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Education and Schools

Vietnam - Education and Schools


Vietnam offers a good range of private and international schools preparing children for top universities and careers for those expats who are able to afford the tuition fees. The most highly regarded of these are located in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, in an English-speaking environment.

Educational facilities at these establishments are modern, well-designed and equipped with the latest resources. Modern health and safety standards are incorporated into school building designs, which provide clean and modern environments for children to learn in. High quality sports fields and gymnasiums are complemented by well-stocked libraries and learning resource rooms. Some private schools offer large indoor or outdoor swimming pools. Science, music, art and drama may be supported through modern laboratories, a range of specialist teachers, well-resourced art blocks and purpose-built theatres.

Class sizes tend to be fairly small, with 20 to 25 pupils. Teachers from Europe or North America often work in these schools, providing an authentic English-language learning environment.

Most of the international schools will accept nursery pupils from the age of three, and will educate these children right through to the age of 18, although typically the secondary school campus will be on a separate site away from younger pupils.

The first International Baccalaureate (IB) course to be offered in a Vietnamese School was introduced in 1996. Today, there are 12 schools offering this programme of study, delivered in English, which is recognised by all international universities.

The schools offering IB courses in Ho Chi Minh City are:

American International School
Australian International School
British International School
Canadian International School
European International School
International School Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC)
Renaissance International School Saigon
Saigon South International School

The following schools in Hanoi offer IB courses:

British International School
Hanoi International School
International School of Vietnam
United Nations International School of Hanoi (UNIS)

In addition to the IB schools, a number of other private schools in Ho Chi Minh City also deliver quality education according to an international curriculum.

International School Saigon Pearl, which delivers a US curriculum in an English language environment.
Saint Ange French International School, which offers secular education delivered in French.

In Hanoi, some of the other private school options include:

Concordia International School. Established by the US Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), this is an English-speaking school.
Lycée Français Alexandre Yersin (LFAY), which delivers a French education leading to the French Baccalauréat.
Wellspring International School. Established by Vietnamese Real Estate and Education group SSG, this bilingual school has an international outlook.

Quality Schools International also runs a school in the northern city of Haiphong, delivering a US curriculum in the English language.

It is possible for the children of expats to attend state schools run by the ministry of education and training. Vietnamese will be spoken at all times, except for foreign language classes, so a family’s individual circumstances will determine whether this is the right choice for their child.

Literacy rates in Vietnam are high and continue to improve despite the absence of universal free education. Primary school is compulsory for all children aged six until the age of eleven. There are no social or regulatory barriers to prevent girls attending school. The government provides subsidy for primary schools, but in some areas the poverty of local people means they struggle to afford the uniform, text books, pens and other items required for their children to attend.

Second school is not compulsory, and parents are nearly always charged tuition fees. For families in poverty, especially in ethnic minority areas, the choice between receiving extra income and help now from child labour or paying out for school costs in the hope it pays off at some point in the future is easily made.

Kindergartens and pre-school nurseries in Vietnam accept children from about eighteen months until school starts at the age of five. These are privately run facilities, and so tend to be based in middle-class urban areas.

At the age of six, all children start primary school, which they will attend for five years. This is followed by four years of intermediate education.

In late August, the new school year begins with semester one. There is a break in December. Semester two runs from January until late May.

Pupils who are able to achieve high scores in academic tests may be offered a place at one of the grammar schools known as trường trung học phổ thông chuyên (specialized secondary schools).

At the beginning of secondary school, some prestigious schools offer specialist classes for high ability children who pass exams in maths, English, literature and a chosen subject. The workload is heavy and pushes children to achieve learning targets at least a year ahead of their peers.

Pupils take the national high school graduation examination, which is administered by the ministry of education, at the end of secondary school.

Higher education is seen as a valuable route to professional employment in Vietnam. As a result, entrance is highly competitive, even though there are more than four hundred universities, institutes and colleges offering diplomas and degrees. National high school graduation exam scores are used to determine which higher education institutions will accept students on to a degree course. Since 2015, separate university application tests have been removed.

However, Vietnamese degrees are not internationally recognised unless they have been issued by an international university that has a campus in the country. For expats whose children are thinking about university study in Vietnam, this factor must be considered.

The school system in Vietnam is unpopular with some parents, due to its emphasis on test results and competitiveness. As in Singapore and many other countries around the world, high rates of stress and unhappiness are reported by pupils who feel under constant pressure to excel at school. Additional academic tutoring after school is common, and poorly paid state school teachers will often work very long hours to bring in additional tutoring income. It is alleged that tests sometimes include content which is covered in private tutoring time, so those pupils who only attend school are at a genuine disadvantage. This helps perpetuate the practice of additional tuition.

Schools and educational bodies in all sectors are aware of the effects of exam stress on young people, and debate continues as to the best way to help pupils prepare for adult life.


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