Starting a family is one of life’s biggest decisions, then before you know it, you’re faced with another important choice every parent must make: where will you send your children to school?
You could simply pick the closest school to home, but basing your child’s education and future on convenience is not a wise decision. You could opt to send your child to your school, but when living abroad this is not a practical solution for many.
Our world is changing. How do we equip our children with the skills they need for jobs that don’t even exist yet? We must train our children in the fundamental fields of knowledge needed for their future, to understand and cope with the change they will inevitably face.
Introduced to Vietnam at an early age, Edward Bruce Flanagan describes his love for the country, its people, and culture as “God-given”. Early experiences with the arrival of the Boat People in Australia formed lasting impressions of Vietnamese culture, compassion and cuisine in him.
In 1989 and ‘90 Flanagan visited the country on humanitarian projects, working with mentally and physically handicapped children. The country was very different then. Life was tough, people struggled with day to day living and homes for the disabled were sad places.
In October 1991, Flanagan decided to leave his home country of Australia and make his move to Vietnam more permanent. Initially in Hanoi and Danang, he then moved to Cambodia to work with Vietnamese communities before settling in HCMC in 2008, where he took on leadership development roles and coached executives in corporate environments for several years.
After adopting two young Vietnamese boys, his focus turned to the challenges all parents face of how best to educate his children and prepare them for an uncertain future. Local options were not able to provide the type of schooling he wanted for his sons, and the cost of international schools was prohibitive. He considered home-schooling for a while, but was dissuaded by the potential lack of social interaction this option offers.
Flanagan holds strong Christian values and wanted to install these in his sons. “Essentially, I wanted to give them a classical education, focussing on studying the classics and cultivating virtues. Not in a moralistic way, but through cultivating truth and beauty through the study of liberal arts.” he explained.
Flanagan believes we should give our children a firm foundation of facts in maths, phonograms, natural history, geography, science, and of the world around them. They should be equipped with logic skills so they can develop cohesive understandings of these facts, and arrange their thoughts in rational and meaningful ways. They need to be taught to question, and communicate their answers in ways that are both engaging and compelling.
“I wanted my sons to know what their values are, and why they’re important. I wanted them to be able to articulate these in an artistic and logical way, combining the beauty of a classical education, and the logical synergy, with core Christian values. Understanding that being kind is not a rule to follow, but because it’s good because it’s good.” Flanagan shared.
His search for a system that would provide this type of education lead him to the Classical Christian Education model, one of the most highly sought-after and valued educational programmes in the world. Based on the principle that most children go through three phases of learning as they move through childhood to young adulthood, this approach follows the trivium, or three roads, of grammar, logic and rhetoric in educating children for their future.
Inspired, Flanagan opened the Veritas Learning Centre in February 2016, the first of its type in Vietnam. Pupil numbers are expected to triple as they enter their third year, as word spreads among the community about the results being achieved. This coming academic year sees partnership with a sister school in America, opening the door to college credits and access to universities worldwide.
Flanagan starts his day early, rising at five to read the bible, pray with his wife and drink one of the best coffees in Vietnam. He wakes his sons around six, prepares them for school, and drops his younger son off first. He gets to Veritas early, about 8AM, to greet the kids as they arrive, shake hands with the parents and address any concerns they may have.
Classes take him through till 10:30 recess and the opportunity to go around other classes, check in with the teachers and to make sure learning goals are being met. Lunchtime for students is at 11:30 with fresh, local cuisine produced on campus in the school’s canteen kitchens. Quality and nutritionally balanced is the order of the day.
Some of the school’s students come for afternoon classes only, supplementing their education from elsewhere. Younger children have a nap after lunch, older ones relax in the school lounge or catch up with self-study. This is a time for Flanagan to relax and catch up with administrative work before heading back to the classroom for 13:15 to teach grades 1 and 2 English, maths and science.
“We try to cultivate liturgy, a ritual of certain things done in certain ways and at certain times. Once a week we bring the older students together to offer them a moment of shared reflection, encouraging them to look at what they have achieved and what they could improve.” Flanagan explained. “Students are taught not to run in school, and to stand up when adults enter the room. But we want our students to love and appreciate what they are doing, rather than just doing it because they must.”
School finishes for the younger students at 4:15, with the older students finishing quarter of an hour later. With classes done, Flanagan spends time with parents addressing any concerns they have before picking his youngest son up from school at 5.
“I’m delighted at the way our students are progressing. We see the development and learning of the culture we’re installing in them. That’s why we believe that once our students have gone through the whole programme of our school, they are going to be well-rounded, educated, enthusiastic and inquisitive young adults, well equipped for the world of tomorrow.” Flanagan concluded.