It was a roller coaster of a year and it is with much pride that I look back at our collective achievements, our resilience, our fortitude and our courage to be a caring and collaborative community in the face of immense challenges, uncertainty and loss.
We are excited about our planning for next year, but before we look ahead let us take the time to look back and celebrate how we started the year and what unfolded in 2019-2020.
We watched our students perform ‘In the Arms of Angels’ and ‘Aristocats’, showcase their talent at choir and orchestra events, take home a number of prizes at a math competition, and represent our School at sporting events (swimming, volleyball, basketball, cross-country) within Hanoi and throughout the region – Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore, Philippines, South Korea and China. And our MRISA Boys Team were Basketball Champions at the tournament we hosted at UNIS Hanoi! Congratulations to all our artists and athletes of all ages!
As one of only two UN international schools in the world, it was with a special pride that we celebrated UN Day as the climax to our SDG Week, and that we sent delegations to Model United Nations conferences in Phnom Penh and Singapore. We also helped UNICEF celebrate 30 years of the Rights of the Child Convention, hosting their National Solutions Summit at UNIS Hanoi with our students leading delegations from across the country.
We hosted almost 500 educators and Board members from the region to engage with us and learn with us through a wide range of professional learning opportunities hosted on campus, including our first Vietnamese conference led by our Teaching Assistant’s for more than 120 teachers from local schools.
19-20 was also the year we launched our new UNIS Impact Fund, designed to support student dreams for a better world which this year focused on solar power and a UNIS botanical garden – and which will continue in the new year.
And as we closed the first Semester we welcomed the joint visiting Accreditation Team from the Council of International Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the International Baccalaureate Organisation who spent five days in powerful conversations with our students, parents, faculty and staff to dig deep into our own self-assessment of our School and who reported back to our community in January their findings.
We were delighted with their commendations which included a strong commitment to our Mission, Vision and Values, a robust academic programme connecting learning to authentic, meaningful real world experiences, clear communication processes and procedures and the creation of a healthy and safe learning and work environment for our community.
And we are in agreement with them that in our new School Strategic Plan we will be focussing on areas for improvement including the refinement of our identity, a closer look at inclusion and ensuring we continue to meet the needs of all learners at UNIS Hanoi.
It had already been quite a year! And as we broke for Tet, we had a busy second-half of the year planned including international tournaments for our athletes and artists.
But as COVID-19 took hold, what started as a time of postponement, cancellation and closure, quickly became a time of collapsing dreams, challenging working conditions and real fear for the safety of our families and friends. A time when planning for any kind of future involved multiple scenarios to successfully face such unprecedented ‘unknown’.
But this was also a time when we saw our students, teachers and parents come together to support student learning from home. Our faculty and staff were required to learn how to teach online within 24 hours and continually reflect on their practices to grow and improve our programme to meet the needs of our students.
And from this uncertainty came incredible creativity with finding ways to support social-emotional wellness virtually, moving assemblies and other community and student celebrations online, connecting with our parents through zoom, developing a “distance ASA” programme, hosting a global virtual professional development conference and taking personal and professional risks as we recorded videos and performances to both support and celebrate learning.
Most of all it was a time of collaborative resilience in which friends and colleagues demonstrated empathy, support and a commitment to ensure that our students had a productive, successful school year.
All our comfort zones were stretched beyond breaking, but together as a community we built ourselves again, differently, but wiser, more humble and with more confidence and strength than we could have known was possible from such devastation.
And what next?
Well, I am looking forward to seeing almost 75% of our students on campus over the next 4 weeks as our Summer School Programme provides your children with the opportunity to continue to explore and learn. We are expecting a summer campus filled with smiles, laughter and learning.
And for next year?
Well, as we know, none of us has a crystal ball and we are certainly not ‘going back to normal’ but we are planning with confidence and creativity, modelling our Mission as ‘life-long learners’ to respond to the challenges ahead and with a firm refusal to be bowed in our expectations for our students’ learning, dreams and opportunities.
Will it look different? Yes. Will it be the best we can possibly forge together? Yes. And will it be centred on helping our students become their very best selves, turning dreams into goals and supported by passionate educators, dedicated to that single goal? Yes.
Our goals for next year include a focus on strengthening community, revisiting our Mission, Vision and Values, inclusion, social-emotional learning, sustainability and implementing our learning from this past year into our programme next year
And we are excited to continue with our philanthropic projects including;
- The UNIS Impact Fund Big Ideas supporting clean energy and greening of the School, alongside the Impact Fund Grants empowering our students with their passion projects for learning and service,
- our Learning Together community commitment to grow professional development for local educators in support of education in Vietnam and
- the launch of our new UNIS Cultural Collection, made possible by the incredible generosity of Vietnamese parents and which will bring our host nation culture into the heart of our School. More on that when we return in August!
In short, there is a lot to look forward to! And should Distance Learning become part of our programme in 2020-2021, we will be ready. We have collaborated with global colleagues and been part of the conversations developing ‘best practice’; we have listened to our students, faculty and families to better understand the need for support; we have reviewed the learning data gathered in these final weeks of school to test our programme’s outcomes; and as a result, we have refined and developed a philosophy, programme and implementation plan. More detail will be shared in a Tin Tuc Distance Learning special edition in the coming week.
As we head out for the summer, remember that together we are UNiquely UNIS and as a UNited UNIS we are stronger for everyone. That takes courage and strength. To see the best in everyone and in every situation, every day, assuming best intentions and good faith takes extraordinary strength, courage and resilience. We thank you for trusting us with what is most precious to you – your children – and we look forward to working together to ensure 2020-2021 is the best possible year… again!
Head of School