“At the Heart of What We Do Are Curiosity, Confidence and Kindness”

“At the Heart of What We Do Are Curiosity, Confidence and Kindness”

What makes a good learning environment? In a recent speech at the year-end prize-giving ceremony, Mr Matthew Bartlett, Founding Head Master of Brighton College Vietnam, posed the question of what constitutes a “true education” and shared how these values are reflected in the school’s principles and mission to nurture our student community.


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“This is an occasion for saying thank you and an occasion for celebration. It is the end of a first and highly successful year at Brighton College Vietnam. It is a time for remembering those special moments, celebrating our collective and individual successes and stepping forward confidently to next year.


It is not my way to spend time today reviewing every aspect of  the school year but I hope that participation in the very many events and your intense engagement in the school will be memorable enough. I wonder what your best memory will be. Could it be Halloween and the chance to dress up in some remarkably scary costumes, perhaps it was taking part in our Tet celebrations or manning a stall at our International Fair. For me there have been many smaller moments that remind me how quickly we have become a living and thriving school. It might be sports day in the Prep School with a real determination by our youngest pupils to cross the finish line, it might be the magic or Shakespeare interpreted by Mr Rushton for a Vietnamese audience or looking at the wonderful art produced by our pupils. Every day we see our pupils achieving so much with their CCAs whose diversity amazes me. Suffice it to say that I remain astonished by what the pupils achieve, both in volume and quality and, most importantly, perhaps, in breadth. Academic excellence and rigour, of course – and we celebrate it here today – but only as part of a broader and richer curriculum: true education. 


And it is true education that I want to talk about for a moment or two. What is it that really matters?


Values matter or what I would call ‘moral purpose’. Some things are non-negotiable. At the heart of what we do are curiosity, confidence and kindness. Whatever qualifications we get, however, culture alters; as generations come and go, wherever we are in the world, values do not and should not change. This school must stand for community, for aspiration, for ambition, for respect, for kindness, for awareness, for sensitivity, for duty and for curiosity. Long may that continue. 


Our guiding principles are about working together as a community and being united by a shared belief in the empowerment that learning gives. For each of you here today there is a story of struggle, of hours spent toiling to achieve what you have achieved, of parental support, of staff time and care, of love, of passion and of commitment. Today is not possible if we simply adopt a laissez faire approach and hope for the best.


So my first thanks of today go to our pupils without whom we are nothing. Pupils who are striving to become the best versions of themselves. I never underestimate how hard it must be to learn in another language, to try and understand the quirky ways of expats like me and yet to thrive. Our pupils who engage and are engaging, and we see so much hard work, effort, determination and a capacity for improvement.


But an even greater thank you must go to the staff. The Head is often pitied for having to be on the receiving end of the criticism that comes a school’s way. But it is more than countered by also being the recipient of countless kind comments and compliments about what the school is doing. The criticism should stay at the Head’s door; the compliments shouldn’t: they belong to the staff. Andreas Schleicher of the organisation behind PISA tests recently said ‘the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers’. This school is a testament to the dedication, professionalism, care and learning of each member of staff. That gold standard of teaching will transform our pupils. Each pupil here will be able to name a teacher who has or is making a difference for them by the time and individual care they take. Many have given up much to move to another country with their families and their commitment is exemplary. Our staff take the shy, the nervous, the confident and even the over confident and start to shape them into young people for whom the world holds great opportunities. The whole of the Leadership team, the phalanx of teachers, the troops of support staff share and keep alive the dream of excellence. 


Another question I am often asked is ‘What sort of pupil does Brighton College Vietnam want to produce?’ And as I see the diversity of prize winners today, as I reflect on the very many characteristics as a collective group there is no monochrome answer. Nor should there be. We do not produce clones. I hope that we produce confident pupils, willing to challenge stereotypes, inquisitive pupils who want to continue to achieve and who see no barriers to achievement. I hope that we are proud to work to produce pupils who never lose the sense of wanting to enquire, to know, to seek and who knows perhaps to find answers to the many questions life will throw up. I have talked before of my favourite school motto, which belonged to the first school which I taught at. 


Sapere aude – “Dare to be wise


The  motto was first used by Horace, the Roman Poet, in his book of Epistles, but it became better known in the seventeenth century, after the publication of an essay entitled ‘What is Enlightenment’ by the Philosopher Immanuel Kant.


Our goal at Brighton College Vietnam is to educate pupils and to equip them to have the courage to use the understanding they gain from this education in the wider world. Each of our young people is a unique human being, born with inalienable gifts and talents and with their own mission in life. The school’s role is to kindle the inner passion and purpose to release those innate gifts. What a collection of unique and talented young people sit before us today: they deserve our thanks, our praise and our congratulations. They are uniquely precious and we thank them all for being themselves and for all they are and do. They too deserve our applause.”