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La Petite Ecole’s French Curriculum Benefits Families Well Beyond Saigon’s French Community

 

“When you learn a language, you don’t just learn the language, you learn new attitudes, ways of thinking, culture and history,” explains Aline Nguyen, the Principal of La Petite Ecole Ho Chi Minh.

The ability for a second, or third, language to empower new mindsets, perspectives and cultural awareness is at the core of the French international school in District 2. Established in 2017 and part of the Odyssey Group since 2021, La Petite Ecole teaches the French national curriculum in a 50/50 split of French and English to students ages one-year-old through eleven. Saigoneer visited earlier this month to better understand the school, particularly the advantages it offers for families that might not have French backgrounds.

 Representing more than 25 different nationalities, the student population is incredibly diverse and to accommodate them all, La Petite Ecole publishes all material in French, English and Vietnamese while all meetings and conferences make accommodations of speakers of each of these languages. Moreover, the school staff is available and can be contacted via an app and each teacher publishes a blog with weekly updates. Thus, non-French-speaking families are able to integrate into the school community fully and communicate with teachers and other families with ease.

With a close-knit student body, La Petite Ecole fosters a warm, welcoming community that brings together families, children and teachers. Outside of the classroom, a robust volunteer parents association meets to plan events like Halloween parties, International Day, environmental days and a school year kick-off breakfast. The multicultural community underscores the philosophy that exposure to different backgrounds and experiences enriches everyone. 

Families do not need to worry about language barriers interfering with their ability to help students with their studies either. As part of the French education system, written homework is not allowed. Only review activities can be provided for a duration of at most 30 minutes every night so that students have time to be kids because “leisure does not mean studying,” according to Aline.

This belief in balance extends to how the curriculum is taught. Academic achievement and foundational skills are important, but so is developing personal fulfillment. Aline stresses that teachers seek to nurture students that are respectful, responsible, tolerant and enlightened. An important part of this holistic development involves a recognition of the host nation, as consistent with the vision of the Odyssey Group that seeks to gather the best of two worlds: French education and international openness. In addition to a model that requires a 50/50 split of French and English, the vision involves integration with the local country. Whether or not they have Vietnamese backgrounds, all students study the language and receive instruction on Vietnam’s culture and customs in addition to activities and events that celebrate its history.

Balancing efforts to develop productive future citizens with academic excellence means lessons and activities often combine teaching methods. For example, a recent science fair reinforced the basic principles students had learned in class but then provided an opportunity to practice interpersonal and soft skills. Students could work in teams to invent something that would change their lives and then present it to the audience in either French or English.

William, a 9-year-old student we spoke with, created a hands-free book holder that would allow him to read his favorite Tintin novels more easily. He explained that he reads the books at home in both English and French.

With parents from Vietnam and Australia and relatives in France, he represents a multi-faceted and multi-national background common to students at the school. When he graduates in two years, he isn’t sure where he will study next. It could be the French Lycee in District 9 or an institution in Australia. These are common paths for La Petite Ecole alumni, as are the other international schools in the city. Regardless of the language these destinations teach in or the specific curriculums they follow, the students will have the necessary core knowledge and interpersonal experiences to thrive as they continue on to bright futures.

To fully understand the school, Saigoneer recommends arranging a visit during class hours. If you arrive as the day is beginning, you will witness Aline and the other members of the school team at the gate greeting parents and students, all of whom seem thrilled to be arriving. Seeing students of various backgrounds playing together with genuine smiles and observing the attentive teachers will make clear the school's warm atmosphere and positive environment.

And a stroll around campus will introduce one to the impressive facilities which include dedicated music, library, and physical education rooms and spacious outdoor play areas, as well as some spaces that support elements unique to the French education system. For example, a large pool accommodates the requirement that all students have swimming instruction led by a licensed professional. Next to the pools is a full kitchen that supplies nutritious meals that guarantee a balanced diet and a comfortable introduction to multi-cultural cuisines. But if you arrive on a Friday afternoon, the classroom will be empty, as all French schools have one half-day per week to emphasize the need for leisure time in one’s life. At La Petite Ecole, the half-days fall on Fridays. During that time, the importance of interests outside of school work is reinforced by the voluntary athletic, artistic and intellectual extracurriculars the school hosts after class each day.

Saigon is filled with great schools for young learners. It’s thus understandable that those without specific connections to the French language might overlook La Petite Ecole. However, the holistic benefits of learning a new language, the advantages of the French curriculum and the intimate, diverse community found at the conveniently-located school should inspire anyone who wants to start their children on the path to becoming globally aware, tolerant, high-achieving and inquisitive adults.

If you would like to visit La Petite Ecole to get to know more about their pedagogy, meet the teachers and discover their amazing facilities, you can register for their next Open Day on Saturday, June 3rd through this link.

La Petite Ecole Ho Chi Minh's Facebook Page

La Petite Ecole Ho Chi Minh's website

La Petite Ecole Ho Chi Minh's Email

+84 (0) 28 3519 1521

172-180 Nguyễn Văn Hưởng, Thảo Điền, Quận 2, TPHCMC

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