutely. One of my children had a classmate with special needs and it was heartwarming to see how teachers and classmates fully included this student as a peer in every sense.

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3. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?

Yes! All groups (local students, Asian expatriate students and Western expatriate students) are successfully integrated.

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4. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.

I have no knowledge of exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying. The Elementary School Counselor does a whole series on bullying in her visits to the classrooms. My children have not experienced problems in this area; on the contrary, they were always encouraged to be social and make new friends.

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Overall Impressions:

1. What letter grade (ranging from A, excellent, to F, fail) would you assign to this school based on your overall experience? Would you choose it again?

A+. I wish there would be a Concordia School in every of our future posts.

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2. Please describe some of your child's/children's highlights and challenges during their time at this school.

One highlight was to see how my child supported and helped her classmate with special needs, and how she was recognized by her peers for her kindness. My youngest came out of his shell with the help of his teachers and the counselor, made new friends and is more willing to try new things. The Christmas Bazaar in 2019 and the Christmas Concert made our holiday season special. I enjoyed helping the homeroom teachers as Room Parent, organizing parties and participating in classroom activities.

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3. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!

The school is committed to supporting children in all aspects of their lives and the counseling department’s program helps students be successful emotionally, socially, and academically. Empathy, compassion, love, courage, integrity are words of a song students sing at school assemblies, but more than that these values are practiced daily in the classroom. Our children are happy at Concordia and as parents, we are incredibly grateful.

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