Studio 5: It took more than 7 days

There is considerable hype around the Studio 5 model that is currently being piloted at the International School of Ho Chi Minh City… and rightly so. Studio 5 is a brave concept that doesn’t just pay lip-service to the philosophies upon which the IB Primary Years Programme and other student-centred, inquiry-based frameworks are built. It creates the conditions for all of that philosophy to become practice. Very rare.

Don’t be fooled though.

This stuff is not new.

Progressive and innovative educators have been doing some of these ideas for years. Schools have been designed around them. Movements have evolved around them. Books have been written about them.

But, these have either fizzled out, faded away, disappeared or survived as weird exceptions to the rule. Perhaps sustained by wealthy benefactors, enigmatic leaders or a powerful niche market.

Studio 5 is a wonderful example of what is possible. But it is critical that anyone hoping to move their school, or even just a part of it, towards a similar model must understand that Studio 5 didn’t just appear out of nowhere. It comes after four years of smaller, very significant, steps. Shifting mindsets, pedagogies, structures, systems, habits, priorities… incremental changes to these over a sustained period of time cleared pathways, opened doors and generated momentum.

Each change was a question that could only be answered by the next change.

Without this evolution, one in which the Studio 5 model was genuinely a natural progression, it would just be a novelty.

In a series of upcoming posts, I will reveal the milestones in the evolution of a school in which Studio 5 is possible. Perhaps these can provide tangible ways that other schools can begin to consider similar change, but change that is logical and natural in their context.




  1. Chad Walsh

    There is a significant ‘back story’ to how these ideas evolved over time. Studio 5 was a vision driven by a group of teachers several years ago, and has your finger prints all over it. The hidden, seen and unseen conversations is a story worth telling in itself. It has been a thoughtful process and journey over the years. A credit to Suzanne and the Team in the way they have carried the vision forward. I”m hearing of Studio 6 in the pipelines…..

    • sherrattsam

      To be honest, I’m talking more about the changes that were made in the school that meant an idea like Studio 5 could even be considered. Removing the doors in G5 is a great example, and the way you and Tiff collaborated across the hall just like you and I used to in Tianjin and at NIST. Big difference… you didn’t get in trouble for it at ISHCMC!!!

  2. pypwanderer

    Sam, missed meeting you at the conference… but attended the sessions on Studio 5. It was almost like a dream come true and I can imagine the background efforts that could have gone into in giving birth to Studio 5. We are all on a similar journey personally and professionally, in varying degrees. But what is commendable is when the school management and the pedagogical leaders can actually give wings to the IB ideologies and truly implement them in practice! Kudos to all of you! Keep inspiring.

    • sherrattsam

      Hello! I wasn’t at the conference as I work in Paris now. I agree, the messages being given from the “top” down in schools either make these types of change possible, or impossible. ISHCMC has been blessed with a senior leadership team that expects change.

  3. Emma Adams

    Thanks Sam, I’m in full agreement that change takes time and it is a process that goes through many stages. Looking forward to reading about this journey.

    • sherrattsam

      HI Emma… It pains me to say that change takes time, I am not a patient person… but if we want it to take hold and transcend “fad status” there are cultural shifts that must happen first.

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  6. Alexandra

    Hi Sam, it’s such an incredible development with Studio 5 – thanks for sharing some of the backstory. I think your point that it is/was an evolution is very important. It reminds me of Reggio Emilia. The school is very much based on/anchored in the history of the community, the culture and the people. I sometimes wonder whether people visit Reggio and think if they just copy what they see they will get similar changes/results, forgetting about the development that lead to the establishment of the school we now know. I believe it’s the same with Studio 5. You can’t just copy what is happening there but need teachers who buy into the ideas, an SLT that is very open to change and facilitates it. Looking forward to reading more about it.

    • sherrattsam

      HI Alexandra, you’re right… it is a lot like Reggio Emilia. People must look towards it as inspiration, as a provocation, but then take that thinking and use it to be creative in our own contexts.

  7. willkirkwood

    So true. An interesting question to think about how many changes which have stuck started organically? I would say that most came about this way but then when we have looked back on these projects we forget the journey that the idea went on. So when we try to replicate it in a different school or with another initiative in the same school then it doesn’t work.

    It is so important to value the journey an idea goes on before it becomes “practice” (hey it probably is changing even once it is “practice”). Every time an idea is launched/”rolled out” then it needs to be embedded in the environment that it is happening in. It is so difficult to take an “idea” or “program” plant it in a new environment and expect it to work. Think about trying to move a plant/tree and putting it in a new location. It needs to have the roots but that isn’t enough – the plant takes time to adjust to light, water and all that extra stuff. You have to go on the journey.

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