Celebrating 10 Years of Excellence at ISSP

Education - Saigon/HCMC: June 25, 2021

How it all began

A Cognita recognised school

Combining Reggio Emilia and American Common Core

2021 is a year of celebration at International School Saigon Pearl as we reach our 10th year of operation. With a decade of memories, successes and stories to share we take a look back at ‘how it started and how it’s going’.

2011: How it all began

When the doors first opened to ISSP, it was actually known as the Saigon American School. Landmark 81 was just an architect’s dream, and where Vinhomes Central Park now stands, there were no high-rise tower blocks, just traditional Vietnamese ‘tube houses’ and apartments. It’s safe to say that Binh Thanh was a very different place!

However, ISSP (or Saigon American School as it was) was actually not that different to the school that we know and love today. The campus offered beautiful and modern facilities, and the curriculum provided exceptional, international standard tuition for early years students, which is something we are pleased and proud to say hasn’t changed in 10 years.

2012 – 2104: Achieving global recognition

After a year of opening, Saigon American School was renamed International School Saigon Pearl, and the evolution into the school we see today really began.

In 2014, ISSP was proud to be welcomed into the Cognita Schools Group. This global network is made up of international schools that ‘develop all round academic excellence’ and ensures that member schools strive to ‘create an inspiring world of education’ wherever possible. With ISSP becoming a member, our reputation as an outstanding Early Years education provider in Vietnam was solidified.


As a member of Cognita, ISSP was well placed to develop connections with other member schools. To this day, the relationship that was developed with the two other Cognita member schools in Vietnam, ISHCMC and ISHCMC American Academy, continues to benefit our students immensely.

This long-standing relationship with two of the best International secondary schools in the city has allowed ISSP to provide thousands of early years and elementary students with a seamless transition to an American secondary school curriculum.

2016 – 2017: Never Stop Making Progress

2016 / 2017 was a key year in the history of International School Saigon Pearl. 5 years after our opening and having welcomed hundreds of students into our classrooms, it saw three key events in ISSP’s evolution.

First, to assist us in achieving our goal of always providing the best international school experience for our students, our team of dedicated teachers and education providers began to develop the ISSP 4 Dimensions. These 4 cornerstone concepts have become integral to our methodology, and have guided, and will continue to guide, our early years and elementary programmes for years to come.

By developing the ‘ISSP 4 Dimensions’ of conceptual learning, inquiry-based learning, skills focussed learning and student empowerment, we solidified our intentions of providing an engaging, student centred learning experience that would equip our students with the necessary skills to succeed in the modern world.

With these 4 cornerstones in place, ISSP has been able to evolve and develop our educational approach over the last 5 years without losing clarity. Our current programme, for example, combines American Common Core objectives with a Reggio Emilia inspired approach and continues to satisfy the ISSP 4 Dimensions that were put in place in 2016/17.


As time goes on, we will continue to adjust and embrace modern research and changing curriculums, but will continue to be guided by our own ‘dimensions’. Our goal is to always ensure that ISSP students are always well equipped, not only academically, but socially and emotionally for their future educational journey. The ISSP 4 Dimensions make sure we always achieve that.

Secondly, 2016 / 2017 was the period where International School Saigon Pearl began the process of modernizing the campus. Although 5 years is a relatively short time in architectural terms, it is a long time in education. Sadly, modern, world class campuses do not stay that way for long!

Ensuring that our students have access to the best learning environments and top-class facilities has always been an ISSP priority, and in 2016 / 2017 it was time to begin modernising.

During modernisation, ISSP were proud to introduce world class facilities such as the cutting edge multi-purpose room, which remains a key feature of our campus to this day, as does the playground where students are free to play in a safe and inspiring environment. However, it was perhaps the development of the Main Library that was the most significant change during the upgrade. Like all top quality schools, the provision of a well stocked library was a priority at ISSP during the development period, and we are thrilled to say that our Library and Media Centre now hosts 15,000 English books and a wide range of digital resources to support our students on their educational journey.

Finally, as part of our constant drive for excellence 2016 / 2017 saw International School Saigon Pearl begin the process of becoming accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). These two internationally recognised organisations are committed to identifying high quality international education providers. We are incredibly proud to say that when ISSP received accreditation in 2019 we became the first, and only, international school for Early Years and Elementary in Vietnam that is fully accredited by CIS and NEASC.

2020 – 2021: Challenges and Celebrations

Ask anyone who works in education and 2020 was perhaps one of the most challenging years they have experienced. As the Covid pandemic affected schools, colleges and universities across the globe, education as we knew it ground to a halt. Teachers and students had to adapt quickly to ‘the new normal’.

Fortunately, being in Vietnam, International School Saigon Pearl was affected less severely than schools in other countries and our wonderful team of dedicated teachers continued to provide an exceptional education for our students. Thanks to our resilient and capable student body, and the supportive community of parents and friends around ISSP, online learning was embraced and our students and they were able to complete their programme of study with minimal disruption.


Away from the classroom, ISSP continued the push for excellence as we continued with our application to become an authorised International Baccalaureate school. As an IB Candidate school, ISSP will undergo rigorous assessment to ensure that we are delivering a programme of the highest quality to our students. And whilst this process takes time to complete, we are confident that in the near future, we will be able to join the limited number of schools in Vietnam that offer the IB Primary Years Programme to their students. 

As we continue to adjust to the ‘new normal’, it is perhaps this action that best summarises ISSP’s progress over the last 10 years. From being a brand new school that nobody knew, to a well-developed community of students, educators, parents and alumni, our goal has always been to deliver academic excellence in a safe and welcoming environment. Achieving IB school status will surely indicate that every step of this 10 year journey has achieved just that. 

ISSP has come a long way in a short time, but with your support, we fully believe that our school and our community will only continue to grow for the next ten years and beyond. 

International School Saigon Pearl offers a variety of opportunities to visit the school and experience student life for yourself. If you are interested in visiting us please register here to take a school tour or for enrolment inquiries please click here