YOUR INSIDER'S EDUCATION GUIDE
IN HO CHI MINH CITY 🇻🇳 SINCE 2008
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION VIETNAM: DEGREES OR CAREER EDUCATION?
In Vietnam, high school graduates are usually told to take part in entrance exams for university. Vietnamese society is obsessed with degrees and diplomas and people generally believe that entering a university is the best way to achieve professional success; not many parents want their children to have a vocational education.
High school graduates flock to universities, and after four years in đại học (university) or three years in cao đẳng (college), a new batch of university graduates joins the potential labor market.
There is fierce competition among job candidates, but recent findings indicate that those with vocational qualifications are likely to find employment more easily than those with academic degrees. According to a survey by the Ministry of Labour, the unemployment rate of degree-holders in the country was 8.1 percent in 2016, while that of candidates with vocational training was only 1.8 percent.
Among 1.1 million unemployed people in Vietnam, around 200,000 hold bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Dang Quang Thien, 26, from the northern province of Ninh Binh, graduated from college two years ago, majoring in the food industry. After failing to find a job, he decided to buy a motorbike and become a GrabBike driver.
He is among many Vietnamese degree holders who have failed to find a job in their field and end up doing something that does not require academic qualifications.
Why Is it Happening?
The preference for qualifications over training probably dates back to the feudal era when a man’s greatest dream was to study and take part in exams to become an official in the imperial administration.
For centuries this was seen as the path toward success for a commoner; being an administrative official was the noblest status in society. That mindset is still very common today.
Many parents think that their children must pursue academia for them to be respected. They are also afraid that becoming a blue-collar worker means harder work and less pay.
As a result, there was a boom in university education some years ago as many junior colleges were upgraded to university level. A series of both public and private universities opened up and increased their recruitment figures, exceeding the real demands of the job market. Higher education has become easier to achieve than ever before.
According to the Ministry of Education and Training’s 2016 statistics, Vietnam has more than 400 universities and colleges, three times the number recorded in 1987, and double the number in 2002.
Along with other temporary jobs that degree holders take after graduation, many choose to sign up for programs to work overseas, and Japan and Korea are the most favored destinations. A number of graduates decide to go to vocational training schools or enroll back in universities with a different major.
Nguyen Hoang Tuan graduated from the Business Administration Department of Long An Economics and Industry University in 2016. More than one year after graduation, he was unable to find a job. Tuan decided to attend the industrial electricity program at a local vocational school.
“When I enrolled in business administration, I was following the lead of many friends, not pursuing my own dream. The more I learned, the more I realized that it was not my thing. “So I think that young people should choose to study something that suits their ability and what they really like, not what others like.”
Vietnam is in true need of skilled workers as the country lags well behind neighboring countries in terms of labor productivity growth; the manufacturing sector, as it happens, has the lowest labor productivity growth. Apart from the needs of society, on a practical level young people and their families will benefit from vocational training by saving the money they would have spent in expensive universities.
Mr. Nguyen Hoang Anh, the head teacher of Ho Chi Minh City-based iSpace Vocational College, said: “In a society where people are still obsessed with degrees, those who choose to attend vocational schools should be praised for their bravery.” Vietnamese experts suggest that high schools and vocational schools should work together to provide advice to high school graduates about better career path choices.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION WHAT VIETNAMESE CHILDREN LEARN IN SCHOOL
What do Vietnamese kids actually learn in public schools here? Former educator Frank Fox provides a glimpse into the local system. The school system in Vietnam rests on one major foundation: learning by heart. While beneficial in fields like mathematics and geometry, it suffocates creativity in other subjects.
Don’t get me wrong, there is creativity going on in Vietnam. There are people with the ability to react fast, find independent solutions, and do as good a job as everybody else in the world. But it is not the native education system that hauls the credit in these cases, only individual effort and determination. Fortunately, these essential traits are commonly found in Vietnamese people.
Let’s have a look at each level in the Vietnamese education system.
Kindergarten in Vietnam
Kindergarten is not yet dominated by learning, it’s rather a nursery with opportunities to play and learn the rules of social interaction. Yes friends, to ensure that your child is treated well at most of the kindergarten, a monthly gift, nicely wrapped in an envelope, is more than welcome in both public and private institutions.
Primary School in Vietnam
Once in primary school, our children face a curriculum that consists of the following basic subjects: Mathematics, English, Reading and Writing, Sports, Crafting, Painting, Music, and Morals and Etiquette.
Looks pretty neat, doesn’t it? If you replace the moral and etiquette subject with basic science, it looks like our own curriculum back home. The difference is, that the children here learn by heart what can be learned by heart. In music, you learn the notes and repeat meticulously what’s in the book. Even if learning by heart already kicks in, it’s still primary school, so the pressure is not yet in full effect.
That starts with:
Secondary School in Vietnam
If somebody in Europe told you that he had to learn the periodic table by heart, you would either roll on the floor laughing or buy him a pint out of pity. Well, prepare to dish out many pints in Vietnam.
This is the same as everywhere else in the universe. I actually can’t imagine any other way to learn math than learning the rules first and then start applying them and playing with numbers.
This was one of my favorite subjects in secondary school. In Vietnam, you basically learn about Vietnamese authors, preferably those from the army. You read articles and discuss the morale of the story and the writing style of the author. After that, you learn his biography by heart. My question of whether there is freestyle writing at tests was answered with a straight “No”.
Learning about art in Vietnam is quite similar to learning about arts in Europe, however stricter. Topics are given and the students have to follow them.
This subject is a creative highlight in a very Vietnamese way: Take a song and replace the lyrics with your own. The cooler teachers let the students sing for the test.
Grammar is taught, as well as reading and communication. The education in terms of grammar is pretty good and nobody can deny that. The main problem here is that many Vietnamese English teachers deliver a strong accent in the first place, and copying them doesn’t make it better. If students find the time to watch English movies in their spare time, they can develop pretty good skills. But that brings us back to the point of personal determination.
This subject is taught without exploding oxyhydrogen gas, there is no mixing of sugar with sulphuric acid and no lithium tossed into a bowl of water. But as I mentioned above, these activities are substituted by learning by heart the periodic table of elements.
Quite similar to chemistry in terms of the absence of practical experiments and the presence of more formulae to learn at school.
The science of life is another topic. Apparently there an array of interesting experiments is conducted in Vietnamese secondary schools that we didn’t do, even at high school. Okay, here as well as in other subjects learning by heart is an integral part of the system. But they practice microscopy, anatomy, and even dissecting a live frog. Vivisection is, however, not a practice to recommend for the sake of compassion. But, they usually don’t have a real skeleton in the cabinet, as we did.
This subject shows it’s worst face. Out of roughly 100 Vietnamese students I asked on occasion if they like history, how many answered with “Yes”, do you think? Exactly zero. History in Vietnam comes with a general introduction to the king generation of Vietnam, skipping scientists and foreign countries. There is no cultural education about the past. But what do they actually learn in history?
Well, on average, 12 A4 pages per week about how many helicopters were destroyed in this battle, how many soldiers died in that battle, and what are the relatives of that general, his biography… is crammed into the short-term memory until the next test. When I asked roughly 45 students why there is a day off on the 2nd of September, only two knew what was going on and one of them finally came up with the answer “independence day”.
A subject that gives an overview of the continents and introduces personalities like Columbus. The rest is focused on climate and agriculture, such as soil types, coffee production, and weather. In a society that derives the lion’s share of its identity from farming and fishery, this is actually an important part of education.
Physical Education is pretty much the same as it is back in good ol’ Europe and North America.
Tests and exams at secondary school:
In secondary school students are expected, as in most other systems, to sit a variety of regular tests and exams. These include simple tests, evaluatory exams, and entrance exams to further education.
Simple tests: There is a 15-minute test every week and a 45-minute test twice a month. It’s basically writing down everything you have crammed into your short-term memory over the last week – under time pressure.
Evaluatory exams: There are four main exams during every grade and they are basically the same as the tests, but obviously a little more significant.
High School Entrance Exams: Here students re-cram everything from the last nine months that conveniently vanished from their short-term memory. By the heart of course. There are four subjects that get tested during the final exams at secondary school in Vietnam: Mathematics, Literature, English, and one practical subject that is chosen every year by the Department of Education. This subject can either be biology, geography, or physics.
The first two account for 20 points each, the last two for 10 each, which adds up to a maximum of 60 points you can reach. In some special cases, a student can reach more than 60 points though, but that is rare and only for students who had excellent marks during the whole course of secondary school.
Every year the headmaster of every high school sets a minimum score every student needs to be accepted at this particular school. Students write down their preferred high school, as well as (usually) two alternative institutes in case they cannot reach the required score to be accepted by their first choice.
High School in Vietnam
High school is basically the same as secondary school, except there is more pressure and more to learn than before. The entrance exam for universities is quite similar too.
At home, in Austria, I sometimes cursed the outdated school system we have and the fact that we are required to cram our heads with useless information from outdated books. And taking a look into the Vietnamese education system almost made me exclaim “Tu Felix Austria”! Almost. But at the end of the day, accepting the bad just because you’ve found worse is not the way to go.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION Choosing Your Childs Education
Education is an important issue for expatriates and Vietnamese alike, and HCMC has a wide variety of first-rate international and local schools. For the expatriate community, education in HCMC is generally only necessary for a few years. Parents tend to choose a curriculum that will be accepted worldwide so that their child may easily return to his or her home country (i.e. US, UK, Australia, Japan, Korea) or travel to any other country that accepts the chosen curriculum.
Conversely, a number of Vietnamese parents choose international schools for a variety of reasons. The key motivations seem to be an international education, enhanced job prospects, and career paths, an international learning environment, interactive, open-form learning, and a wide array of extracurricular activities available (art, music, swimming, etc.).
Positively, the value of international school education has improved exponentially over the past five years. This is reflected in the quality of their buildings, technology, and equipment but more importantly in the excellent teaching staff attracted to HCMC. Salary packages have improved dramatically and Vietnam now compares well with other Southeast Asian countries. On average, a school’s salary expenditure alone is between 75% and 92% of the total budget. In addition, some international schools are audited annually by their home countries to ensure that strict standards are maintained.
Less positively, in order to receive an international education, you must be prepared financially. Tuition fees vary greatly, but schools with a more advanced English curriculum range between US$10,000 and US$20,000 per year. In addition to tuition fees, expect to pay extra for enrolment, placement, uniforms, extra-curricular activities, transportation, and lunches. Even if you have no qualms with the tuition and fees, there is still no guarantee that the best schools will admit your child; keep the selection process and long waiting lists in mind when choosing.
Vietnam’s complex educational system includes preschool, general education, vocational training, language schools, college, and postgraduate education. Both state and private institutions and educational programs are available throughout the city.
If you want your child to experience an authentic Vietnamese education, they can attend a Vietnamese school upon completion of a Vietnamese language test (often pending an interview with the school headmaster). International students who do not speak Vietnamese may participate in some master’s programs available through Vietnamese universities in cooperation with international ones.
The leading advantages of Vietnamese schools are lower fees, and a sense of hard work, respect, and discipline. However, the lack of student-to-teacher interaction and extracurricular activities is often criticized along with the archaic teacher-centered learning method which places emphasis on rote memorization and a heavy workload.
Another popular option is homeschooling. Given the rising costs of education and the inconvenience of far-away schools, Vietnamese and expatriates alike are looking at home-schooling as a possible solution. There is a wealth of information and support available on the internet for either a parent or recruited tutor to help homeschooled children succeed. Australia seems to be the acknowledged leader in the field of home-taught education.
So, homeschooling, international school, or local institution – which do you choose, and how can you be sure it is the right educational fit for your child? Gary D. Benfield, parent, and headmaster of ABC International School is quite pertinent in his advice: “In short, finding a successful route through the HCMC educational minefield is about choosing what best fits your child’s needs […] This is not something that one can be told by someone else, but which one must feel for yourself. Happiness is everything and especially so in all matters related to learning: visit the schools, think about what you are told about facilities and results, but above all else make a judgment about how happy your child will be in that learning community. Good education is a lifelong journey and different individuals will rightly choose different paths upon which to travel.”
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION BEST INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS IN HO CHI MINH CITY
These propositions were last checked in July 2022. If you notice something to be improved, please send us your details. Thanks.
Find the ideal international school for your child in Ho Chi Minh City with our overview of the city’s premier education providers. Scroll down to find details about admission fees, curricula, notable features, and other useful details to make the process of choosing a school easier.
Many people move to Vietnam without a set idea of where they will live or where they will educate their children! For these reasons, emigration is always a challenge, but in Ho Chi Minh City, where ‘wrong’ is often ‘right’ and up can be down, tapping into the local system can sometimes seem impossible.
As a group of experienced ex-pats, many of us with families here, we’ve been through this whole process. We’ve done the leg work, we’ve asked the questions, and we’ve come up with a series of resources that we hope will make your experience of settling in Ho Chi Minh City much easier and less time-consuming!
If it’s schools you are after and an education you want, look no further than our list below. Listed in no particular order, these schools are all premium international schools, professional, friendly with a range of facilities and extracurricular opportunities that will make them an excellent choice for your child’s education.
MONTESSORI INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF VIETNAM
Budget: Fees for students vary significantly depending on age and whether they enrol for half day lessons or full day. School meals are also optional extras, as is transport to and from school. However, as a guide, fees for a full time elementary student range from VND 380,000,000 to VND 400,000,000 for a year. For full details click here.
Languages: English instruction. Some classes in Vietnamese
Curriculum: MIS follows the Montessori philosophy and is accredited by the American Montessori Society. Students are encouraged to become independent learners via free exploration.
Unique feature: In addition to following the Montessori philosophy, MIS is an advocate of ‘Resources for Infant Educarers’ or RIE®. As a result, the school is very well placed to provide parental support for parents who wish to adopt the Educaring™ approach. MIS is also able to offer a variety of learning environments at each of its 3 HCMC-based campuses.
International School Saigon Pearl: Elementary & Early Years School (ISSP)
Budget: Application fee of VND 25,000,000 VND and annual fees starting at VND 210,000,000 in early years, rising up to VND 458,700,000 for Grade 5. For more information please see this fee sheet.
Languages: English instruction.
Curriculum: This school is a part of Cognita Schools Group, which follows the American Core Curriculum which focuses on teaching core values such as honesty, caring, respect, responsibility and wisdom.
Uniform: The school’s uniform is a red short-sleeved polo emblazoned with the school’s logo at the front. Depending on the student, the shirt is complemented with either blue shorts or a blue skirt.
Unique feature: ISSP is now the only international elementary and early years school (18 months – 10 years of age) in HCMC to have the prestigious accreditation from the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
Kids Club Saigon (Early Childhood Centre)
Budget: Fees for Kids Club Saigon vary depending on the age of the child and how many days a week they attend the center. However, to attend for 5 days a week you can expect to pay around VND 180,000,000 for children aged below 4 years and around VND 199,000,000 for Kinder Kids (ages 5 – 6). For full details contact email@example.com
Languages: English instruction.
Curriculum: The curriculum at Kids Club Saigon is based on Washington State Early Learning and Development Guidelines. However, the approach is Reggio Emilia and Montessori inspired meaning that a blended approach to early childhood education provides a child-centered program of learning and self-discovery.
Uniform: No uniform.
Unique feature: Kids Club Saigon strives to create an atmosphere that makes the center your child’s ‘home away from home, which is reflected in the facilities at the center. The ‘pretend play’ kitchen area is a popular area of discovery for kids to imitate what they see at home, and to explore in a safe environment.
APU American International School
Budget: Annual tuition fees vary depending on the age of the child but you can expect to pay upwards of VND 198,000,000 for preschool, VND 270,000,000 for primary students, and VND 357,000,000 for secondary. A registration fee of VND 45,000,000 is also applicable for each applicant. For full details visit the website.
Languages: English instruction.
Curriculum: APU students follow an American curriculum that incorporates AP elements where appropriate but is generally inspired by the Montessori approach. Secondary students are provided with a robust and diverse education through instruction in four core subjects—language arts, mathematics, science, and social science—as well as supplemental and peripheral subjects such as English as a Second Language (ESL) and computer science.
Uniform: The uniform at APU is a white shirt, navy blue vest embroidered with the school logo, and a checkered tie.
Unique feature: Older students at APU can also benefit from the partnership between APU International School (APU) and the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) which has created a unique accelerated program for high school students. Students accepted into College Bridge Program (CBP) can earn a semester, a year, or more of US university credits while enrolled in high school courses or as a recent high school graduate. For more details visit the website.
Canada Vietnam Kindergarten
Budget: Annual tuition fees start at VND 153,000,000 for both nursery and preschool students. An admission fee of VND 3,000,000 is also applicable for each applicant, as is a deposit of VND10,000,000. Further fees are payable for school meals and transportation. For full details visit the website.
Languages: Vietnamese plus Intensive English program 60 – 120 minutes a day
Curriculum: Students at the Canada Vietnam Kindergarten follow a Reggio Emilia-inspired program that highlights STEAM subjects and satisfies both Vietnamese MOET (Ministry of Education and Training) and Ontario Ministry of Education requirements.
Uniform: The uniform at CVK is a white shirt and purple shorts or a purple striped dress.
Unique feature: Whilst many schools in the city guarantee that their teachers possess qualifications from foreign universities or training centers, CVK ensures that all teachers have Ontario Teaching Certificates to guarantee familiarity with the OSSD curriculum. This makes CVK an exceptional choice for any family considering relocation to Canada as transitions will be easier when students are familiar with the curriculum style and content. For more details visit the website.
Lavelle Academy (Early Years and Preschool)
Budget: Annual tuition fees are dependent on whether a student attends for a half day of the full day, but you can expect to pay between VND 353,000,000 and VND 395,000,000 for full-time tuition, depending on the age of the child. However, Lavelle Academy does offer promotional rates on tuition fees at certain times of the year. For full details visit the website.
Languages: English instruction.
Curriculum: Lavelle Academy offers a holistic and flexible schedule where the curriculum is focused on supporting the child in whatever stage of development they are in. Lavelle Academy’s curriculum aims to provide real-life experience (learning through play) that creates confidence, independence, and creativity along with a knowledge of natural and social sciences
Uniform: The uniform at Lavelle Academy is a lightweight cotton shirt, embroidered with the school logo and light gray cotton trousers.
Unique feature: Like many international schools in Ho Chi Minh City, Lavelle Academy offers an excellent range of enrichment programs. However, with private piano lessons, private swimming lessons and ballet tuition from award-winning choreographers, registered with the Royal Academy of Dance, lessons at Lavelle Academy are of the highest quality.
American International School Vietnam (AIS)
Budget: An application fee of VND 5,000,000 is required for each child and a one-time registration fee of VND 45,000,000 is required to secure a student’s place when an offer is made. Annual fees start at VND 453,800,000 for kindergarten classes, and range to VND 690,800,000 in grades 11 and 12. For more, please click here
Languages: English instruction
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate (IB), Advanced Placement (AP), American High School Diploma (College Preparatory). Co-education.
Uniform: The school uniform consists of a light yellow polo shirt embroidered with the school logo.
Unique feature: In addition to being accredited by WASC, CIS, and IB, the school’s new campus in Nha Be provides state-of-the-art facilities to support visual and performing arts as well as the school’s very successful ‘competitive sport’ program. AIS regularly sees students accepted into colleges and universities in the US and around the world.
ANNE HILL INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL
Budget: For a primary student taking full-day tuition throughout the week, annual fees are around VND 200,000,000 with a variety of payment options available.Tuition fees at Anne Hill International School cover the costs of core subjects, meals, uniforms and transportation meaning that they can be considered one of the more affordable options in the city. However, a VND10,000,000 registration fee still applies. See this sheet for more information.
Languages: English instruction with options for Vietnamese and Chinese Mandarin as a second language.
Curriculum: International Primary Curriculum member, pursuing Cambridge accreditation. Cambridge International Primary Programme is followed for key subjects such as English, Maths, and Science
Uniform: The school uniform combines a light green t-shirt or polo shirt with neutral-colored shorts or culottes.
Unique feature: Anne Hill International School is an independent school offering brand new facilities for its students. For those looking for a truly international school experience, the school currently has students from more than 40 different nationalities enrolled, making it one of the most varied student bodies that we have come across.
EUROPEAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL HO CHI MINH CITY (EIS)
Budget: Administration fee of VND 4,500,000 per student, acceptance fee of VND 20,000,000 – VND 40,000,000 depending on the age of your child, and tuition fees start at VND 229,600,000 for Toddler class (2 years of age) up to VND 632,000,000 in Grade 12. Tuition fees can be paid in up to 10 installments. The school has a partnership with a few banks which allow 0% interest rate by credit card payment. For more information please see this fee page.
Languages: English instruction. Additional languages: German, French, Spanish, Korean, and Vietnamese.
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate (IB) Continuum. Co-education.
Uniform: The school uniform is a white polo shirt with orange details and a school logo.
Unique feature: With possibly the most convenient location in Thao Dien, EIS a boutique international school, set in lush garden surroundings, offering the International Baccalaureate (IB) continuum of studies for children aged 2-18. Despite being a boutique in feel, the school is large enough to offer a wide range of educational opportunities and the vibrant campus is a place where students, teachers, and parents of all grade levels and different backgrounds interact freely with each other. EIS offers a truly diverse ‘melting pot of 40+ nationalities and global cultures, where students are encouraged to find their own voice, pursue languages, and contribute to all aspects of school life.
AUSTRALIAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL VIETNAM (AIS)
Budget: A nonrefundable application fee of VND 4,500,000 is payable at the time of application. Annual fees vary depending on the age of the student and how many days they attend school, but expect to pay between VND 432,000,000 and VND 665,000,000 each year from primary and secondary enrollment. Click here for full details
Languages: English instruction.
Curriculum: PYP, IGCSE, and IB Diploma Program
Uniform: The school has a variety of uniform options all based on the school colors of blue and white.
Unique feature: AIS houses its very own Boarding House which is the first of its kind among premium international schools in Vietnam. With space to accommodate 50 pupils, AIS’s boarding experience is available for students aged from 11 to 18 years old, both boys and girls, and both local and international families. AIS offers an extensive range of facilities over the school’s three world-class campuses, with each of its classrooms and learning environments being spacious, well-resourced, and technologically rich.
Kinder Academy International PreSchool
Budget: With annual fees starting at VND 199,000,000 for a year’s tuition, fees at Kinder Academy are one of the most reasonably priced options in Thao Dien. Percentage discounts are provided for siblings attending at the same time. However, additional fees are required each year, as is a one-off enrolment fee so it is worth checking the full details here.
Curriculum: Kinder Academy applies Reggio Emilia inspired and EMS (English, Math, and Nature Sciences) philosophies to a curriculum that prioritizes STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths).
Unique feature: Kinder Academy focuses on keeping class sizes small so there are never more than 15 students in a class. This helps staff to provide engaging and flexible lessons where the whole campus is utilized to inspire and educate children, rather than remaining based in one classroom throughout the day.
British Vietnam International School (BVIS)
Budget: A nonrefundable application fee of VND 3,500,000 per student and a security deposit of VND 35,400,000 is applicable for all students. Tuition fees start at VND 202,600,000 for Nursery (from 1.5 years of age), VND 274,400,000 for Preschool, VND 369,000,000 for Primary (5 – 10 years) and from VND 431,500,000 for Secondary. Additional fees for registration and transportation are applicable. For more information please see this page.
Languages: English and Vietnamese until 10 years old. Vietnamese lessons are then reduced depending on age to a maximum of 5% tuition in Year 12.
Curriculum: British Curriculum. Bi-Lingual.
Uniform: The school uniform is khaki shorts or a shirt, with a violet t-shirt in kindergarten, or a white shirt with the school badge in primary and secondary school.
Unique feature: BVIS is the only bilingual school in Ho Chi Minh City that is licensed to deliver international qualifications. By delivering the British National Curriculum in both English and Vietnamese students are provided with a unique opportunity to study from an international perspective. BVIS also offers the opportunity to collaborate with other international students in the Nord Anglia group via the Global Campus learning platform, and further opportunities to explore hobbies and interests with an exceptional range of extracurricular activities, including the well-recognized Duke of Edinburgh award.
ETON HOUSE INTERNATIONAL PRESCHOOL
Budget: For annual enrollment at Eton House you can expect to pay between VND 200,000,000 – VND 250,000,000 per child. However, sibling discounts, payment plans, and seasonal promotions are available.
Languages: English instruction, Vietnamese, and Mandarin available as additional languages
Curriculum: The Inquire-Think-Learn, Reggio Emilia Inspired International Curriculum from Singapore, is a well-rounded, holistic and integrated curriculum that encourages children to stretch their imagination, think independently, and be inspired to learn.
Uniform: The school uniform is a bright and cheerful red and green plaid dress or shirt or red polo shirt and beige shorts
Unique feature: Housed in a beautiful colonial villa in Thao Dien, EtonHouse offers a tranquil environment amidst lush greenery. Students here not only benefit from being classmates with students from over 30 nationalities at school but EtonHouse families can also connect with 12,000 students in EtonHouse 120 campuses around the world. The utilization of the ‘Kept me’ app is a key feature at the school as this innovative platform ensures that parents are kept up to date with what their child is doing throughout the day and allows learning achievements to be shared and witnessed easily and efficiently.
British International School, Ho Chi Minh City (BIS)
Junior Campus: 225 Nguyễn Văn Hưởng, Thảo Điền, Thu Duc City, Vietnam / +84 28 3744 4551
Secondary Campus: 246 Nguyễn Văn Hưởng Street, Thu Duc City, Vietnam / +84 28 3744 2335
Budget: Expect to pay a nonrefundable application Fee of VND3,500,000 and a one-off Registration fee of VND 70,800,000 per child for Primary and Secondary school children when accepting a place. Annual fees start at VND 495,300,000 (can be paid in installments) from Year 1 (Primary) and range to VND 730,800,000 in Year 13. See this Fee Sheet for more information.
Languages: English instruction, Vietnamese as an extracurricular club. Plus French, Spanish, and Mandarin
Curriculum: IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education), IBDP (International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme), International Primary Curriculum. Co-education.
Uniform: The school uniform is a white shirt or maroon polo with neutral-colored trousers or a skirt.
Unique feature: Firmly established as the international school of choice in Ho Chi Minh City, the British International School is a selective, independent, and co-educational day school that provides a diverse international education measured by British standards. Their academic programs, exceptional teaching staff, and personalized approach to learning have fostered a strong reputation for delivering world-class results. Additionally, through their connection to the NAE family of schools, students of BIS HCMC are able to access unique, life-changing opportunities with world-leading institutions such as Juilliard, MIT, and UNICEF. The school has excellent specialist facilities including gymnasiums, music suites, theatre and auditoriums, and other specific spaces for art, dance, and design.
THE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF HO CHI MINH CITY (ISHCMC)
Budget: An admission fee of VND 50,000,000 is required for all primary and secondary applications. Annual school fees start at VND 524,200,000 for Grade 1, rising to VND 775,300,000 in Grade 12. For full details of fees and repayment schedules click here.
Languages: English instruction
Curriculum: IB curriculum. Co-education.
Uniform: The school uniform is a blue sweater and white polo shirt featuring the school logo.
Unique feature: ISHCMC is the first and most established school in the city. They consistently achieve high IB results that score well above the IB World Average. Unique features include purified air systems for Early Explorers to Grade 2 to combat high pollution levels. The school has committed to providing these to all Grade levels. Students are able to innovate and create in a Makerspace, Mac Lab, Film studios, Black Box Studios, and DT Suites. A new state-of-the-art Secondary Campus opened in 2018.
International Montessori Academy
Budget: Annual tuition fees at International Montessori Academy are around VND180,000,000, with an additional application fee of VND 5,000,000 required when you apply. If transportation is required, an additional cost will be incurred, however, school meals are included in the tuition fees. Full details of the enrollment process and necessary fees are available from the school office via email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling +84 28 7300 2268
Languages: English plus daily Vietnamese instruction
Uniform: Blue polo shirts featuring the school logo (Uniform is not compulsory)
Unique feature: International Montessori Academy offers an authentic Montessori Education with highly experienced and qualified teachers leading the program. All lead teachers are Montessori certified and have a minimum of 12 years of experience. Teaching assistants are also highly qualified with a degree in education and an early childhood education certificate. With an average class size of 14 students, International Montessori Academy offers excellent value for parents.
FOSCO International School
Budget: An application fee of VND 3,500,000 applies to each student, with additional registration fees varying depending on a child’s age. Annual tuition starts at VND 130,000,000 for nursery, VND158,000,000 for preschool and from VND 228,000,000 for primary. Please click here for more information.
Languages: English, plus 3 hours of Vietnamese each week
Curriculum: American Common Core. Preschools also follow Vietnam MOET
Uniform: School Uniform is a green polo shirt or t-shirt featuring the school logo and a beige skirt or shorts
Unique feature: At FOSCO International School you will hear more than a dozen languages are spoken by the students who hail from a variety of nations. But this does not mean that the school loses its boutique atmosphere. Teachers and students all know each other and a family-oriented program of activities means that parents are part of the learning journey too.
Budget: An application fee of VND 2,00,000 applies to each student, with an additional ‘infrastructure’ fee of VND 3,000,000 payable each year. Annual tuition fees are VND 146,000,000 for instruction with native English-speaking teachers. Options to receive instruction from bilingual teachers are available, as are options to receive transportation and snacks. Please click here for more information.
Languages: English, plus 1 hour of Vietnamese each week in kindergarten
Uniform: School Uniform is a white shirt and blue shorts
Unique feature: Kidzone offers excellent value for money and convenience with 5 campuses located in Thao Dien, Thu Duc City, and District 9. Each campus provides safe, modern facilities with plenty of space to allow for outdoor and indoor activities. Students are encouraged to connect with nature and explore the school where a ‘home away from the home atmosphere is promoted.
Little Genius International Kindergarten
Budget: A nonrefundable application and registration fee of VND 8,500,000 applies to each student. Annual tuition is VND 200,000,000 for Nursery students (from 1.5 years), and VND 220,000,000 for preschool students.
Curriculum: British. Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)
Uniform: No specific uniform
Unique feature: Little Genius International Kindergarten offers small class sizes (maximum 15 students) to provide the best learning environment possible. The school offers a dynamic curriculum with a strong STEAM focus. With a dedicated science lab and technology room, Little Genius International Kindergarten offers students the opportunity to study robotics and coding alongside courses that promote physical health and well-being, including healthy cooking, hip-hop dance, and football.
Saigon South International School (SSIS)
Budget: A nonrefundable application fee of VND 10,000,000 applies to each student, with a VND 45,000,000 Enrollment Fee required to guarantee a student’s place. Annual fees start at VND 379,000,000 and range up to VND 685,000,000 depending on the age of the student. Note that this school is a non-profit international school and all fees are reinvested in the school. In spite of this, it is one of the best international schools in Saigon. Please click here for more information.
Curriculum: Advanced Placement (AP), American High School Diploma (College Preparatory), SSIS follows a tailored curriculum based on the North American education system. Students can also study the IB Diploma Program at this school. Co-education.
Uniform: School Uniform is a blue polo shirt or t-shirt featuring the school logo
Unique feature: As mentioned above, this is the only non-profit international school in Vietnam and the school’s revenues are reinvested in the school. Over 850 students from over 30 different countries attend this school, and the student-to-teacher ratio is 10 to 1.
LA PETIT ECOLE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL
Budget: Different fees are applicable for Nursery students depending on how many days a week they attend. However as a guide, attendance for 3 days a week starts at VND 104,500,000 per year. For preschool and elementary students, attendance 5 days a week is compulsory and annual fees start at VND 214,000,000 VND and VND 234,000,000 respectively. Full details are available here.
Languages: French and English.
Curriculum: La Petite Ecole follows a French National Education curriculum and has been accredited by the French Ministry of Education. The school is also a member of AEFE (Agency for French Education Abroad), ensuring a high quality of bilingual tuition.
Unique feature: La Petite Ecole focuses on providing an exceptional learning environment for its students. This means that the facilities are not only well maintained and modern but classrooms are fitted with air purifiers and outdoor play spaces are fitted with pollution control monitors to ensure students stay safe when playing outside.
Aurora International School of the Arts
Budget: For the youngest students attending Aurora International Preschool of the Arts, tuition fees start at VND 240,000,000. Primary students can expect to pay VND 286,000,000. For full details contact the school here.
Languages: English. Vietnamese is an additional language from the primary.
Curriculum: Aurora International Preschool of the Arts follows a Reggio Emilia-inspired curriculum.
Unique feature: Aside from offering a leafy, boutique campus housed in a beautifully adapted villa, Aurora International Preschool of the arts offers a robust communication system that ensures parents are an integral part of their child’s development. Teachers are expertly trained to observe, interpret and document each child’s learning journey and to communicate their progress to parents. This exchange of information between parents and teachers is an integral part of the collaborative approach to a child’s education.
The American School (TAS)
Budget: A nonrefundable application fee of VND 3,500,000 is required per child and a registration fee is required to confirm placement. Annual tuition for a child in grade 12 is VND 631,925,000 however additional fees for textbook deposits and school meals may be applicable. For full details click here
Languages: English instruction
Curriculum: Advanced Placement (AP), American High School Diploma (College Preparatory), WASC-accredited school. Co-education.
Uniform: The school uniform is a red or blue polo shirt with neutral trousers, shorts, or a skirt. Unique feature: After-school clubs include swimming, theatre, dance, and others, and both campuses have Wi-Fi. Students represent over 25 different nationalities. The school focuses on teaching vital academic skills such as communication, critical thinking, research, creativity, and independent learning. It is a WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) accredited School.
Canadian International School (CIS)
Budget: CIS offers a number of incentives and payment options that makes calculating the final fees for each student quite complex. However, as a guide you should expect to pay an assessment fee of VND 2,000,000, Registration fees starting at VND 22,000,000, and annual tuition fees upwards of VND 486,000,000 in primary school and upwards of VND 560,000,000 in secondary school. For a full breakdown of fees click here.
Languages: English instruction. Vietnamese lessons are optional.
Curriculum: The school uses the OSSD program administered by the Ontario school board meaning students graduate high school with an Ontario Secondary School Diploma. The IB diploma program is also an additional option in high schools, however, fees are higher.
Uniform: The school uniform is a white shirt with the school logo and maroon details, paired with maroon trousers, a skirt, or shorts.
Unique feature: CIS is the only school in Ho Chi Minh City to provide the OSSD program from kindergarten to Grade 12. CIS also uses a Character Education in Action program to train its students in a variety of valuable ethics, from respect to responsibility. Their focus is on preparing their students for further study, and academic excellence is their key goal. They take care to provide a culturally sensitive curriculum.
Renaissance International School Saigon
Budget: A nonrefundable application fee of VND 4,000,000 applies to each student when an application is made. A further one-time registration fee is payable when a place is accepted, registration fees vary depending on the age of the child. Annual tuition fees start at VND 262,940,000 for early years (full day) students and range up to VND 689,930,000 for final year secondary students. Please click here for more information.
Languages: English Instruction. Mother tongue tuition in Vietnamese and Korean. French and Chinese as additional languages.
Curriculum: English National Curriculum (see website for specifics), IGCSE and IBDP. Co-education.
Uniform: School Uniform is required for all students but vary depending on age. For full details click here.
Unique feature: Renaissance International School Saigon has an impressive range of accreditations including CIS, FOBISIA, and Round Square but the primary selling point is that they offer an excellent range of facilities, extracurricular activities, and clubs, without losing the community feeling of a medium size school. Teachers and students are all familiar with each other and students from across academic years mix together so regularly that the school feels very welcoming and friendly from the moment you walk through the doors.
Bilingual Canadian International School
Budget: For your primary-aged child, fees start at around VND 235,000,000. However an additional assessment test fee of VND 2,200,000 is required, and a registration fee of VND 22,000,000 is necessary for students in grades 9 to 12. Other fees are required for transportation and school meals. For full details, click here.
Languages: 50% English Instruction, 50% Vietnamese
Curriculum: OSSD (Canada), MOET (Vietnam), and IGCSE.
Uniform: White shirt with maroon shorts or skirt.
Unique feature: BCIS has fantastic facilities that encompass a total area of 13,000 m². The school also offers boarding facilities in a modern boarding house that provides students with access to the school facilities, 3 meals a day, and weekend activities.
Saigon Star International School
Budget: For your primary-aged child fees start at around VND 345,000,000. However an additional application fee of VND 2,300,000 is required, and an enrolment fee of VND 30,000,000 is necessary. Other fees may be required depending on the child’s needs. For full details, click here.
Languages: English Instruction
Curriculum: English National Curriculum. Co-education.
Uniform: The school uniform is a light blue polo shirt or a yellow and blue shirt with the school logo.
Unique feature: With a strong focus on sports, this school has a swimming pool (with lessons available for all students), an outdoor sports facility, and offers a variety of sports to keep your children fit and healthy.
Horizon International Bi-lingual School
Budget: An admission fee of VND 25,000,000 is required for all primary and secondary-high school applications. Annual school fees start at VND 180,500,000 for Grade 1 to 5, rising to VND 248,000,000 in Grade 12. Visit the fees page for full details.
Languages: English and Vietnamese
Bilingual Program: Horizon International Bilingual School is the first school to introduce and apply the Bilingual Programme in Vietnam. The bilingual curriculum practices are carried out according to Vietnam’s Education law requirements. The aim of the Bilingual Programme is to nurture Vietnamese students according to the National Curriculum. The lessons are taught in Vietnamese and English synchronously by Vietnamese and foreign teachers from K to 12.
International Program: Horizon International Bilingual School offers two different curriculum programs: the International Programme has been designed around the Cambridge Curriculum that delivers necessary knowledge to develop students’ intellectual, moral, social, and physical skills. The International Programme delivers mathematics, science, English language, chemistry, physics, biology, social sciences, and ICT.
Unique feature: HIBS has two rather unique features to consider. Firstly, it is recognized as being the oldest Bilingual school in Vietnam having opened in 2005. Second, it prioritizes a modern approach to lesson delivery, utilizing i-pads and a variety of apps to deliver lesson content. Maths and Science are areas of particular success to the school.
Budget: SmartKids offers flexible programs from min. 3 mornings. For a 5 full days program (08:00-15:00) the tuition fee (lunch included) is around VND 283,000,000 for ‘kiddies’ (18 months – 3.5 years) and VND 359,000,000 for ‘big kids’ (3.5 – 6 years). Additional fees are charged for termly payments.
10% discounts are given for every third enrolled sibling (not necessarily still attending). Separate fees are charged for a variety of enhancement classes, extending the full-day program till ~17:00.
Curriculum: SmartKids offers a child-centered environment in which young children can safely develop and explore. Their holistic, play-based curriculum embraces a combination of Reggio Emilia, Montessori, and Steiner philosophies and focuses on the total development of each individual child.
Uniform: No obligatory uniform, however shirts featuring the school logo are included in tuition fees.
Unique feature: In addition to the Smart Kids boutique curriculum, the school offers large & bright classrooms with an abundance of learning materials. Each class has a maximum of 18 children and to ensure a truly multicultural experience each class has a maximum of 30% of any one nationality. Each class has a dedicated native English Early Childhood specialist as the main teacher who attends the class all day. Lead teachers are assisted by 2-3 qualified local kindergarten teachers.
Vietnam Finland International School
Budget: A nonrefundable application fee of either VND 2,250,000 for primary students or VND 4,500,000 for older students is required. Security deposit fees are also required, however, the cost varies depending on which program you enroll in. Annual fees for the International program start at VND 457,590,000, whilst fees for the bilingual program are significantly lower. For full details visit this page.
Languages: English instruction. Some classes in Vietnamese
Curriculum: VFIS offers two different programs, ‘International’ and ‘Bi-Lingual’. Both embrace a Finnish philosophy in the early years but the ‘International’ program develops to follow the IB approach when the student is older.
Uniform: The school uniform is either a blue or white polo shirt featuring the school logo.
Unique feature: VFIS is the first International School in Vietnam to be established under a Vietnamese state university (Ton Duc Thang University). It is also the only school in the country to follow the philosophy of ‘Education Finland’, a program operating under the guidance of the Finnish National Agency for Education.
Vietnam Australia International School (VAS)
Budget: With a variety of educational programs available for students in kindergarten through to high school and ‘A’ Level, full details of the annual fees for VAS can be found on this page. However, as a guide, you can expect to pay a minimum of VND 170,000,000 for kindergarten, VND 180,000,000 for primary, VND 230,000,000 for secondary, and VND 376,000,000 for the Cambridge International program in grades 9 – 12. Meal fees and transportation fees are also applicable, as are uniform fees.
Languages: English and Vietnamese. (Cambridge International Programme: English only)
Curriculum: Until grade 8, all students follow a bilingual curriculum that combines the Vietnamese Ministry of Education curriculum with a choice of Cambridge program (‘Academic’ or ‘English Intensive’). When students enter grade 9 they can choose to continue with the bilingual program or move to the Cambridge International Programme (CIP) where the curriculum is delivered 100% in English.
Uniform: The school uniform is a maroon polo shirt with the school logo embroidered in gold with beige shorts or skirts.
Unique feature: VAS was the first recognized ‘Cambridge school’ in Ho Chi Minh City. It has since expanded so that its 7 campuses are home to over 9,000 students from Kindergarten to grade 12. The variety of educational pathways available to students is a key feature of the school’s popularity and success as students who wish to receive a truly bilingual, international education are able to decide how their studies progress.
ECOLES BOULES ET BILLES
Budget: Registration and administration fees are applicable for each child but prices vary depending on the age of the student. French students can expect to pay around VND 150,000,000 annually in kindergarten, with other nationalities paying around VND 161,000,000
Languages: French is the language of instruction. Vietnamese and English courses from Kindergarten.
Curriculum: Boules et Billes is accredited by the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE) meaning that the curriculum provided is in line with te French national education system. A variety of enrichment activities are also provided from the early years (6 months).
Uniform: No specific uniform unless attending an event or field trip
Unique feature: Boules et Billes priority is ensuring their students develop proficiency in French. However, primary students also study English using the ‘Emile’ educational approach. This multi-award-winning learning system is a game-based range of resources, approved by the AEFE.
US Vietnam Talent International School (UTS)
Budget: A nonrefundable application fee of VND 3,000,000 is required for each student, as is an annual facilities fee of VND 8,000,000. Following that you can expect to pay approximately VND 120,000,000 for elementary students, VND 156,000,000 for middle school, and VND 193,000,000 for high school. However, early bird discounts are available, as are payments by semester but this can increase the overall cost. For full details click here.
Languages: Vietnamese and English
Curriculum: UTS offers a bilingual curriculum that satisfies the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) requirements, but also focuses on ensuring students acquire proficiency in English. Maths, English, and Science are all taught in English, and provisions for achieving age-appropriate Cambridge certifications are included at each level
Uniform: The school uniform is an orange polo shirt featuring the school logo with beige trousers or skirt.
Unique feature: The facilities at UTS are certainly among the most impressive in the city. Located on a purpose-built 5.2-hectare campus, the simple, modern architectural style complements the modern international standard facilities perfectly. The school’s state-of-the-art auditorium, STEM classrooms and laboratories, and ICT room are all designed to provide students with international standard access to science and technology learning.
EMASI International School
Budget: Application fees for EMASI are either VND 500,000 for Kindergarten and Grade 1 or VND 1,000,000 for all other years. A Security Deposit is payable when students pass admission tests. The Security Deposit is not refundable in the case a child decides not to attend. Tuition fees range between VND 110,000,000 for Kindergarten 1 to VND 285,000,000 for Grade 12. Other fees may be applicable. For full details, click here.
Languages: Bilingual tuition Vietnamese and English
Curriculum: EMASI’s curriculum follows the Vietnamese national curriculum, adopting modern teaching methods from developed countries an Intensive Cambridge English program is taught at all levels.
Uniform: The school uniform is a white polo shirt with a blue collar with blue or beige shorts or a skirt.
Unique feature: EMASI has a very strong focus on 5 main subjects (in its name: English, Maths, Arts, Science, IT) ensuring that students develop skills necessary for the modern world. The two campuses also offer state-of-the-art facilities. Excellent physical education facilities, including a climbing wall, are also provided.
Saint Ange French International School and Daycare Center
Budget: Registration fees for Saint Ange start at VND 9,200,000 per child in nursery school and rise to VND 12,7000,000 in the first year of Kindergarten/Pre-School. Annual school fees are around VND 172,000,000, however, French children receive a reduced rate, and discounts are offered for 2nd and 3rd children. For full details click here.
Languages: French and English
Curriculum: St Ange is the only school in Vietnam that has been awarded approval by the Agency for French Education Abroad. This accreditation ensures that the school satisfies the requirements of both Vietnamese and French education authorities.
Uniform: The school uniform is a white polo shirt with a yellow collar with green shorts or skirt.
Unique feature: In addition to unique accreditations from AFEA and the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training, Saint Ange offers students enrichment classes in early initiation English. Kindergarten students receive 2 hours of English tuition per week which increases to 5 hours per week in primary school.
So there you have it! A list of Saigon’s best international schools. When choosing a school in any city, it is important to consider your own child and where they will learn best. Different children are suited to different learning environments, and luckily Ho Chi Minh City has something for everyone.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION 5 Discipline Traps to Avoid With Your Children
Mistakes even smart parents make, and what to do instead.
After 17 years of being a mom and a paediatrician, I’ve been able to learn a lot about discipline from my own experiences, as well as from other parents. While there are all sorts of possible blunders here are five biggies that most of us are guilty of – and ways to avoid these common mistakes.
1. Thinking that One-Style-Fits-All
This one’s not surprising: The bookstores are teeming with manuals, each touting an expert’s best method. Friends and family love to tell you what worked for them and there is definitely something appealing about the simplicity of a one-approach-fits-all strategy. But some children freak out when you speak to them sharply, while others are unaffected. Some learn the first time you tell them something; others need so much repetition, you despair of their ever learning. Some listen right away; others need time to scream it out before you can talk to them. And it’s not just temperament; it’s age and development.
The job of a toddler is to push limits, to do crazy stuff that you’ve told them time and time again not to do. The job of a tween (roughly ages 8-14, who are “between” childhood and teenage years) is to start asserting their independence from you, sometimes in obnoxious ways. And neither one is going to listen to a big lecture.
A toddler is going to need simple, direct, quick discipline. A tween is most likely to respond to a punishment that removes her from her peers. But despite your best efforts, both the toddler and the tween are likely to keep doing the same “bad” thing for a while. Understanding where they are in life is key to picking the right approach to discipline, and preventing desperation (yours).
2. Over-doing it
My husband does this a lot. He metes out punishments that are either more reflective of his mood than the crime or thoroughly unworkable, like saying “You have to stay in your room this afternoon” when he has errands to run and needs to bring the kids with him. The punishment should fit the crime, not your frustration level. And it needs to be something feasible, that doesn’t overly affect siblings who’ve done nothing wrong.
A friend taught me a great trick. If one of the kids is doing something they shouldn’t – being mean to a sibling, for example – I say, “There will be consequences.” (It’s particularly good to use in public, because while it may strike fear into your kids, it sounds pretty benign). Over the years, it’s been shortened to “Consequences!” with the appropriate firm-but-not-yelling voice, a furrowed brow, and I’m-totally-serious gaze. If the misbehaving child doesn’t stop, there are consequences, but I have a moment to think about them.
Sometimes I’ll ask, “What do you think your consequences should be?” It’s interesting how often kids come up with a fair punishment (e.g., apologizing and letting the wronged sibling play with his favorite toy for the rest of the day).
In our house, taking away favorite toys (the length of time varies with the gravity of the offense), sending the kids to their rooms (our variation on a time-out), or losing screen time (computer and/or TV) generally works. So does “No play-dates for X period of time” and, for the teenagers, “You’re grounded!”
3. Under-doing it
We’ve all been there. Little Jake is throwing sand at everybody within reach from the sandbox, and the responsible (I’m using the word loosely) grown-up is saying, distractedly, “You’re going to get into trouble if you don’t stop doing that.” And little Jake keeps right on the heaving sand because he clearly knows his mother isn’t going to stop him. Sometimes these types of kids are punished, but they’re not bothered by it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating harshness. But for punishment to work well, I explain to parents, that it needs to be something your child doesn’t want to have to happen again.
4. Being Inconsistent
Once you’ve said “No” to something, like “No throwing sand,” you have to continue saying no. You can’t give in sometimes (“Well, okay, you’re having fun and nobody seems to mind getting it in their eyes”). Kids get confused and pick up quickly on the fact that they have, well, latitude.
Since you don’t want to say “No” to everything, pick your battles and decide what’s really important to you. In my case, I’m not so concerned about neatness, but I won’t tolerate meanness, lying, or anything violent or dangerous. Once you’ve decided on your rules, set them clearly and stick to them. The other part of this is follow-through. If you take away your child’s TV privileges for the day and then give in while you’re making dinner because you don’t want him underfoot, he’ll figure out pretty soon that there’s a good chance he may not get punished if he decides to break the rules.
5. Always focusing on the negative
When you’ve got a kid who has trouble with rules, it can make for a really difficult relationship when all you seem to do is a reprimand. The solution is to catch your child being good. If she goes a solid 15 minutes without picking on her sister, she should get kudos. Even if it’s only five minutes, try your best to notice it. You’ll be surprised how effective this can be.
It’s human nature to like praise, and to want to please the people we love. This can work for you in other ways, too. As you enter a store, instead of saying, “If you don’t behave, I’ll be really angry and won’t get you a treat,” try saying, “We have to get the shopping done, and I need help. If everyone is good and helps me, we’ll stop for ice cream on the way home.”
Think about it. Which would you rather hear? It’s not a bad idea, actually, to ask yourself variations on that question often. What would you rather hear? How would this make you feel? Granted, you’re a grown-up, and would probably need to be told only once not to bite. But asking yourself questions reminds you that your kids aren’t just crazy beasts put on this earth to make you insane (although it feels that way sometimes) and that discipline isn’t just about keeping order. Discipline is about keeping our children safe and helping them grow up to be kind, successful, happy adults.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION “TRADE GAP” IN ED: FOREIGN STUDENTS MISSING IN VN UNIVERSITIES
In 2016 when Tran Anh Tuan, deputy director for the Ministry of Education and Training, addressed the dearth of foreign students studying in Vietnamese schools, he candidly stated that it indicated a failure of presence for his nation in a global landscape.
“This shows that Vietnam’s education still has not integrated into the world,” Tran said in remarks reported by VietnamNet.
At the time, there were reportedly 2,000 foreign students studying in Vietnam’s schools, a number far out of balance with the the over 100,000 Vietnamese students studying outside of the country. A rector of FPT University called the situation “a trade gap in education”.
A Dutch Student Abroad in Vietnam
When Timo Schmid, a Dutch media and communications student, was asked what was bad about his study abroad experience, Schmid responded over instant message “No negative experiences! I didn’t even get food poisoning or anything.”
Schmid recently returned to Holland where he studies at Hogeschool van Amsterdam after four months studying in Ho Chi Minh City thanks to his university’s partnership with Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT).
While he said Saigon could have been cleaner — “a lot of litter around the city … I think people should be more careful and cleaner with the environment”—he rates his experience as overall very positive.
“I got to learn a new culture and new people, which made me realise that the world has so much more to offer than the things I have in the Netherlands. When you don’t travel you don’t learn other cultures and meanings”.
Schmid had been in Vietnam two years before he came as a student. “I liked it so much that I wanted to go back so this was a great opportunity for me”, Schmid said.
A European encountering Vietnam in an academic context might encounter a place defined by apparent contradictions. According to Schmid’s account of his experience, while the grounds of RMIT are very modern and state of the art, the world it lives in is radically different from the type of environment a prospective Western student might be familiar with.
The study abroad experience in Vietnam is “for people who want to a part of the world that’s completely different than their own,” Schmid said. “It’s actually quite adventurous”…
Those who want to have what Schmid calls a “super comfortable life” may want to look elsewhere for their study abroad experience.
“But for me this was the best decision to make,” he said.
Minding the Gap
The effort to recruit inbound foreign students began in earnest in 2011 when Vietnam eased it’s university enrollment requirements and demanded that more coursework be available in English. Additionally, education officials called on more foreign researchers to conduct their work in Vietnam.
The initiative appears to have at least partially worked. In 2011, education officials estimated approximately 500 students enrolling in Vietnamese universities, however,the precise figure is unknown because at this time the government didn’t keep official data on these statistics.
In 2015, Tuoi Tre News reported over 1,100 international students currently in Vietnam doing academic work. The government had begun compiling official data on the 23 universities that were running exchange programs with international partners. At that point, the greatest sources of incoming foreign students were from schools in the European Union and North America.
Noting the uptick, education officials credited the decision to offer English curriculums.
“One important reason for the surge is that many universities have offered advanced training programs taught entirely in English, which helps international students find it more favorable to choose the Southeast Asian country as their academic destination,” Deputy Minister Ga told Tuoi Tre News in remarks reported in 2015.
Still, with 2,000 inbound foreign students, the number continues to be far out of balance with the 130,000 Vietnamese students studying abroad, according to Vietnamese governmental data.
Minor gains are being realized. In the academic year ending in 2017, the number of U.S. students studying in Vietnam reached 1,012, a modest increase from the 922 students that had come to study in the year prior.
In the academic year ending in 2017, 325,229 U.S. students studied abroad. About 11 percent of them chose an Asian country as their destination, according to a 2017 study by international scholastic activity research organization Open Doors.
The additional steps universities might take to tackle the “trade gap in education” aren’t obvious, but maybe one area to focus on is updating the image of Vietnam for foreigners who’ve never been there. For example, Killroy, a study abroad and travel service company, notes in its listing for RMIT that Vietnam is a safe destination despite a perception that the security situation hasn’t settled from the American War nearly 40 years ago.
Similarly, Schmid said his experience studying in Ho Chi Minh City surprised him in notable ways, such as how modern RMIT’s facilities were and how kind the Vietnamese people were toward him.
Schmid said his changed impression of the city left him with a love for Vietnam and a strong desire to return.
“I really wanna come back!” he said. “Vietnamese people are lovely and super friendly, I hope they will always stay like that!”
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION CHOOSING THE RIGHT SCHOOL CURRICULUM
The word ‘curriculum’ is a bit daunting to non-educators. Sometimes it seems so vast that it encompasses everything and at other times it seems so vague it appears to be all fluff. So how do you tell which school curriculum in Ho Chi Minh City is right for your child?
Basically, a school’s curriculum defines what students are expected to understand in every subject area at each grade level. It provides the teachers with an outline of what they are to teach, how they are to teach it, and how they are to assess what the students have learned. Different curricula are aligned to different standards and benchmarks, assessments, and teaching practices.
Here in Ho Chi Minh City, the international school market is dominated by three different systems of education: American, British and International Baccalaureate. No matter which of these parents choose, their children will learn mathematics, science, literacy, and social studies. But there are differences in how they will be taught.
An American Curriculum
As there is no national curriculum in America, there is something called the Common Core State Standards Initiative. 41 states and the District of Columbia have signed up for the initiative which aims to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared for college. However, each state is still responsible for creating its curriculum. Thus, American system schools overseas can vary greatly as they develop their own curriculum and are free to adopt standards and benchmarks taken from any of the 50 states.
Many such schools will choose different subject areas from different states. For example, mathematics standards may come from California while those for language arts may come from New York. This gives the schools the flexibility to adapt to their student population, and also means that not all American schools are the same.
British schools follow the United Kingdom’s National Curriculum. This curriculum sets programs of study and assessment for students in five key stages.
Key Stage 1: 5 to 7 years old
Key Stage 2: 8 to 11 years old
Key Stage 3: 12 to 14 years old
Key Stage 4: 15 and 16 years old
Key Stage 5: 17 and 18 years old.
In the final year of each Key Stage assessments are given to see how students are progressing against the government standards. This national curriculum was developed to ensure that all students learn the same content universally. The UK government regularly reviews and updates the curriculum but as some aspects of the British curriculum are not relevant to international students, international schools outside of the UK may adjust the curriculum to meet their student’s needs. They may also adopt an international curriculum for their younger learners.
The International Baccalaureate
In 1968 a group of teachers got together to create a program with the hopes of providing students with a rigorous and comprehensive education, which would prepare them for the needs of a changing world. This became known as the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) and the “IB” was born.
The IB is different to the American and British systems because it is not a curriculum but rather a curriculum framework. This means that each IB school uses the IB’s outlined learner outcomes to develop its own program of study. This can result in slight differences between IB schools.
Currently, there are four different programs in the International Baccalaureate: the primary years (PYP), the middle years (MYP), the diploma program (DP), and the career-related program (CP). As all of the programs are standalone, students do not have to complete the previous one in order to be able to study the next.
Quality schools have their curriculum – both written and assessed – reviewed by outside authorities on a regular basis. In America, there are six regional associations that conduct such reviews. In the U.K., the British Government Department of Education has tasked Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) to charge seven agencies with inspecting British Schools Overseas (BSO) against standards set for overseas schools.
The IB reviews all schools before they are authorized to run any of the IB programs. To ensure that the school you are considering for your child has been appropriately assessed, ask the principal or head teacher for details of the school’s accreditations, or visit their website. International Schools in Ho Chi Minh City are keen to share evidence of their high standards, so evidence of quality assessments should be easy to access.
Despite the range of curriculums available, it still stands that there is not yet a system that is perfect for every single student. But with such a variety of options in Ho Chi Minh City, your child is well placed to receive a top-class education, whichever curriculum you may choose. Our advice is to not rush the decision and to ask as many questions as you need to answer before taking the plunge.
And remember, nothing is irreversible. As your child grows, their needs may change. There are many facets of a school that parents should look into before choosing a school for their child, and the curriculum is just one of them.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION Did We Make The Right Choice? Homeschooling in Vietnam
“Why?” you may ask when there are so many excellent schools in HCMC. It’s simple. Creativity and personal potential are things that we want to prioritize in our family, and we felt that the independent educational journey of our daughters, would be easier to obtain in a private environment. We did not come to this decision lightly, but we felt it would be worth trying out this experiment to see what might come out of it. In addition, we were curious to see whether a homeschooling curriculum would be more cost-efficient.
How did we go about switching to homeschool education?
We chose the Hattemer program for the first 4 years, and now Cours Legendre, an elite and private French system established in 1886 for Hattemer and available by correspondence since the 1940s. The system is rigorous and the girls are tested weekly. Hattemer and Legendre both send regular reports so that we are able to track their performance in literature, math, geography, and history. This means we can fix things as soon as issues arise.
My wife and I were fortunate that our children could study together in our respective offices only 500m apart before the pandemic, one of the benefits of homeschooling. At my prior workplace, they had a dedicated room in which to study every morning with Christophe, a Ph.D. teacher. Christophe has been key to the successful transition since my wife and I are both high-level professionals lacking time to teach the children ourselves. During the two years of the pandemic, we simply shifted to online classes from home with Cristophe, and the girls never felt were behind, it was just continuity that proved useful when compared with other children at school.
Are we happy with our decision?
The short answer is “absolutely!” Some of the homeschooling advantages include being able to spend more time with our girls, they are able to concentrate better, sleeping more, have developed independent opinions, and we are able to target their individual needs and ultimate goals. Alizée and Sofia have both also grown in self-confidence, and my wife and I have more flexibility in our respective schedules. Both girls are currently B-B+ grade students.
Financially speaking, our overall education-related costs have dropped substantially from US$18,000+ annually to less than US$10,000 for tuition and a private educator for both children. The bulk of the expense relates to the fact that we employ a private teacher for two hours a day, five days a week, but this is money well spent as it saves our time and nerves too!
What about the girls – how do they feel?
There are obviously many elements to be taken into account when comparing homeschooling vs traditional schooling. In our case, we are happy with our choice. Our ambition is for our children to be truly creative and to reach their full potential, something that, in our opinion, is easier in a personalized environment. Homeschooling, in our case, is a cost-effective way of achieving this. Let’s see how we feel 10 years from today!
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION ALTERNATIVE ED IN VIETNAM IS FOR THOSE WHO SCHOOL DIFFERENTLY
“Cost”. “Competition”. “Choice”. “Commitment”. “Care”.
These words echo throughout the statements of parents in HCMC who’ve decided to take their children out of the traditional school system.
The alternative paths range from homeschooling, following a structured curriculum in a home environment, to unschooling, no school structure at home or otherwise. Parents are also selecting to enroll their children in what adherents call “world schooling”, allowing children to be educated by the world around them through travel.
Parents in HCMC are often divided into two camps: those who choose to educate their children themselves because of the high cost of private schools and those who consider it to be a philosophical decision. The concept is still new in Vietnam but a few parents frustrated with the long hours, costs, and rigidity of classic educational systems are following suit.
Cost and Competition
Khoi Nguyen began a group in Saigon for Vietnamese homeschoolers, in order to meet other parents with similar child-rearing philosophies but he soon realized that many of the Vietnamese interested in joining the group assumed homeschooling meant supplementing their children’s schooling with private tutoring. In Vietnam, educating a child at home is such a foreign concept that many people have never heard of it. Alongside his job as a computer engineer, Khoi now works as a homeschooling counselor and educator for other parents.
Khoi didn’t start out expecting to homeschool his kids. The decision happened organically. “My wife runs a company that does exercise classes for kids from three to 15 years old. Most of her students are from international schools because they have shorter days”, he explained. “The kids in public schools are the ones who need us the most but they don’t have a chance to attend the classes. They don’t even have weekends. That’s very bad for kids.”
For their own children, Khoi and his wife looked at their choices – either going to public school or paying the high premium for private school. Neither option suited their family. Instead, Khoi decided on homeschooling with strict lesson plans. He chose the Calvert curriculum, which claims Barack Obama as an alumni. Calvert is one of the priciest online curriculums available but Khoi insists it’s worth it.
Families in Vietnam “have all of these options on the menu”, Khoi said, “this year they can pick a very high-end school but in five or ten years can they still support that fee? It’s unsustainable. They might have to downgrade and the system in Vietnam isn’t compatible”.
The cost argument is concrete. In HCMC, the average price of an international school is VND341 million per year and, according to a report by VietnamOnline, the average salary for a Vietnamese worker is VND38.4 million per year. For the majority of Vietnamese families, public schools seem to be the only option. On the other hand, ex-pat families in Vietnam sometimes feel that international schools are their only choice because the public structure may seem too foreign for non-Vietnamese speakers. However, many ex-pats work in companies that will pay a stipend for schooling.
This is the case for Kristi Cruz*, an American mom with three children. Cruz’s husband’s company offers its employees an educational allowance, yet the couple refuses the aid. Cruz, a passionate un-schooler, “lives as if the school doesn’t exist”. She feels her children will learn when they’re ready and that they will be more competitive in the workforce because they’ll follow their true interests.
“Technology and the world are changing so fast. Schools are already outdated”, she said. “They can’t keep up with the jobs our kids are being prepared for. Now, everyone is spending their energy learning the quadratic equation, and guess what? I have a calculator to do that for me. These days they don’t need the quadratic equation drilled into their heads.”
Kim Nguyen* was born and raised in the U.S. to overseas Vietnamese parents. After getting married she and her husband decided to move to Vietnam to start their family. As a mother, Kim finds herself in the unique position of having both Vietnamese and U.S. influences. Unlike Khoi, she doesn’t have to worry about Vietnamese education laws but she’s still susceptible to the weight of her cultural heritage, which puts a strong emphasis on the importance of formal education. When Kim’s son was born she initially followed the peer pressure of society. “We put him in school not even really thinking”, she said. “It’s just what everyone his age was doing.”
She tried out a public pre-school but Kim realized it was the wrong choice for her family. Now, Kim manages a children’s play area, which gives her the luxury of spending her day with her son and allowing him to socialize with other kids. The fact that her son has dual nationality also gives him the freedom to continue his schooling in the US later on.
“Our boy is always curious, always asking to learn”, she said. “So far he’s able to spell a few words. To be honest, I’m unsure if he’s a genius, average, or below average for a three-and-a-half-year-old but I don’t care. I just love being part of the process. For the rest of his life, he will have the stress of meeting this bar and that bar. For now, I just want him to be a kid.”
Choices and Curriculums
At a kid-themed café equipped with a labyrinthine climbing structure, Kristi Cruz met up with Angee Floyd, another unschooling mom. Like Cruz, Floyd is also American and is raising two children in an unschooling environment. Unlike Cruz, Floyd is doing it completely alone.
A single mom with a degree in teaching and what she described as “insurmountable student loans”, she decided to move to HCMC to reduce her living expenses. Floyd is able to teach less and spend the rest of the time with her kids. According to both moms, having the freedom to follow the needs of their children has created a deeper family bond.
With the shouts and laughter of her children playing in the background, Floyd clarified her choices. “[In America] I went back to work after 6 weeks. I took my little, tiny baby and I was like ‘here’”, Floyd said holding out her arms. “I paid 1,200 US dollars a month to give my child to someone so that I could go back to work and then basically work just to pay for childcare. That’s why I can’t do it.”
Therefore, the question arises: what exactly do parents do when traditional school is not part of the equation?
Letting the Child Lead
The philosophy behind unschooling is that learning should be child-led. A fascination with dinosaurs might provoke an investigation into paleontology, while the routine process of paying for something at a store can teach basic math skills. A child in a world-schooling family might learn Spanish by visiting Spain. There are no rules for what or how to study. Each family figures it out as life unfolds. Just as a baby learns to speak, a child will, for example, learn to read when they’re ready.
“When you spend your childhood being told what to do you’re not given the opportunity to make choices”, Cruz explained. “Then you turn 18 and you’re like ‘now what? You’re on your own. You don’t know. “I like [this method] because it teaches my kids how to think”, Angee added. “They ask me questions and I say, ‘How can we figure out that information? Versus when they were in school and it was like ‘the answers are in your book’.”
In contrast, homeschoolers follow parent-guided curriculums. Anne Hudson*, a US national and mom of three, initially enrolled her older children in Vietnamese preschool but Hudson felt the schools were too strict and that the days were too long. “It’s too much pressure”, she said.
Hudson follows two curriculums with her children, a program for her son that keeps learning fun with drawing, games, and songs, and a separate method for her daughter, who has a learning disability and needs a more structured approach to her lessons. Their typical day starts with outside play from 7:30 am until 8:30, followed by homeschooling from 9 until 12. Extra activities, such as music or art, are saved for the afternoon.
“I never wanted to be a teacher before. I was an exercise physiologist”, Hudson said. “There are some days that honestly, I’m just pulling my hair out but mostly I’m surprised by how much I like it. There’s something special about it. You’re with your child and you really know the strengths and weaknesses of how they think.”
The modern homeschooling movement began in the 1970s when an educational philosopher named John Holt launched a campaign to “do away with the ugly and anti-human business of people-shaping and to allow and help people to shape themselves”.
Initially, Holt tried to rework the codes of traditional education – rote memorization, forward-facing classrooms, the godlike reverence towards teachers – by testifying about his theories before the US Congress, but later he decided school in any form was inutile. His resulting newsletter, “Growing Without Schooling”, increased both his followers and his skeptics.
Holt may seem like a pioneer to some and an eccentric to others, but in reality, homeschooling existed for centuries before it was given an official title. The precedents for alternative schooling vary from country to country. In the founding days of America, children were expected to work alongside their parents. The trend towards self-directed learning was not so much a leap forward as a look into the past.
In contrast, in Vietnam skills were passed on through ‘masters’. According to a 2010 report by WorldBank, “In the Feudal and Colonial periods, teachers were seen to have more importance than parents; their position was only lower than the king.” Edmond Yee wrote in his book, “Confucian Education: A Moral Approach”, that Confucius taught the belief that “everyone has the same potential to be educated, and therefore education should be available to everyone. Vietnam was therefore constructed to be a collectivist country, meaning that individuals are less important than the whole.”
These core Vietnamese values make the alternative education concept more foreign than in a country where children were historically schooled at home because of the community’s needs. The online resources we queried showed that out of 77 countries with published educational regulations, 41 allow for alternative education but, depending on the country, families can be subjected to strict regulations.
Homeschooling is prohibited in 30 countries and in six, in Vietnam, the law is unclear.
The Vietnamese constitution is just abstract enough for homeschoolers to fit between the cracks. According to the Vietnamese education law, “Families have the responsibility to create conditions for their members in the defined age groups to learn in order to obtain the level of universalized education”.
Homeschooling is not specifically mentioned, nor is it forbidden. However, this loophole doesn’t mean homeschooling families are free from difficulties. Once a student is taken out of public school their placement in the system is effectively ‘frozen’. Online courses are not recognised by the government so a child who wants to re-enter school will have to return to the grade they left. In addition, there is no homeschooling equivalent to a high school diploma in Vietnam. Children without a diploma cannot pursue higher education in Vietnam. The options are therefore narrowed down to going to university in another country, trade school or starting over in Vietnam. Vietnamese families who choose alternative education have to be fully committed to seeing it through for the long term.
The Dark Side of the Debate
Homeschooling has recently become a subject of controversy because of a case that shocked the world: In California,13, supposedly homeschooled, children were found to be brutally neglected by their parents. Cases such as these are few and far between but lawmakers are now demanding more oversight of children educated at home. Many countries have already installed rigorous checks on homeschooling families.
In Vietnam, children also slip through society’s cracks. “The government tries to encourage kids to go to school but obviously not every child in Vietnam does”, Khoi said. “You go to the streets and you see children everywhere. There’s no real law.” However, even if parents aren’t breaking Vietnamese law by schooling their kids at home they are breaking tradition and they are subject to intense judgment as a result. All the parents interviewed, whether ex-pats, overseas Vietnamese, or locals, spoke of the pressure from the outside world and especially relatives.
“My mom is probably the biggest critic about what we’re doing”, Angee said. “[Her] main concern is how will they go to college? How will they get a job? If they choose to go to college there are a hundred pathways to do that. In fact, a lot of un-schoolers and homeschoolers outperform kids in traditional schools all the time.”
Yet, even within the alternative schooling community there can be divided camps. One homeschooling parent mentioned knowing “some [older unschooled] kids who haven’t started reading yet. How does that happen? Once they’re reading there’s a lot of stuff that they can do. But they need those basics.”
What do the statistics say? In a survey for Psychology Today of 75 adults who’d been unschooled as children, the adults described “dealing with others’ criticisms and judgments of unschooling, some degree of social isolation and social adjustment” as being their biggest challenges. However, for 72 of the 75 respondents, “the advantages of unschooling clearly outweighed the disadvantages”. 62 % of these adults went on to pursue higher education in some form and the majority were employed at the time of the survey.
Regardless, of the debate about whether or not alternative education programs are successful, Vietnamese families have an added difficulty – most of the available curriculums are in English. “My family is not an English speaking family”, Khoi said with a sigh. “That’s the biggest challenge. I try hard but it’s only me who can follow the curriculum. Most of the families I talk to can’t get past the English gate”.
For other parents, the biggest complaint is a lack of time. One parent has to be available to guide the children. It’s difficult to pursue a career at the same time. However, most families feel the sacrifice is worth it.
“[The judgment] doesn’t bother me”, Kristi said. “I’m very comfortable being a mom. People ask what I do and I’m like “I’m a mom” and I’m good with that. People act like it’s not good enough but children have rights and choices. You have the choice to pursue your career but when you choose to be a mother you have a responsibility to be a mother too. Children have the right to have a present parent.”
Nellie and Gavin, American parents of 3.5-year-old Lucy, have lived in HCMC for 7 years. When Lucy was diagnosed with severe hearing loss the couple looked into their schooling options in both America and Vietnam and even tried a private pre-school in D2, but in the end, they decided on homeschooling.
“Lucy is a completely developmentally normal kid; she just needs special attention”, Nellie said. “I went to the US and I looked at the schools there … I was impressed with the deaf schools but the mainstream options … it’s like … who cares? Who actually cares about my kid? I do. But does anyone else really care when a student might be a difficult student? You know the one who can’t hear the instructions so isn’t following. So in the end it’s up to you to figure out what your child needs.”
For parents of children with special needs individualized care has added weight. Anne’s daughter has an auditory processing issue — she struggles to process information as it comes in. Angee’s daughter started getting test anxiety when she was in public school to the point that she started having panic attacks and refused to read anything.
“Even though their former teacher was a good teacher she couldn’t see the issues that I could see from observing”, Anne said. “There are 14 other kids, so the teacher can’t keep her eyes on one kid that closely.”
Nellie, Anne, and Angee all feel that despite the general stereotype that care is not as extensive in Vietnam as in the States they actually have a stronger community and more affordable options in Vietnam. “There’s also a great community of homeschoolers here”, Nellie said. “We always have things that we can do.”
However, the fact remains that Vietnamese families, even those with special needs children, may have a harder time making the decision to stop traditional school. “International parents have less pressure”, Khoi said. “For the Vietnamese, the pressure is enormous. It’s everywhere. People in general just don’t understand what this thing is.” Yet, he holds out hope that education in Vietnam may be in the process of changing. “Right now there are some voices in the Ministry of Education starting to talk about homeschool”, Khoi continued. “They demand that we open up the system. I think in 5 years things will change. If they don’t we’ll be left far, far behind.”
Regardless of what happens in Vietnam’s scholastic future, families choosing alternative education have one thing in common — they believe they’re doing what’s best for their children. As Kristi put it, “It’s a lifestyle. And school will not add to that lifestyle. It will take away.”
*This name is a pseudonym
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION the Best English Centres in Ho Chi Minh City
Best English Centres in Ho Chi Minh City
With a multicultural, multinational, polylingual population of around 10 million people spread across two thousand square kilometers, it is no surprise that Ho Chi Minh City is home to thousands of language centers.
Around 450 of these provide English language tuition to Saigon’s students. Every evening and weekend people of all ages, levels and backgrounds flock to the ubiquitous centers which are also found in all shapes and sizes. But which one is the best one to suit your needs? Our beginner’s guide to English centers in Ho Chi Minh City might just help you find your perfect match.
ACET: Australian Centre for Education and Training
Located on Vo Thi Sau in District 3, ACET is different from many language centers in Ho Chi Minh City. Firstly, the program provides training in Australian Standard Academic English. Secondly, the focus is on exam preparation and academic language skills for high school students and university applicants, rather than conversational English for learners of all ages.
Managed by Australian firm IDP Education, and with almost two decades of experience in Vietnam, ACET not only provides English language tuition but also helps to prepare students for a potential move to study in Australia. The study program is the same as that delivered at the University of Technology Sydney and provides students with an international certificate to record what level was achieved.
ACET reports that 80% of their students achieve an IELTS score of 6.0 or above, which is generally sufficient for admission to foreign universities. For more information about studying at APAX please visit the website.
Apollo English Centre
Apollo English Centres primarily provide English tuition to young learners with games and activities featuring prominently for The Very Young and Young Learner courses. Secondary and Teens classes focus on encouraging students to express their thoughts and ideas. IELTS tuition is also available.
Apollo was the first fully foreign-owned English center in Vietnam and is a member of the International World House Organisation which promises that member schools are committed to providing the very highest standards in face-to-face and online education.
With just three learning centers in Ho Chi Minh City, British Council is a school with a small physical presence but a large reputation. The UK’s official organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities, British Council has been in Vietnam since 1993 and in Ho Chi Minh City since 1997.
As with most English learning centers in Ho Chi Minh City, British Council offers tuition for students of all ages, and they are proud to be able to provide bright, inviting classrooms equipped with the latest technology. Teachers at British Council require advanced TESL qualifications along with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and substantial teaching experience.
British Council offers a variety of different English language assessment exams including Aptis, IELTS, and English Score for Business with highly trained and experienced staff who meet British Council and exam board standards.
Young Learners are a large part of ILA’s student base and as such, the schools have developed an in-house training program based on previous CELT-YL training courses from Cambridge English. Regular workshops are also provided for staff to ensure that they are kept up to date with developments in ESL teaching. As such, ILA regularly receives excellent reviews and recommendations from staff and students alike.
At all ages, learning through play and project-based learning is a key feature of ILA lessons, with flipped classrooms being the preferred approach for older, global English students.
Wall Street English
Business English courses are a popular choice at Wall Street English, particularly as their flexible studying options are convenient for people who work or study full time. Depending on student needs, classes at Wall Street can be delivered online, in person, or by a combination of the two. Multimedia lessons and native English teachers provide an immersive environment and additional support is provided in the form of one-to-one tutorials if needed or requested.
VUS: Vietnam USA English Centres
Facilities at all VUS campuses are modern and allow teachers to engage students through a variety of multimedia platforms. Teachers are also provided with regular training and professional updates to ensure that students are provided with the latest teaching methods.
With over 20 years of experience teaching in Vietnam, and around 250,000 students being enrolled each year, VUS is well placed to help students receive internationally recognized certifications such as Cambridge Starters, Movers and Flyers, KET, and IELTS.
A relative newcomer to the English center scene, Yola was founded in Ho Chi Minh City in 2009. The three original Vietnamese founders all attended prestigious universities in the United States and have made the foundation of Yola’s teaching to ‘create a world where people are empowered to unleash their full potential.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Yola introduced a hybrid learning system that allows face-to-face and online tuition to be utilized by students. Yola also offers ‘Empowering You’ scholarships to students with exceptional academic performances and Financial Assistance packages in order to also support parents.
Of course, the English learning centers listed above are just a small selection of the schools on offer in Ho Chi Minh City. More affordable options can be found at smaller centers, but beware of a proportional drop in quality. Before enrolling at any school, gather as much information as possible about the schools’ accreditations and the qualifications held by teaching staff, as this can vary greatly between institutions.
Of course, the English learning centers listed above are just a small selection of the schools on offer in Ho Chi Minh City. More affordable options can be found at smaller centers, but beware of a proportional drop in quality. Before enrolling at any school, gather as much information as possible about the schools’ accreditations and the qualifications held by teaching staff, as this can vary greatly between institutions.
You should also consider what you need and want from a language course before enrolling. Academic courses, like IELTS and TOEFL may seem like a great option but can be uninspiring and overly formal for someone who is only looking to learn how to chat with tourists!
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION ARE THERE TOO MANY ENGLISH CENTRES IN HCMC?
Are there too many English schools in Saigon?
For those who’ve studied learner preferences, the research seems to point to market saturation. “I would say that we have too many English centers in Saigon,” Tuan Pham, Research Director at market research firm Asia Plus, wrote in an email interview.
The Most Effective Way to Learn?
Asia Plus’s market research company Q&Me conducted a study in 2015 on English learners in Ho Chi Minh City titled English study practices in Vietnam: Usage of online for the efficient and affordable study. While the research doesn’t deal directly with the question of whether Saigon has reached saturation for English centers, it contains a novel insight into how local Vietnamese are learning the language: it shows classroom instruction is not the most popular or effective way to learn the language.
Exactly half of the 403 students polled in Q&Me’s research preferred to learn English over a smartphone application. Less than a third, 29 percent, of learners, preferred to learn English through a language school, an option that polled slightly less popular than online lessons, YouTube, and books.
Q&Me’s researchers determined that communicating directly with someone in English was the best way to acquire the language, but only 10 percent of respondents chose that as their preferred way to learn English.
Curiously, improving speaking was reported as the number one goal, not something you can do on DuoLingo or a similar app as preferred by the students polled. Pham said that beginning students, who tend to rely on apps more, are overrepresented in the study. More experienced learners have “come to understand direction communication is a must, and they’ve pinpointed speaking [as] their most desired skill,” he said.
“Apps…have [proven] to produce low performance and have been dropped by experienced learners.”
But that doesn’t make English schools an obvious choice for learners. Pham said the demand for native English speakers has engendered an environment where schools are proliferating unnecessarily. “The quality of most centers [is] not that good,” he said plainly.
It’s for this reason that language service English Star’s founder Son Le sits in on his teacher’s first lessons.
“Sometimes, I learn together with the students,” he said. “I like to see how teachers teach my students, and I can see if a teacher is good or not good.” Le started English Star in October. His organization—a network of traveling teachers who meet students rather than a physical school—has five foreign teachers who teach 40 students throughout the city.
The question of whether there are too many English centers in Saigon is in some ways irrelevant to Le: he started English Star with the intention of building expertise and staff to start a school in Can Gio District, the southernmost area of Ho Chi Minh City, where Le was raised.
“My dream is I want to have school [sic] in Can Gio District,” he said. “I want students there to meet foreigners [sic].”
Le himself is an autodidact in English. He used newspapers and, yes, smartphone apps to learn the language. He said Google Translate has been a game changer for him as an English learner. It’s been his experience that students have to take it upon themselves to learn the language, that their effort plays as much if not more of a role in determining their success in the language. Le said a lack of student initiative can undermine even a great teacher or lesson.
An ineffective English school is just a revenue-making machine. English courses are not an insignificant part of Saigonese’s budget. Le said he tried to price his services with that in mind. A teacher from English Star can be rented at a flat rate of VND500,000 per hour regardless of class size.
Le said an average student or student group pays around VND2 million per month for his language services. Le estimated a student would pay at least double this rate at a competing English center. Le could conceivably raise his prices with little impact on his business. According to Q&Me’s research, the cost was not among the top concerns for the English learners surveyed.
Curriculum variety and reputation were the third and second most popular choices for respondents when asked what the most important element in choosing a school was. The number one consideration was the availability of native speakers. Because speaking was ranked as English learners’ most desired ability, “this is where the demand for…native English teachers comes from,” Pham said.
“In order to pursue higher education or to earn better-paid jobs they’ve come to understand direct communication is a must, and they’ve pinpointed speaking to be the most desired skill,” he said.
Q&Me’s research was conducted in 2015, but Pham said he expected the students’ preferences and study habits to be generally the same now. Indeed, Nguyen Minh Tri, a Saigon University student, groused to Tuoi Tre about his school’s lack of opportunities to practice conversation. “Two English lessons per week and too many students in a class do not allow us to practice,” he told the newspaper.
Tri’s comments appeared in coverage related to the country’s risk of falling short of getting all graduating students to a CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) B1 level. Teachers who have to help bring this standard to fruition have said it’s not feasible. The teachers’ protestations underscore how critical English is in the professional life of a Vietnamese worker. “English is now considered a must-have skill for every [student] and office worker in big cities,” Pham said.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION LEARNING VIETNAMESE AS A FOREIGNER IN SAIGON
Getting employed within a week of arrival… check.
Riding a scooter on Điện Biên Phủ street at 6 pm… check.
Eating mắm tôm & balut… check!
Learning to say your eleventh word in Tiếng Việt… what?
More often than not, a foreigner attempting to speak anything more than simple food-related words and phrases in the Vietnamese language receive blank stares and utter confusion in response. Even if you happen to be somewhat understood, we’d bet that the reply was in English.
Why is it so universally agreed upon that Vietnamese is a pain in the ass to master?
Pronunciation? Grammar? Vocabulary? A huge inventory of vowels, consonants, and six distinct tones? Let’s be frank, plenty of tonal language speakers including Chinese people struggle to learn Vietnamese. It’s not a problem unique to European language speakers. City Pass Guide breaks down these problems and attempts to help you learn Vietnamese in Saigon with as little linguistic jargon as possible and with some help from trusted experts.
Vietnamese phonology, regional differences, its consequences, and how to stop ruminating about it
To begin with, several Vietnamese vowels have no corresponding relatives in the English language or any other Indo-European language. Anthony Lee, an ex-pat living in Vung Tau city, summarised the problem in the shortest and sweetest way possible: “Foreigners take a very simplistic view of the language. They try to draw parallels in Latin spelling and pronunciation.”
Let’s get down to business to fix some of these problems immediately and get ready to learn Vietnamese in Saigon.
Point 1: Stop attempting to pronounce Vietnamese consonants as English consonants.
Vietnamese consonants such as ‘T’, ‘Tr’, and ‘Ng’ require some practice. A common guide to pronouncing the Vietnamese ‘T’ involves saying the English t without aspiration (without a strong burst of breath). If you happen to be a linguistics nerd, the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) for the Vietnamese ‘T’ is /t/.
Ms Hoa Nguyen from Tieng Viet Oi shared with City Pass Guide a strategy for pronouncing the infamous consonant ‘Ng’. “Imagine you’re pronouncing the word ‘belonging’ and removing the ‘belo-’ gradually.”
Point 2: Stop attempting to pronounce Vietnamese vowels as English vowels.
‘Sửa chữa’ means repair while ‘sữa chua’ means ‘yogurt’. Not only do the tones differ, the vowels ‘ư’ and ‘u’, which you may have missed, are distinctly different. To start off, simple vowels such as ‘u’ are often mispronounced by English speakers because of false friends. We’re pretty sure most ex-pats adore and know that ‘bún’ means rice vermicelli but it’ll really help if you pronounce the vowel as oo instead of ah.
Here’s a basic example; ‘ua’ in Vietnamese is often mispronounced by foreigners as a diphthong comprising of oo and ah. Contrary to popular myth, certain vowel clusters in Vietnamese don’t just sound like a combination of stand-alone vowels. As a result, ‘ua’ is pronounced similar to a diphthong comprising of oo and uh.
Vowel length is also critical. The vowel pairs ‘a’ and ‘ă’ are usually rendered as ah but differ in the voiced duration compared to the succeeding final consonants. For example, ‘cắt’ means cut and ‘cát’ means sand. Additionally, the rising tone accompanying both words is also affected by the length of the vowel. ‘Cắt’ would sound like a short high tone because of the vowel length whereas ‘cát’ would experience a more noticeable rise in pitch since the vowel length permits it.
Point 3: Dialectal differences are real but it’s not the end of the world for foreign learners
Vietnam is a beautiful nation boasting a North-South distance of 1650 kilometers. Traveling from North to South gives observers a glimpse of classic examples of a dialectal continuum. Native speakers insist that both Northern and Southern ‘accents’ (we prefer to call them dialects!) of the language are mutually intelligible. I was truly unconvinced when daily experiences led me to recognize constant misunderstandings between native speakers of different dialects. The central varieties are considered even more distinct and alien.
As a non-native learner, your ears have not yet been accustomed to recognizing differences between different dialects. Here’s a simple example for initiating beginners to these differences. The phrase that is used to call for the bill, ‘tính tiền’, is likely known by most foreigners who speak near-survival Vietnamese.
In the North, the word ‘tính tiền’ is pronounced similarly to ting tee-uhn. On the other hand, most Southern speakers would pronounce identical words like tuhn ting. To break this down, most words ending with ‘n’ in the southern accent render the ‘n’ as –ng instead of -n. The final consonant ‘nh’ is rendered as ‘-ing’ in Northern speech. ‘nh’ also reduces the length of preceding vowels and more than often changes the vowels slightly; best to listen to a native speaker reproduce these sounds.
How does this impact your journey to becoming, if ever, fluent in Vietnamese? The Southern dialect is agreed to be universally understood in Saigon but many colleagues and strangers you may encounter during your stay in Vietnam may not speak the southern dialect if they were not born and/or educated in the South. Beyond pronunciation, regional vocabulary from other parts of the country is also popular in Saigon regardless of one’s dialectal origin, often for impact and relief purposes.
Bottom line: While it may not be critical to speak both major dialects equally well, knowledge of the differences does play a huge part in improving your listening skills. However, since our mission is to learn Vietnamese in Saigon it is probably best to start with the Southern dialect.
Some of the best places to learn Vietnamese in Saigon
For some, learning a foreign language involves simply picking up a language naturally on the streets. But for many, this may be an overwhelming task, especially for Vietnamese. To understand the benefits of learning at a dedicated language center with professional teachers and the common issues that students face in their learning journey, we visited two trusted Vietnamese language centers at the heart of the city to learn more strategies.
Words of Experience and Advice from Hardened Educators and Enthusiastic Learners
Annie, who runs the aptly named center, Learn Vietnamese with Annie, gave us the lowdown. “Many students come in with a lot of hope but many don’t know how much time it takes to learn a new language. We recommend them to start a 20-hour course and advise them to continue if they like the experience.” Annie said. This may sound pessimistic, but Annie assured us that it also has to do with a student’s surroundings.
She gave us a strangely morbid yet hilarious example. “The book “Shogun” by James Clavell chronicles the adventures of an English sailor who was stranded in ancient Japan. He was forced to learn Japanese in a village and become fluent within 6 months. If he failed, everyone in the village would be killed.” Annie also emphasized the importance of quality teaching material. An online portal for her students boasts real-life transcriptions, audio clips, and dialogue relating to real-life topics including specific occupations, travel, and even meditation.
We also sat in with Ms. Binh, director of Vietnamese Language Studies, who shared her insights. Ms. Binh began with an important point: “Vietnamese grammar looks simple but speaking naturally like a native speaker is not simple.”
“To be honest, there is no standard accent in Vietnamese. If you look on VTV (Vietnam Television), you’ll find reporters who speak the southern accent,” Ms. Binh said while debunking a perpetual myth—most people in the country readily accept and understand different accents.
“Do your best to forge fluency in one accent. Get that one accent right! You can train to listen to others while doing that.”
She also shared the importance of learning Vietnamese in Saigon from a professional teacher with good pedagogical practices. “When we hire new teachers, they are made to attend a two-month linguistics course that covers grammar, phonetics, syntax, semantics, and pedagogy. Once we identify true passion and commitment, we screen them for real teaching ability.”
“‘Living in Vietnamese’ is our slogan, [so] role-playing is a big part of our classes. [A group of] students learned to make grilled tuna wrapped in banana leaves after buying ingredients from a very local market in [Saigon’s] Chinatown. We also organized a volunteer trip for students to help less-privileged kids in Dong Nai province during the Mid-autumn festival.”
VLS also conducts a monthly Ngày 8 language event where teachers, students, and members of the public are welcome to socialize over the Vietnamese language and light drinks without any ‘strict codes and rules. City Pass Guide also sat in for classes with Tess and Sagar from the Netherlands who have benefited greatly from the programs at VLS. The Dutch couple sold everything they owned almost four years ago to move to Asia.
“We felt that it would be nice if we could order a banh mi using Vietnamese. Learning the language makes you feel like you’re part of the community,” Tess said cheerfully.
“Both of us prefer different learning styles, [so] we were split into two classes after the first few months. To me, the structure of the book is important. Some chapters may not be interesting but are also important,” Tess said while reinforcing the point that different learners are accustomed to different learning and teaching techniques.
She is a self-professed words-and-pictures person while her partner Sagar prefers learning through speaking and is able to imitate the pronunciation of his teacher effectively without eyeballing words and letters.
“It’s like learning piano, you might hit a ceiling and lose interest if you’re not progressing. It’s the fourth language that I’m learning after Dutch, English, and French. For Vietnamese, I had to relearn the entire language structure. Learners need to take a long-term approach.” Sagar, who has a background in art and digital marketing, gave his words of advice for learners to stay focused.
Learning Vietnamese in Saigon is the Key to Real Communication
“Ultimately, it was worth it to go through the trouble of learning Vietnamese! It’s worth the payback,” Sagar expressed enthusiastically. “Real honest human response makes it worth it!” Tess concluded. Beyond just receiving pronunciation advice from Ms. Hoa Nguyen, we also interviewed her to understand more about the philosophy at Tieng Viet Oi. Tieng Viet Oi offers physical classes, but they also focus on online lessons and creating entertaining videos.
“We produce videos on a regular basis and post them on a regular basis on different platforms. Some of our more in-depth videos are available on our Patreon Tieng Viet Oi page.” Patreon is a San Francisco-based subscription platform, which allows fans of video producers, artists, and musicians to pledge a small sum of money of their choice to receive access to new and exclusive videos.
“We realized that many people prefer self-studying and watching videos,” Hoa explained. This, however, did not mean that teachers of Tieng Viet Oi ignore the fundamentals when it comes to learning Vietnamese through lessons in a fun and interactive manner. “All of our teachers constantly create new materials to contribute to an internal resource library.”
Hoa also gave us a refreshing example: “Board games are popular in English-speaking countries but it seems that students have no chances to play board games that feature the Vietnamese language.” “One of our teachers created a Vietnamese language game based on the popular game show Family Feud… that was great fun!” We also had a good laugh over a common situation that happens in Ho Chi Minh City.
“For many Vietnamese people who speak English, it’s natural to switch immediately to the English speaking mode when they see a western face. They choose to respond in English even when spoken to in Vietnamese. This really annoys people!” Hoa exclaimed. “They assume you don’t understand a reply in Vietnamese so they shut down.” But in the very end, one could somewhat empathize with such behavior. How many foreigners actually speak more than a few words of basic Vietnamese?
“Stop staying and start living in Vietnam. The entire point of moving to another country is to merge into its culture.” Her message was crystal clear.
Saigon’s Vietnamese Speaking Club: a Hidden Gem for Talkative Learners
Beyond self-learning and pay-per-class options, City Pass Guide also discovered a hidden gem for learners. Once a week almost always without fail, Mr Vinnie Prabhu, a software engineer who lived in Washington DC for most of his life, runs the Vietnamese Speaking Club at Highlands Coffee on Calmette street on Sunday evenings.
The event attracts a good number of enthusiastic local students and adults of all professions who are happy to converse in Vietnamese with foreigners. Vinnie recounted his childhood experience which spurred him to learn the language of his current country of residence: “My parents never spoke to me in my native tongue.”
Vinnie is married to a local ex-teacher, who creates materials for newcomers at the event, who often have no pre-existing knowledge of the language. Vinnie, who speaks excellent Vietnamese, also shared with City Pass Guide about his path to fluency.
“Vietnamese has consistent spelling, unlike English. The tones may be difficult but don’t stress too much about the pronunciation. Listening and repeating will get you there!” When asked about his drive and relentless passion to run a weekly event, Vinnie was straight to the point.
“The creator of the event left a few years ago. My motivation was simple—I was the best person to keep it alive since I came every week.” With an almost 1-to-1 learner-native speaker ratio at the event, his admirable enthusiasm for the language and sharing his love for it speaks volumes.
We’d say Vinnie is a great example of the mantra: if you love what you do, you’ll excel.
Where to find some of the best places to learn Vietnamese in Saigon
Tieng Viet Oi: https://www.tiengvietoi.com/
Learning Vietnamese with Annie: https://www.facebook.com/LearnVietnameseWithAnnie/
Vietnamese Language Studies: https://www.facebook.com/vlstudies/
Vietnamese Speaking Club: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1141127672570835/
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION The Real English Teachers of Saigon
Anyone who’s spent a significant amount of time in Saigon can’t help but notice the preponderance of foreign-born English teachers living in the Vietnamese metropolis. In fact, if you go to any of the city’s nightlife hotspots on any given day, chances are that you’ll be surrounded by drinking party-goers who have just a few hours earlier been in front of a classroom teaching local students the finer points of English grammar.
English teaching became a viable means of living for foreigners in Saigon in the early 1990s when the demand for foreign English teachers skyrocketed, vastly outstripping the supply. Since then, backpackers, travelers, and expatriates have come to the Southeast Asian city and settled in, providing a means of sustenance for themselves as English teachers in language centers, and international and public schools.
Some of them are highly skilled, while others have been able to get their feet in the door of language teaching based primarily on their countries of origin. City Pass Guide sat down with some of them to discuss the pros and cons of teaching English in Saigon.
The Saigon Career Stumble—English Teachers Apply Here
If you ask around, you might find that there are a fair amount of English teachers in Saigon that have no prior experience or interest in teaching. I sat with Hien* and Sarah*, both teachers at a prominent English center that specializes in teaching students from age three to adulthood. I asked Sarah, an English teacher of Polish origin, how she got into the profession.
She replied, “I hate office work and having to work 8 hours a day. I also wanted to be able to live somewhere abroad. I was looking for something that would take less time than full-time, but still, make a lot of money… so Vietnam seemed like an option.”
Native speakers of English in Saigon can expect to make between USD15 to USD20 per hour depending on their experience, sometimes even without an advanced degree such as a TEFL or TESOL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language and Teaching English as a Second Language, respectively). Many find that they can have a high quality of life in Vietnam with a teacher’s salary. Just last year, Business Insider named Vietnam the number one most affordable country for ex-pats living abroad.
Hien, an American of Vietnamese heritage and originally a painter with a Bachelor’s degree in Art also found her way into teaching almost by happenstance. Hien recounted her experience. “I got really sick and I was trying to look for a random job and was having a hard time. I applied to hotels for receptionist work. Someone did tell me about English teaching, but I didn’t think that my skills were adequate.” She said she didn’t know anything about grammar but people told her it didn’t matter.
The Downsides of the Saigon ‘Education Culture’ for English Teachers in Vietnam
Regina*, a teacher at a different English center, who also teaches in public schools in Saigon, is one of those rare exceptions. She plans to move back to her home country, the US, to become an educator in the public school system there. “A lot of teachers in Saigon are not here to be career teachers. They’re here to pay the bills and travel. There’s a lot of going-through-the-motions mediocrity within the teaching community in Saigon. You can come to Vietnam, not have a TEFL or TESOL certificate, just be a westerner and get a job.”
Regina says that she is more concerned with developing her skills and her repertoire as a teacher than she is making a quick buck but also thinks that this attitude is rare amongst her peers. She enjoys working in public schools, where resources are limited, but students are eager to learn, over the English centers. “I feel like in the government schools, I’m making a difference. It’s sad but hopeful at the same time. The problem is there are 50 kids and I only have a half hour to teach. That’s where I feel the most challenged.”
Some teachers find that low standards in the school system are perpetuated when teachers are not allowed to fail low-performing students. This often is the case in private schools or English centers where parents pay top dollar in order for their child to attain certificates of achievement.
These parents are often more concerned with the ways in which their children can present themselves on paper than they are with their children gaining language proficiency. As a result, these learning centers are burdened with the pressure of keeping these students moving along and often passing them through their systems in order to please the paying customers, even when students are underperforming. All of this can become frustrating, especially to teachers who actually care about the quality of education they are providing.
Conflicts of Interest When Education is a Business in Vietnam
He described the learning establishment that he began teaching at in Vietnam. “The facilities look really nice from the outside. It’s really flashy but the basic requirements, the things you really need aren’t there. It’s a facade. It’s very much a business.”
He said he was forced to pass a number of students that were performing below the expectation of the level. “I raised an objection, not even a particularly strong objection, but I didn’t keep my head down as a new teacher and I’m 95 percent sure that’s why my contract wasn’t renewed.” Despite the setback, Brendan was able to find his way into another position at a different international school.
English teachers will likely be a part of the fabric of Saigon for many years to come. Western foreigners will continue to descend upon the city employing the use of their native tongues as a means of acquiring occupation.
The job certainly has its perks. Depending on your proficiency, where you’re from, and certainly to some degree what you look like, you can be almost guaranteed a job, even with zero experience or advanced degrees in teaching. There’s certainly a bit of luck involved in that your experiences will vary depending on the kind of educational facility in which you find yourself. Career educators may find aspects of the business culture of education in Saigon frustrating. At the same time, for those up to the challenge, teachers might find themselves having rewarding interactions and relationships with their students, ones that will sharpen their skills as educators while being able to enjoy a relatively good quality of life in an emerging economy.
*Names denoted with an asterisk are pseudonyms
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION TIPS TO WRITE AN ENGLISH ESSAY as A FOREIGNer
An English essay is more difficult than it would seem at first. In many universities (especially foreign ones), students are asked to write an essay on the entrance exam. In this way, they check general erudition, language proficiency, and the ability to express amazing thoughts and ideas consistently and logically.
Of course, the structure of the essay in English, the style, your opinion on a particular issue, and the richness of your vocabulary are important – each of these factors will affect the final result. If you want to enroll in a foreign university but do not have enough knowledge of the foreign language, get help from a cheap essay writing service. There, you will receive an application essay sample to help you with your writing. Having a sample, you can avoid common mistakes that foreign students make in their essays.
How to Write an Essay in English: Structure
Of course, preparation plays an important role when writing an essay. The exam will be difficult, and you need to practice writing – this is not an easy job. However, the first thing an applicant needs to find out is how much of the essay will need to be written: as a general rule, it is 200-300 words. After clarifying the data (if any), you can adjust the structure to the volume.
From school, everyone remembers a similar structure of the text, and it does not change when enrolling in a university:
– The first should be the title, which needs to be more suitable for the essay.
– Then, you need to write an introduction – a few sentences about what you will talk about below, what topic, and why you chose it.
– Next comes the main body of the text. Write two-three paragraphs in which you cover, in fact, what you wanted to write about.
– Finally, make a conclusion. The volume is approximately equal to the introduction. Summarize the main point of what the text was written about.
In the main body, the key rule should be taken into account: each excellent paragraph should begin with the main sentence, and the rest should develop and supplement it. In this way, you can write your essay in English correctly.
Tips on How to Write an Academic English Essay
By following our recommendations, you can write a more interesting paper and get a good grade for it on the exam, no matter whether you are applying to a foreign university or writing an essay for a particular discipline:
1. Write in a structured way.
The structure provided earlier is universal, and an essay is unlikely to be highly rated if it is not followed. Therefore, it is recommended to express thoughts in this particular form in order to get a good grade.
2. Plan before writing.
An important step in writing your essay is planning in order to write your essay properly. That’s why, after you are assigned the topic or choose it yourself, you should write down thoughts and ideas that come to mind. Think about what you would like to write and how to do it, and make an effective outline in which the phrase or word will indicate a specific thought.
3. Check out many topics while preparing for the work.
An essay is more of a test of your erudition rather than how well you speak English. Therefore, it is better to study in advance to learn of the various urgent topics of the world, to increase your vocabulary, and to improve your general level of knowledge. Writing an essay in English will be easy if you approach the theme selection correctly, a topic should be interesting not only to you but to your audience as well.
4. Allocate time wisely.
Another tip is to allow yourself the time to plan, write, and review your essay. Often applicants do not have enough time for the last part. Because of this, sometimes they don’t correct the most obvious mistakes.
5. Use an appropriate style of speech when writing your paper.
You should not use various slang expressions, unrecognized neologisms, or strange word forms. The writing style should be formal or semi-formal. Another example of misuse of words: using abbreviations like “I wanna” – it’s better to write “I want to.”
6. Adhere to the specified volume of text.
Often on the exam, you want to write as much as possible, proving to the examiners that you know a lot. However, this will not help when writing an essay. If you do not invest in the amount set by the admission committee, your grade will be lowered. When checking, it will be considered that you simply do not know how to express your thoughts succinctly.
7. Make strong arguments to support your findings.
Writing an essay in English presupposes validity. When you write about a fact, or conclusion, or give your thought or judgment – it would be useful to add some example that confirms it. You can cite any statistics or scientific research. It all depends on the level of your erudition.
8. Link sentences to each other.
When writing an essay, it is important that the text reads succinctly. And for this, you need to know how to correctly connect sentences with each other, which words to use, and in what cases.
9. Write interestingly using different grammatical and lexical forms.
This will allow you to write worthwhile and interesting texts that can be read with pleasure. You must show that you have a good command of written English, that you know what essay structure is in English, and how to express it correctly without violating grammar rules. This will undoubtedly increase your chances of successfully passing the entrance exams.
10. Be tolerant
If your paper deals with political or religious topics, then you should express your thoughts and ideas correctly so as not to offend anyone. Be tolerant when maintaining and communicating your views. Don’t be overly emotional when writing your paper.
If you want to know how to write a good essay in English, these are the basic tips to follow. There are different types of essays in the English language, but these tips will come in handy no matter which one you must write.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION VIETNAMESE ENGLISH LEARNERS LEARNING WITHOUT LEAVING HOME
English is the third most widely-spoken language in the world, with about 360 million native speakers and with another half billion speakings it as a second language. However, its rising dominance as a second language in southeast Asian countries, especially Vietnam, is evident with the number of learning centers popping up across the country.
Vietnamese schools do provide English courses, taught by certified teachers. However, the focus is typically on the basics and often cannot establish fluency earned by practice that goes beyond class time.
Students who are genuinely interested in improving their language skills can continue their learning by watching English movies and television series, YouTube tutorials, or by studying lyrics in English songs. Another option for students, with their parent’s financial support, is to enroll in language centers that can be found around the country.
One such student is Bella Nguyen, 26, a fashion entrepreneur who picked up the language by watching plenty of English movies, socializing with more English-speaking people, including foreigners, and also relying on resources online such as YouTube. “There are many online tutorials on YouTube and Facebook that I follow. I also improved my vocabulary by watching BBC news programs and talking to customers in English,” she said.
None of these options required her to fork over any cash, though the reliability of these methods is questionable. For example, she noted that part of this learning process involved additional work such as cross-referencing with words with a dictionary. Also, even though she could pronounce the words correctly, she was still unsure of which context the words could be used for, something which took quite a while to master.
However, in the past few years, there have been new virtual alternatives that allow students to learn and practice the language in a more structured setting without needing to leave their homes, or even spend any money. Duolingo is a free program well known around the world for its innovative language courses.
Its English lessons are wildly popular among the Vietnamese. There are currently 8.93 million students subscribed to their “English for Vietnamese Speakers” course.
With a learning tree structure, the program teaches students the basic fundamentals of the language and provides tests that allow the student to progress to the next stage. Its mobile app is popular among language learners. However, the biggest drawback to the app is that it’s fully automated, right down to the lack of a human voice which may deter some learners. Duolingo’s model emphasizes vocabulary but because of the complexities of the language, some students find it challenging to master grammar.
However, thanks to advances in communication technology such as live streaming and Voice over IP (VoIP)—the technology behind Skye’s internet phone calls—a new model started to emerge in the past decade: online learning centers with actual teachers providing courses remotely that are similar to what can be found in colleges and universities.
Known as a massive open online course, or MOOC, these online courses provide options for various subjects and technical skills usually at college level. Some are taught by professors from renowned universities like Harvard. Certified English teachers teach language lessons. These courses are usually free and provide students with the flexibility to attend classes whenever they like, from the comfort of their own homes.
Douglas, 30, a Canadian citizen who moved to Vietnam two years ago, teaches online from the comfort of his home to students learning online. He spends a few hours each day conducting English lessons for students in various countries from his apartment in Saigon. “It’s convenient for me because I have plenty of freedom to plan my schedule and the salary is competitive,” he said.
“It works just like an actual language school, there is a lesson plan that I follow and often, I have students who understand the lessons but have problems with pronunciation or finding the right words to use in a given context and this is where I provide additional help. In most cases, the students get it”, he added.
We spoke to one student learning English online, Trang Min. The 24-year-old beautician started learning English so she could serve foreign customers “Learning English online allowed me to attend classes whenever I was free in the midst of my busy schedule. One of the biggest benefits of this besides the low cost was the convenience of not having to leave my home. All I needed was an internet connection”, she said.
After completing two courses, I could feel my confidence grow and I was able to carry out entire conversations in English with strangers.”
According to Douglas, interest in learning the language has increased over the years, mainly because of the realization by English learners that their chances of getting a better paying job outside the country decrease without a strong knowledge of the language.
With an increasing number of students learning English online through the use of MOOC platforms, as well as resources available on popular platforms like YouTube and even Facebook, Vietnam’s future generations may be able to master the English language, and teachers will be able to teach them from anywhere in the world with neither of them even needing to leave their homes.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION WHAT’S THE MOST POPULAR SECOND LANGUAGE IN VIETNAM?
From being part of the Chinese kingdom and the French colonial state to its complicated past relationships with the U.S. and Russia, Vietnam has historically been a country crowded with languages. As a result, Vietnamese itself was only recognized as the country’s official tongue in 1945.
Today it is mandatory for all students in Vietnamese schools to follow their studies in Vietnamese but the recent influx of foreign business and tourism has increased the importance of learning other languages as well. The majority of students study English as their first foreign language with French being the reigning second.
The priority of Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) is for all students in Vietnamese schools to learn English as their first foreign language, according to Priscille Lasémillante, Attaché for the French language at l’Institut français du Vietnam (French Institute of Vietnam). Then, when possible, they can learn a second foreign language. Today French is the foreign language the most taught after English, with approximately 40,000 students. 10,000 or fewer students study Japanese and a fraction study Korean, German, Russian, and Chinese, Lasémillante said in an interview given in French.
From Tradition to Necessity
To understand the country’s dominant languages today, we have to go back to the 1954 Geneva Conference where Vietnam was officially divided through the middle. This rupture informed not only policies but also language. In the North, Chinese and Russian took precedence in the educational system, while in the South, French and English became the preferred languages. However, after reunification, the Southern languages and Chinese plummeted out of favor and it was Russian that connected the country to the rest of the Communist bloc.
Do Huy Thinh, from the Vietnamese TESOL Association, wrote that, “Russian became the dominant language, overshadowing the demands for all others in Vietnam’s early reunification”.
When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, Vietnam found itself with a surplus of Soviet-trained professors and a sudden lack of opportunities for Russian-trained students; as a result, the language is barely taught in Vietnam today. In 1987, Vietnam introduced Doi Moi , the open-door trade policy that brought the country onto the international stage. The resulting explosion of business, tourism, and foreign investments launched a need for new languages in Vietnam and English quickly took the lead.
English Arises from the Ashes
The English language was granted special authority in 1994 when the prime minister signed an order requiring government officials to learn foreign languages, with English being the primary focus. Foreign investments and influences from English-speaking countries have further solidified English as the top studied second language in Vietnam. MOET recently attempted to codify language training even more with the federal education agency’s Project 2020 initiative. Launched in 2008, the project’s mission is to advance Vietnamese students’ English to the level necessary for employment, yet as of 2018, Vietnam remains 7th in Asia in English language proficiency.
Motivation and Mobility
Today Vietnamese parents tend to push their children to study whatever language has the greatest utility. French remains popular in large part because between 1992 and 2006, French language education in Vietnam was financed by the French government. Numerous scholarships— notably in the sectors of medicine, engineering, and law—still exist to help Vietnamese continue their studies in France, and the only Vietnamese degree recognized internationally is a French-Vietnamese diploma in engineering.
German became another contender for a second language when Goethe-Institut cultural centers were set up in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and student foreign exchanges began to develop. Japanese become a third major player through scholarship schemes intended to help Vietnamese students study at Japanese universities.
Time to Look Towards China?
English is still necessary for advancement in Vietnam and throughout the region—it is the official language of ASEAN—yet some experts warn against parents becoming too obsessed with their children becoming anglophones.
“We must not only focus on English but also pay attention to demands of localities and grades. Besides prioritizing English, we need to develop other foreign languages,” Minister of Education and Training Phung Xuan Nha said in reporting by Vietnam News. “Cities and provinces which have the necessary facilities to teach other languages should be encouraged”.
The lack of Chinese taught in Vietnamese schools may be surprising given that Mandarin Chinese is the language spoken by most people worldwide, and it is the official language of mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore, countries in close proximity to and bearing business interests in Vietnam.
“China is the world’s second-largest economy,” Nguyen Thi Linh Tu, deputy head of the Chinese language faculty at the Hue University’s University of Foreign Language, said. “Learning Chinese, Vietnamese people can access a huge market in China and Chinese communities in other countries”.
Priscille Lasémillante agrees. The Vietnamese have a superpower just in front of them. China is in the process of developing cultural cooperation with the rest of the world and perhaps Vietnam should take note, she said.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION VIETNAM OUTPERFORMS WESTERN COUNTRIES IN EDUCATION
Not long ago, Vietnam left the education world aghast after PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) released its official test results ranking Vietnam as 17th, well above the United States in all subjects – which ranked 23rd in reading, 36th in math, and 28th in science. Vietnam’s 15-year-olds participated for the first time in this international assessment in 2015, which includes 65 countries and tests students’ academic abilities in three primary subjects.
These facts have left many Western countries dumbfounded as to how Vietnam managed to gain such breakneck academic success, despite holding such a low economic status. Out of Vietnam’s poorest 15-year-olds, nearly 17% scored in the top 25% on the international assessment. These results force us to rethink our perspective that economic development is so heavily influential on the educational progress of students.
So what is Vietnam doing differently with their academic framework, and is there a clear explanation as to why they have managed to achieve this with such limited resources? According to a recent BBC publication, and data from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) there might actually be three key factors to this academic phenomenon. Let’s have a look at some of Vietnam’s rigorous and effective educational maneuvers that have led them into the international spotlight.
Years of Financial Investment in Education
Compared to other countries in the world, Vietnam spends significantly more money on its educational system than its Western counterparts, dedicating 21% of all government funds to academia. According to OECD, this is the highest of all 65 countries that participate in the PISA assessments. Vietnam’s government has inarguably made education a top priority and its leaders have created a firm focus on growth in this area.
A Strict and Focused Curriculum
One unique aspect of Vietnam’s curriculum is its traditional and pedagogical nature. As most developed countries have moved away from this dogmatic style of learning, Vietnam has clung on to its past methodology and opted not to mimic modern academic systems. This results in a highly strict learning environment, which provides students with the discipline to fully grasp the content they are immersed in.
Unlike Western countries, whose academic styles aim wide in order to model well-rounded students, Vietnam shoots straight at its target. This precision and singularity of direction allow students to fully grasp the required content with a deep and thorough understanding in many contexts.
Social Awareness in the Power of Education
In Vietnam, parental pressure in regards to academic achievement is widespread and children are expected to study for long hours as the vast majority of parents view education, and the potential to study abroad, as a clear-cut key to future success.
Out of the 65 countries that participate in PISA, Vietnam ranked 8th in this category.
Firm pressure from parents, coupled with a demanding curriculum and a high rate of accountability helps motivate the students to study and understand the importance of such institutions.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION Are Vietnamese Students Asked to Work Too Hard?
East Asian culture is well known for prioritizing academic achievements, and we see no exception here in Vietnam. Many Vietnamese parents, especially in the big cities, are pressured by social expectations, along with their own, and regularly send their kids to all kinds of after-school classes. This means that in addition to an overwhelming workload in school, children regularly spend their evenings not relaxing and enjoying their free time, but participating in classroom activities and trying to keep up with a jam-packed schedule.
The question that parents who enroll their children in such classes and often the teachers who provide such services seem to ignore is will all this extra work make the students high-achieving people. Or can overwork actually undermine a child’s development?
Too Much Pressure, Less Motivation
According to Dr. Nguyen Thuy Anh, Vietnamese education expert and founder of the “Reading with Kids” club based in Hanoi, being forced to learn too many things at the same time can lead to a lack of motivation in children. Seeing no purpose in learning about subjects that they are not genuinely interested in, many children start developing the habit of what she calls “getting by”. This means they often rush to finish their work without fully understanding the meaning of what they are doing.
This simple example suggests that the current practice of keeping kids in the classroom for as long as possible is actually working against Vietnam’s young learners. So what should be done? The answer, it seems, is relatively simple.
Firstly, despite recent developments in education in Vietnam, parents still regularly believe that education can only be conducted in the classroom and that the responsibility of educating their children lies solely with the teachers. But Dr. Nguyen disagrees. “In fact, children can learn a lot through day-to-day activities outside of school, including interactions with family members at home and going out together with friends”, she says.
Dr. Nguyen says “during the developmental years, a child does not really need to cram as much knowledge in their head as possible, but more importantly, they need to learn to live”. This means that they need to learn about the world around them, which encompasses more than textbooks and school matters, and how they can fit into that world as an individual.
The development of ‘life skills such as making friends with the right people, self-discipline, self-defense, and taking up hobbies can all benefit young students, and potentially save their life in the future. All these things certainly do not come from hours of toiling over homework.
In addition, parents can encourage and motivate their kids to engage with their studies, simply by talking about subjects at school, and explaining to them why it is important that they learn certain things, rather than focusing on academic performance and talking to children only about their grades. Putting too much pressure on achieving perfect grades and failing to consider a child’s psychological well-being, can lead to disastrous consequences, such as low self-esteem, resentment, rebellion, and self-destructive behaviors.
Steps in the Right Direction
In recent years the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) has been introducing education reforms that aim to make the Vietnamese education system more flexible and focuses more on developing essential life skills in the younger members of society.
Dao Thi Phuong Thao, deputy head of Ban Mai Primary School, shared the school’s strategy for holistic development through a focus on five values.“We aim to cultivate these five values in our students, including personality, intelligence, capability, health, and global vision, through programs such as The Leader in Me. At school, children get to participate in a variety of fun, engaging activities rather than only learning in class,” Dao said.
On the last day of school before the Tet Holiday, students of Ban Mai Primary School gathered in the school yard to meet children’s writer Le Phuong Lien, author of a picture book about Lunar New Year, and then returned to class to write their own resolutions for the coming year. In the afternoon, they cleaned their classroom, following the traditional custom of spring cleaning before Tet. Such activities—though not explicitly academic and perhaps unusual in a school setting—are undoubtedly memorable to children and contribute to their development as a person.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION 5 Reasons Why Learning English is a Problem for Students in Vietnam
Learning another language is not easy and English is a difficult language to learn as it is a mixture of many different languages. Vietnamese learners can have a hard time trying to learn it as there are not many similarities between the two languages. English education in Vietnam to date has not had very good results and important skills like listening, reading and writing do not receive enough attention. Here are five reasons why learning English is problematic for Vietnamese students.
Too many students and not enough teachers. When teaching English, a teacher has to pay close attention to every student and this can be difficult when dealing with a large class. Thirty or more students make it almost impossible. Evaluating how they pronounce certain words or manage to communicate is a challenge.
There are not enough English teachers in Vietnam and many of them are unqualified to provide the type of support students need when they study English. Even if the education system embraces teaching conversational English as well as grammar, Vietnamese teachers often have difficulty pronouncing English words themselves and students are likely to imitate them and learn bad habits. This might affect their students lives when they go for an education abroad, especially in an English-speaking country.
Students from Vietnam and other non-English speaking countries have a great option in the form of EduBirdie to manage their academic assignments but they should keep trying to learn the art on their own. Mastering English and academic writing support for the thesis, dissertation, essays, etc., from professional writers online ensure great success in college or university.
Vietnamese is a tonal language
Students lack the confidence to speak the English language
Listening, reading, speaking, and writing are four of the basic skills they need to master, and practice in these areas is essential. Writing essays helps them to practice their grammar and sentence structure but they also need to be confident enough to converse with English speakers.
There is not one single version of the English
English is spoken in many countries of the world and the people in these countries may pronounce the same word in several different ways. This can be very confusing to Vietnamese students when they are trying to speak English.
Whether they are at school or in college, the different versions of English can be hard for them to understand because there is not a vast difference in the pronunciation of words within the three regions of Vietnam.
Many words, such as the word “water,” are pronounced very differently by speakers of English in America and in the UK. In fact, people not familiar with English would think they were different words altogether.
Leaving out the final sound
When it comes to understanding plurals and possessives, this can cause much confusion. A teacher has to help students by demonstrating the correct pronunciation and by drilling students to properly articulate the ends of words.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION WHY IS EDUCATION SO IMPORTANT TO VIETNAMESE?
An Average Day
It’s a beautiful day. But then you’re good, 42-year-old employee sends you a resignation letter because she wants to pursue a master’s degree. You work late and want to get home quickly, but at 9 p.m. there is still a traffic jam because of people returning from evening classes. At home, you learn that your sister-in-law and her husband will come and live with you because they sold their house to pay for their boy’s university tuition in the US.
In fact, studying in the US is not the boy’s dream, but the parents hope that their child “will not be worse than his friends”. Your Vietnamese spouse enrolled your six-year-old girl in Vietnamese class, English class, mathematics class, painting class, dancing class, judo class, and chess class on Saturday and Sunday, making the plan for this family weekend (and the plans for all other family weekends until the year 2029) “mission impossible”.
Don’t be upset. Those are everyday stories. You are in Vietnam.
Why Are Vietnamese People So Crazy About Studying?
There’s the Temple of Literature in Hanoi. Besides being the first university in Vietnam, this tourist attraction is famous for featuring stone boards with the names of ancient Vietnamese doctors. Hundreds of years have passed, but their names are still there for all to admire.
The Vietnamese love people who are good at studying.
Becoming a doctor was the perfect image of success in old Vietnamese society. After national competitions, the winners often received good job offers from the emperor. The family of that poor farmer boy could become an upper-class family. That’s why parents and wives invested all their hope, effort, and money in the family’s “student”.
Studying was considered one of the very few ways to change your life and that of your family. This mentality hasn’t changed much, at least for most Vietnamese. You often hear people ask each other: “Does your child study well?” or “He/she has not even finished her university degree; what can he/ she do?” It seems that for many Vietnamese, studying still means one of the rare ways to have a good future.
A Flourishing Business
Investing in education is one of the most lucrative businesses in Vietnam. So long as you have a reputation for delivering good education, Vietnamese parents will bring you their children and give you all their money. This explains the blossoming of (genuine or auto-declared) good schools in Vietnam’s big cities. However, people have always known that it was expensive and risky to invest in your child’s or husband’s education.
Winning the national competition seemed harder than winning Vietlott today. In addition, there is a saying “Hoc tai thi phan” (Studying depends on your talent, but passing an examination depends on your luck). Therefore, “Ai oi cho lay hoc tro / Dai lung ton vai, an no lai nam” (Don’t get married to students: you need a lot of tissue to make their clothes because they have long backs [a sign of laziness], and all they do is eat and lie down). Today, many Vietnamese know that studying is not the only way to find a decent job or to get rich.
The internet tells them, and they repeat to others, that Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, who quit their universities, became billionaires anyway – although 99.9 percent of the others who dropped out of university did not become billionaires. And many who stayed too long at university and got all their degrees never became billionaires. There are many other ways to change your life and that of your family.
Creating a start-up may be a way, or being a bikini model, or being a hot girl/boy and hanging around/ getting married to someone rich. Some years ago, and even now in poor villages, getting married to a foreigner (Korean or Taiwanese, in many cases) may be another way.
However, most Vietnamese are still fond of people who are successful students. Ngo Bao Chau (the mathematician who won the FIELD prize) is still the idol of many young people and a dream of many parents. And finally, here’s some proof all put together: articles on raising Do Nhat Nam (the young talent in languages) or Evan Le (the new “little genius” pianist) always attract a lot of attention from Vietnamese parents.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION FOREIGN UNIVERSITIES ARE SERVING A CORE VIETNAMESE VALUE
The prioritization of education has been a core feature of Vietnamese culture for centuries, and now the Southeast Asian country is opening its doors to foreign-owned entities providing public education for its aspiring academics.
Australia’s own Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) was established at the turn of the Millenium in Ho Chi Minh City and was the first foreign-owned, public university to open in Vietnam. Professor Gael McDonald told Sinh Vien Viet Nam Newspaper last December, “Some of the key achievements in this area have been the introduction of authentic learning, reduction in examinations, a move away from textbooks to more contemporary materials, professional development for staff… with the mission to focus on delivering world-class internationally recognized postgraduate degrees in Vietnam…”
With a staff of academics from 25 countries around the world, RMIT engages in community outreach and has an increasing student population hailing from provinces outside the urban centers of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.
New University Strengthens Cultural Ties
This new and modern Fulbright University Vietnam opened some years ago in District 7, Ho Chi Minh City. The original Fulbright program was launched over seven decades ago as a means of establishing closer diplomatic ties between the United States and countries around the world through the promotion of education and cultural exchange.
President Barack Obama praised the university during his visit to Hanoi in 2016 saying, “It is the first not-for-profit, independent university in Vietnam – which will bring academic freedom and scholarships to underprivileged students. Students, academics, and researchers will focus on public policy research, governance, business, engineering and computer science, liberal education – everything from the poetry of Nguyen Du, the philosophy of Phan Chu Trinh to the mathematics of Ngo Bao Chau …”
Fulbright University will open its doors in the fall of this year, promising a new and innovative approach to higher education in Vietnam, while engaging in community outreach and offering need-based financial aid to qualifying students.
An Integral Value
At its inception, Vietnam’s educational culture was largely influenced by Chinese systems, particularly Confucianism. Confucian ideals dictated that although man is at the center of the universe, man is a social being, and finds his (or her) highest potential realized in community with others. Within this potential is the ability to be educated, and as such, education should be accessible to all. As the community is important in Vietnam, education is seen as being not only a way of the advancement of the individual but as a way of cultivating the kind of character that will help uplift his or her community.
Former leader Ho Chi Minh decided when Vietnam gained independence from France on September 2, 1945, that the government’s three biggest priorities would be “fighting against poverty, illiteracy, and invaders.” His philosophy on education was guided by the principle that “an illiterate nation is a powerless one.” In October of that year, he issued a “Call for anti-illiteracy.” The nation responded to the call by creating 75,000 literacy classes with 96,000 teachers in order to teach 2.5 million Vietnamese to read and write.
Vietnam has long been known as a country and a culture that consistently keeps an eye on progress. Throughout history, the Southeast Asian country has borrowed and integrated ideas about ways of living from influential societies, from the neighboring Chinese to the French who formerly colonized it.
The opening of foreign-owned public learning institutions in Vietnam marks a paradigm shift in the country’s policies toward education. With the world’s eye on Vietnam as an emerging economy, it is sure to continue to attract foreign interests. Vietnam is emerging as a bona fide market for educational investment, and its consistent desire for quality education is sure to be instrumental in its rise towards becoming a middle-income country, as it cultivates the minds of global-minded scholars.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION VIETNAMESE CHILDREN STUDY TOO MUCH YET LEARN LITTLE
Last year, a 15-year-old schoolgirl in Ho Chi Minh City sent an open letter to educational leaders, teachers, and parents to express how she was overloaded with the curriculum at Vietnamese schools; she said she planned to speak out a long time ago but did not. An excerpt from the letter: “For many years now, my life as a student has revolved around waking up, going to school, going to extra classes, and going home to do homework. And it repeats every day.”
“My passion for learning has been fading over the years. I feel exhausted, depressed, and hopeless when I think about school.” She continued to talk about the pressure that all students like her are dealing with. The pressure is caused by teachers, parents, and the whole educational system. For example, Vietnamese schools usually set a target that a class must have at least 40 students ranked as “Excellent” and “Good”, and no one should be ranked “Average”. She also criticized the current curriculum as unrealistic and uncreative with strict rules that students have to follow, not to change or question.
“We ourselves don’t know what, why, and for whom we’re studying! Studying for grades, to pass an exam, to live up to people’s expectations? Then what’s next?” The letter went viral, drawing a wave of sympathy among Vietnamese people. Many criticized the educational system for a lack of effective reforms that could reduce the burden of theoretical lessons on students and develop extracurricular activities.
Study, Study More
One year since the letter was spread, not much has changed. According to the HCMC Department of Education and Training, 80 percent of primary school students take classes in the morning and the afternoon, and many of them take extra classes in the evening. In June, more than 71,500 high school students in HCMC took classes in the morning, afternoon and evening before the national graduation exam. At Nguyen Khuyen School’s branch in Tan Binh District, twelfth graders started classes at 6:30 a.m. and left classes at 10 p.m. every weekday, and from 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
This was reported last year by Tuoi Tre. Insane enough? In May, the Hanoi Department of Education and Training announced the number of slots for tenth graders in public schools, with the ratio of students selected rising to 1:3, which means one in three students taking the entrance exam to a public high school will secure a spot. This makes the competition quite fierce. Local media reported that many students studied 16 hours a day to beat others for a spot in the schools.
In some districts in HCMC, primary students have to attend classes at 7:15 a.m., which is too early for adults, let alone children. It’s too much for 6 to 11-year-old children to take extra classes in the evening or during the weekend, although it happens in many parts of Vietnam. Generally, the school system in Vietnam requires students to learn facts and figures by heart. While beneficial in fields like mathematics and geometry, it suffocates creativity in other subjects. As I learned subjects by heart mostly for tests and exams during my school days, I don’t remember much of what I learned today.
In June, Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi said more and more underage students have come to the hospital for mental health problems caused by studying too much. Around 15 to 17 percent of underage students going to the hospital were treated for stress, sleeping disorders, and mental disorders. In January of this year, Mr. Dinh La Thang, the former HCMC Party Committee chief, told the education department that one of the reasons for the growing number of obese children in the city is too much studying.
“They have to learn all day [and have] no time for playing sports. No wonder I see many obese kids on the streets,” he told local media. When will the educational system in Vietnam recognize the importance of mental health? There have been reports of students developing mental illnesses before and after exams and later on.
Studying excessively doesn’t mean Vietnamese students will become more talented. Not much scientific progress and productivity have been made over the years in Vietnam, and things will not change until the curriculum for schools is adjusted to develop creativity and critical thinking.
I’d rather have a happy kid than a high-performing yet stressed-out kid. With the increasing number of private schools in Vietnam, parents like me now have more options than forcing children to study to get into prestigious public schools. I think children should be allowed to play and to study what they like rather than what society thinks they should study.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION CLASSROOM CULTURE IN VIETNAM: WHAT FOREIGN STUDENTS SHOULD EXPECT
By Michael Turner
It’s exciting to attend school outside of the country we grew up in. Take Vietnam, for instance. The southeast country with a culture and history different from what we’re used to. The thought of studying in Vietnam is as scary and daunting as it is exciting. When you enter the classroom, you may already experience some astounding cultural differences. But this also is where the fun of discovery comes into play. But if you already know what to expect, fitting in will be much easier for you.
The Vietnamese culture
When it comes to learning and teaching, Vietnam faces a cross-cultural issue. This is because the culture of this country is primarily a “village culture.” They consider the relationships in a village as family relations.
There is also an emphasis on social hierarchical order when dealing with one another. The traditional method of teaching in this country is book-centered and teacher-centered, with an emphasis on rote memorization.
When you attend a Vietnamese school for the first time, you will easily see the cultural differences. Therefore, it’s important to learn more about the culture. This knowledge will help you overcome cultural barriers in the learning process overall.
Academics are very important
Any Vietnamese student will tell you how restricted their lives are. But this is the norm in the country. They have a very competitive job market, which means that you have to remain at the top of your classes if you wish to succeed. From the country’s war-torn history, Vietnam has evolved. Today, it has a dynamic economy that offers amazing opportunities to its youth – but only for students who work hard.
This means long school days, with the possibility of additional classes at night. Many Vietnamese students also take the time to study English since it’s now a requirement for students who graduate from higher education.
Free essays from a professional site
One of the ways you can learn about a new culture if you plan to study abroad is by reading free essays on cultural diversity. A cultural diversity essay will give you a lot of insight in terms of how different cultures can be. Instead of writing your own essay, you can read the essays on cultural diversity for college students available on EduZaurus. By reading free essays, you will broaden your mind. The best part is, that essays on cultural diversities are very interesting.
The culture influences ESL Education
The Vietnamese culture is very vibrant, inviting, and warm. It is no different from other countries in the sense that it’s also filled with nuances that take time to comprehend. But unlike modern western societies, Vietnamese life centers on family, even into adulthood. To the Vietnamese, family reputation and well-being are very important. This means that each family has a sense of pride in encouraging their children to achieve success in their education and their careers.
The Vietnamese now consider English a language that provides them with a pathway to personal success and international opportunity. This is why the current generation of young learners aim to acquire ESL proficiency. This needs the involvement of parents in the learning process, as they push their children to study hard and do their best to attain high degrees. As a student, you may notice this when you study in a Vietnamese school.
You should learn the classroom culture too
Promptness is a trait valued by the Vietnamese. You should come to class on time every day. But there are times when teachers may tolerate some tardiness (between 10 to 30 minutes), especially during the rainy season. There is also a dress code in Vietnamese schools. Although this could be covered extensively, the main thing is that they dress conservatively. Business casual is best or a bit more casual and relaxed, depending on which school you go to.
In Western schools, students volunteer to give an answer to a question. But in Vietnam, students wait for the teacher to call them. Teachers penalize students who answer when not called. Because the culture of this country places emphasis on respecting superiors or elders, making friends with teachers is not a possibility, unlike how we deal with them back home.
Moreover, a teacher sitting at their desk, drinking or eating in class, playing games, and doing other laid-back things can put off students. In Vietnam, they’re used to perceiving teachers in an authoritative way. You may have to adjust to such a culture, especially if you’re used to making friends with your teachers back home.
Read essay samples online
Finding free essay samples online is very easy. You simply input the right keywords on a search engine and click on the results. Even better, you can refer to cultural diversity essay samples on WritingBros. Reading is a very beneficial hobby that you should take up, especially if you want to study abroad. Apart from essays, you can also read books, articles, and other resources to keep you well-informed. Then you will have a better idea of what to expect when you enter Vietnam.
Choose optimism instead of criticism
The paddles, mountains, seas, and rivers in Vietnam are profoundly ingrained in their culture. Because of this, they consider it very rude to not eat or finish your food, especially if you’re a guest in someone’s home and they prepared a meal for you.
They consider such an act an insult to the land and the people who prepared the meal. If someone invites you to their home, try not to take too much on your plate. Also, don’t forget to give a lot of compliments. The Vietnamese also talk about the problems of their society often. The topic could be anything – traffic, pollution, academic cheating, corruption, and more. Just remember that they become less patient when foreigners start criticizing.
They consider this arrogant. It’s as if you mean that your country is better. When you see it in that context, it is very upsetting. Making a joke about traffic conditions is okay but you don’t have to say it repeatedly without recognizing that there is a lot more about the amazing country than the traffic.
The traditions and culture of Vietnam have existed for thousands of years. The people have respect for their sea, people, and land. If you can comprehend the nuances of the beautiful culture of the Vietnamese as a student, you will do well as a foreign student in this country.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION Protecting Students Mental Health Whilst Distance Learning
As the effects of the latest Covid-19 wave continue to be felt across Vietnam, many parents, students, and teachers are looking at the start of the 2021 academic year with uncertainty. For students enrolled in many international schools, online teaching will resume but for how long, nobody knows.
Young learners and teachers at many of the country’s kindergartens have no idea when they will return to the classroom, and many students who usually attend public schools are anxiously waiting to hear if they will make the move to online learning, something that they have not adopted so far.
Whilst the uncertainty is understandable, with the current Covid-19 wave proving less manageable and far more damaging than previous ones, the effects that continued disruption have on the children and young adults in Vietnam are something that all of us should be aware of.
Of course, the most obvious issue is that of disrupted learning. For many students, particularly those who do not have unrestricted access to online learning facilities, continued school closures mean that their opportunities for development are severely restricted.
Other students may also suffer from reduced levels of nutrition as they can no longer rely on receiving the meal that is provided when at school. However, it may be that the greatest issue facing young people as a result of the ongoing restrictions is a decline in their mental health.
For many students, the school provides a routine that helps them cope with mental health issues and when schools are closed, access to support networks is, at best, disrupted, and at worst, unavailable. For others, the lack of social interaction can make the challenges they are facing more daunting.
Even for students who have not experienced mental health issues in the past, a continued lockdown period can lead to them adopting negative coping strategies, including overworking, disrupted sleeping patterns, and spending too much time online.
For parents who are concerned that their child may be struggling with the current situation, there are, however, steps that can be taken to ensure that your child feels supported through this difficult time.
Understanding Unfamiliar Emotions
For many young people understanding their emotions will be an essential step to adjusting to the current situation. Worry, lethargy and anger may be unfamiliar feelings for some young people so understanding and managing their response to social distancing may be something you need to support them. The mental health charity Mind suggests a number of approaches to help young people positively manage their emotions, including an emotions wheel that may help them to articulate exactly how they are feeling.
A return to school, albeit online, will help students recover some sense of routine as they will need to be ‘in class’ and complete homework as required. However, without the ability to run around the playground, chat with friends or take part in a PE lesson, it is unlikely that students will feel as though things are ‘normal’. To combat possible feelings of frustration and lethargy, encourage your children to do something ‘active’ at least once a day to help improve their mental and physical health. Child protection organization Child Safe has compiled a variety of resources that will keep children of all ages active, even when space is limited!
Keeping Socially Active
In addition to keeping active, encourage your children to spend time communicating in a social situation, rather than an academic one. Organizing social activities online with other parents and children can help to give the younger members of your family a much-needed sense of community when social distancing restricts your ability to meet up in person. Spending time playing fun and competitive online games such as Pictionary, Uno and Connect 4 can be a welcome addition to an online school day.
Opening Communication Channels
Perhaps most important though, is to simply communicate with your child. Letting them know that you understand that times are tough, can help them to feel less isolated. Showing an interest in what they are doing and providing them with the positive feedback that they are used to receiving from teachers can help improve motivation. Explaining to them what you are doing as you work from home can help them to understand your situation is not ‘normal’ either.
If your child seems to be struggling and you’re not sure what to say, Young Minds, a children’s mental health charity, has suggestions for ways to start a conversation and of course, your child’s school may be able to offer specific support with the stresses of distance learning.
Without the usual ‘Back to School’ fanfare that welcomes the start of a new academic year, it can be easy to feel that time is standing still. Without the adjustments to new classrooms, new uniforms, and new campuses, it may feel like nothing has changed. But it is important to remember that things are changing and if we can all stay strong through these challenging times, we can be hopeful that by the end of the 2021/22 academic year, the future will once again be looking bright. Not just for our students, but for everyone.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION Technology in the Classroom: A Help or a Hindrance?
Stephen Coyle, an IELTS instructor for the Reliable English School (RES), didn’t just see the dawn of technology in the classroom—he heard it. “When I first started teaching [in Vietnam] 14 years ago, the noise level in the classroom was incredible; people were shouting, talking, laughing. Now, during the break, it’s completely silent. Everyone is just looking at their phones.”
The heavy reliance on digital devices in Vietnam has come swiftly: in 2018 over 35 million people used Facebook regularly and an estimated 32.43 million had a smartphone. In just 3 years, these numbers have rocketed to around 75 million Facebook users in 2021, and over 61 million people have smartphones.
It is clear that the use of technology has irreversibly changed the way we look at the world and how we socialize, but in Ho Chi Minh City’s schools, has it changed the way our kids learn as well?
In 2018, Thomas Galvez, Saigon South International School’s Technology Learning Coach, acknowledged that technology can have detrimental effects on a child’s socialization, but averred that it’s all about balance. “It’s not about weaning them off [of smartphones],” he said. “It’s about teaching them the appropriate times to use it, and to understand the effects.”
At that time, with separate technology coaches for the elementary, middle, and high schools and an overall ICT Director in the administration department, it was safe to say that SSIS took the role of technology in the classroom seriously. In recognition of this, SSIS became the first Apple Distinguished School in Vietnam, a distinction both prestigious and rather nebulous.
To hold this coveted title, Galvez explained it wasn’t so much about having Apple products (although SSIS is a completely Mac-driven institution and requires all parents to purchase a personal MacBook for their child when they enter the 4th grade), but rather, it was about promoting an innovative approach to learning.
Now, there are over 500 schools spread across 32 countries, which are Apple Distinguished Schools. However, SSIS remains the only one in Vietnam. In trying to achieve an ‘innovative approach to learning, Galvez acknowledged that it was impossible to keep up with all the technological trends, something that can only have become harder in the last 18 months as educators across the world scrambled to embrace online teaching.
However, Galvez pointed out how social media apps like Twitter are great for creating an active, worldwide professional learning network. By harnessing the power of social media, teachers can discover tools that can make learning more efficient, or connect kids in a deeper way. After discussing with other teachers how programs can be integrated into their lessons, teachers and students alike can benefit from the latest tech.
For example, SoundCloud, an app that allows teachers to comment in different places on a student’s audio file, can be useful in a language class. For multimedia collaborations, Explain Everything, an interactive whiteboard app that lets students create visual presentations in the cloud, increases interaction between students and the teacher.
“That’s the great thing about these cloud-based tools,” Galvez said. “They provide asynchronous capacities that students and teachers can access to provide feedback and learn anytime, anywhere.”
The emphasis on creativity and multimedia, which is still emphasized by Mac products, is widely believed to help prepare students for future careers, many of which will require teamwork, collaboration, and thinking outside of the box. However, as Rob van Driesum, a parent of an SSIS child (and, full disclosure, the freelance copy-editor of #iAMHCMC) points out, “Not all kids will end up working in multimedia. They’ll need skills in Windows-based Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, and so on.”
The debate about technology’s role in the classroom has been raging since the concept of One-to-One learning was first suggested in the late 1990s. At that time it was argued that having the ability to provide students with personal learning devices, from which they could read digital textbooks and complete assignments, would make the learning process more streamlined and efficient.
However, studies have since suggested that digital learning isn’t the silver bullet some first believed it would be and some many schools have tempered their expectations. In addition, with many students having their own devices as well as those provided by their school, many people are now concerned that technology, in particular smartphones, are a negative presence in the classroom.
However, perhaps it is just the way in which this ‘problem’ is approached that causes the issues. As Thomas Galvez said, “Learning is always going to be at the center of schools. The whole focus of this job is really not technology.” “A good teacher is a good teacher. And to be a good teacher, you don’t necessarily need technology. Really, it’s about relationships.”
It seems then that balance remains the key to bringing technology into the classroom. If teachers and students spent less time working behind screens, real relationships could be forged. Then, when technology is needed in the classroom, the distractions may not be so distracting.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY IN SCHOOL: WHY YOUR CHILDREN NEED THAT LAPTOP
By Kathy Zimmerman
Eight years ago, when parents at Saigon South International School in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 7 were asked to buy a laptop for our high school students, no one batted an eye. It made sense. The students were in high school and they needed access to the newest technology: Internet, word processors, and spreadsheets.
A few years later, netbooks were distributed to all middle school students and everyone was on board. Again, it seemed logical, as the middle school students were (somewhat) responsible and the netbooks could help with projects, collaboration, and blogging. However, when it was announced four years ago that all students in grades 4 to 12 would need to bring a Macbook to school the next year, there was uproar.
“Do our students really all need such an expensive device for school?” I was not the only one thinking, “I went to school without a computer and did just fine, thank you.” My older children were in elementary school just a few years ago and they did not have laptops.
Embracing the Change
It has been a little over a year and I must admit defeat. The experiences that my youngest child encounters because she and all of her classmates have the same devices, and have access to them every day, introduce her to apps and programs in a very different way than what her older siblings had and were used to just eight years before.
Today, children have the possibility to create videos, write a paper or program a robot to demonstrate what they have learned.
They no longer just come up with ideas on how to conserve electricity and then write a paper they will promptly forget; by using technology, they become engineers who can create prototypes and have the chance to test their theories. Plus, they have a more authentic learning experience.
Learning computer languages or some level of coding is now a necessary skill much like tying your shoelaces. It is something children should learn when they are young because they will need it for the future. By building on their fundamental writing skills, students who understand computer languages are able to expand their work into multi-media rich projects which enhance both writing and oral skills. In turn, this allows for their work to be shared with a wider audience.
Our children are growing up in an age where digital or information literacy is just as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic. The ability to gather, create and distribute thoughts and ideas through electronic communication is vital and at the same time overwhelming.
Students must be taught how to correctly discern between reputable and disreputable sources, and to understand the responsibilities and ethical considerations that come with using technologies such as social media and the Internet. This needs to be a collaboration between schools and home.
Schools help students to manage behaviours through their acceptable use policies, targeted instruction and by creating electronic barriers like hardware and software controls. Parents also need to be involved; placing limits on the times and location of computer usage at home help with supervision.
Programmes such as Anti-Social or SelfControl allow parents to block sites for pre-determined amounts of time while Freedom blocks the whole of the internet for up to eight hours. It is best to remove all electronics in the evenings to ensure a good night’s sleep.
We all went to school, feel we are successful and therefore believe we have an idea of how schools should be set up. As technology becomes more and more integrated into our children’s school experiences, schools are asking parents to take a leap of faith and trust them as professionals.
Today’s innovative teachers are already thinking of ways to re-imagine school, redesign learning spaces, and create an overall better learning environment for the students. Many professional development conferences are being held throughout the region, which means that students will continue to have more authentic, project-based experiences in their classrooms.
They will continue to be faced with finding solutions to real-world problems, to turn the abstract into the concrete. I am not sure what will happen to schools in the longer run, but I for one am excited to see what the future holds.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION WHY YOU SHOULD NOT GIVE UP LEARNING VIETNAMESE
Learning the Vietnamese language is hard. In fact, I had an easier time learning Chinese! My problem is not the process itself, but rather the reaction of the people. Is that any reason to give up? Read on to find out why you should not give up on learning Vietnamese.
Recently, an English magazine published an article with the bottom line: “Learning Vietnamese is not worth your time.” For me, this post reminded me of the fact that I actually gave up on learning Vietnamese long ago, but it also brought to my attention again that I actually should resume learning the language.
Why I gave up on learning Vietnamese
I remember the day when I left the airport in Hanoi and set foot on Vietnamese ground for the first time. I was eager to learn more about the Vietnamese language. Not that I really intended to stay in Vietnam, mind. That occurred to me much later. But before, when I was in China, I came in contact with tonal languages and it was an amazing experience.
During my rather short stay in Hanoi and Ninh Binh, I asked more language-related questions than you can write down on a cow’s hide, even if you use small letters. And I learned much about the culture that goes hand in hand with the language. Since my conversation partner was the waitress of a traditional Vietnamese restaurant, the vocabulary was mostly related to food, which suits me well for I am a foodie anyway.
However, when I left the North and went to Da Nang, I tried to use my recently acquired words and met only blank faces. The language didn’t work. Sure, the tones in Vietnamese are different than in Chinese, but that could not be the problem, now could it? I started over again, asking questions. And there I discovered that the dialect in the Center differs from the dialect they use in the North of Vietnam. Together with my newbie accent, it was next to impossible for people to understand my babbling.
It was hard enough to make myself half understood in the language they speak in Da Nang eventually I moved further south to Saigon. Now, the Saigonese are quite friendly, so the first couple of times I ordered food in Vietnamese, the waitress just smiled and nodded and I thought Yes! There is progress, they understand!
When they kept smiling and nodding without any move towards the kitchen whatsoever, I realized that there was absolutely zero progress and people didn’t even recognize that I tried to speak their language. During almost two years in Ho Chi Minh City, I repeatedly attempted to learn a few essential phrases, but every single time I was met with blank faces or smile-nodding. A few times I got cheerful laughter as a response, without any move to correct my spelling. So I gave up.
I speak several languages, two of them fluent and whenever I learned to communicate in a new tongue, people were helpful in correcting my countless mistakes. After five weeks in China, I managed basic conversations with the locals, such as name, age, and country of origin, asking for the price, and so forth. In Vietnam, I have to repeat a single word 4 times until it gets recognized. And that’s still happening after two years.
I do, however, understand a lot. So recently when this Xe Om guy thought of himself as incredibly funny, calling “Heo, heo, heo!” instead of “Hello” to get my attention, I had the choice of calling him names in return or just ignoring him. Heo means pig. And I opted for ignoring the odd guy. The most annoying thing, however, is if I go and try to buy small things, like a regular banh mi at a stall that sells banh mi only. I go there and order a banh mi at the banh mi stall and the banh mi lady has not the slightest clue what I want.
Sure, I want delicately steamed lobster tails on saffron-scented basmati rice with a topping of alba truffle cream. That’s why I came to the banh mi stall. I mean she does have banh mi and nothing else, so what would I possibly want to buy there? I gave up.
If it’s actually easier to communicate in body language than in the local tongue, and faster to act out a scenario than attempting to talk, then learning the Vietnamese language is a total waste of time. Yes, it is incredibly rude to tell a whole nation, a whole culture, that their language is useless in an international context.
You can justify studying Mandarin Chinese for economical reasons, you can label yourself as Otaku and dive into Japanese pop culture by getting your fix of hiragana, katakana and if you are exceptionally crazy, some kanji. But Vietnamese? Come on, as soon as you cross the border, this skill is as useless as a stone skipping.
Is learning really that useless?
Well… things have changed, and by the looks of it, I will spend a significant amount of my life in Vietnam. Living here without the ability to communicate in Vietnamese might work in Saigon’s District One or Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem area, where you can expect anybody with whom you want to have a business of some kind to speak at least rudimentary English.
Coming back to the article in Word magazine “Learning Vietnamese is not worth your time,” I’d say that there are many things we have to learn in our life that actually are not worth our time. I learned Latin back in school, but lacking a working time machine I never traveled to ancient Pompeii so far.
I learned infinitesimal calculus and it is so useless in daily life if you are not an astrophysicist, that I actually forgot it the hour I received my diploma. I learned how to beat Barracoon the Piper solo in Ultima Online, a skill that’s so ultimately useless that even mentioning it here makes no sense. I think learning a language is always a good thing to invest time on, especially if it opens a communication channel to roughly 90 million people.
Why I should resume learning Vietnamese nonetheless
But what about the outer districts or even the countryside? The places where a westerner is still an exotic object of interest, something the elderly people curiously stare at and the children gather around, glad for an experience to brag about at school the next day?
In these areas, nobody speaks English, so if you don’t speak at least the basics of the Vietnamese language you are pretty lonely indeed. The other reason to learn Vietnamese is the culture. Everybody who spent some time in a foreign country and bothered to learn the local language knows this incredible lightbulb moment when you realize how the language outlines cultural habits. Details you usually wouldn’t have noticed, but now begin to understand and everything gets clearer.
I still remember some of these enlightening moments from the time when I studied Chinese. So many odd customs appeared clearer in their linguistic context than without. The same thing is true for the Vietnamese language. How people in Vietnam address each other, like Em, Anh, Chi and so forth – shows you a great deal about how Vietnamese society works. Language is the key to understanding. But the greatest surprise is that people in remote areas tend to understand much more of my talking attempts than those used by tourists.
How is that possible?
Well… I guess my accent must be so weird, that many people just take it as some strange, outlandish language, some odd version of English. And that’s what they expect me to project. People who speak only Vietnamese however are more likely to anticipate that my mumbo-jumbo is intended to be Vietnamese after all. They perk up their ears and give me a chance. Yes, people can spend a lifetime in Vietnam without speaking a word of the Vietnamese language.
Understanding vintage poetry and ancient idioms is not an essential survival skill, but I believe that every word you learn greatly helps with understanding Vietnamese culture. So maybe there is hope for me learning the Vietnamese language after all and I don’t have to be mute for the rest of my life. Looks like I won’t give up learning Vietnamese after all.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION Get Educated: Job Alternatives To Teaching
This is a safe space, so you can say it: you don’t like teaching. Or maybe you do, or some parts of it, at least. Maybe you don’t see yourself teaching in Vietnam for the rest of your life, and you’re getting a little worried about how an extended break from your desired field in Saigon is going to look on your resume.
Not to worry! We’ve got your back. It may not seem that way, but as a teacher, you’re accruing a number of useful skills that will help you succeed in these and other fields, should you choose to make the leap.
A word about money: We assume a typical, full-time teaching salary is about US$1,600. Yours may differ, but this is the figure we reference when we say “typical teaching salary” when we talk about money.
Ho Chi Minh City hosts a limited number of healthy English publications and outlets, including Vietcetera, Saigoneer, which both report on trendy events and culture, they survived the pandemic as well as your own City Pass Guide. These publications do regularly buy work from freelancers and, occasionally, hire for roles, like creating written or visual content, or selling advertising. A teacher looking for an escape ladder from the classroom might find one dangling small complementary revenue from one of these media platforms. If you’re unbothered by potentially lower pay, media outlets can be places to look—especially if you have talents as a writer or videographer.
How your teaching skills are suited to this industry: Ever been in a classroom and felt like your lesson was going nowhere? Did you keep your cool or, better yet, shift your teaching or lesson to get more engagement from your students? Congrats, you’ve exercised a positive response to criticism, a key to this industry.
Like the students who are subtly signaling their poor assessment of your teaching through their indifference, a perspective editor will sure have something to say about the first draft of the story you submit or the footage you offer. Vietcetera videographer Brett Hamilton said the ability to be evaluated and take that in a mature way will be a strength for someone vying for a spot in the media industry.
How’s the money: Entry-level positions may fall within the US$500 to US$1,000 range. Expect to make something lower than a typical teacher’s wage. Hamilton notes that wage differences are less pronounced when you take into account the non-classroom time a teacher spends grading, designing lessons, etc.
How you get in: If you don’t have a portfolio of relevant work—published work if you’re aiming to be a writer, or sold pictures if you’re shooting to be a photographer—Hamilton said freelancing is the best place to start. Ask around if a publication you’d like to work for is hiring for a specific task, and don’t be afraid to take work for small fees. Focus on building a reputation for output, he said. Also, network like it’s your job. Go out and meet people.
For those who are seeking an exit from teaching to doing something else, there are certain kinds of work that a teacher does that fall into the project manager’s skillset.
The responsibilities of a project manager can vary—this is a position that can be responsible for anything from leading a team of people who will create new software to managing a construction site at an office renovation—but it has one thing in common: something new that a firm does not already have has to be created in an organized manner.
Let’s say you’ve been asked to organize an English club at your school. You had to think about basics like when and how often the club will meet, and also more in-depth items like how will the club be led as well as how will you make students want to come to this meeting. This is a type of project that you’ve managed, and it may be something you can bring into a discussion with an interviewer when you go for a project manager opening.
Look for places in your current position when you’ve been asked to do something exceptional or out of the ordinary, something preferably that has defined goals like recruiting a certain number of students. Often teaching lacks meaningful markers for success, and you may have to get creative in finding or creating opportunities to show that for yourself.
How your teaching skills are suited to this industry: Have you ever been asked to review a new curriculum and design a teaching strategy for yourself and other teachers? Or maybe you’ve been asked to organize a school festival. These are projects that you’ve managed, and you’re working as a project manager.
Seeing how your teaching skills will fit into a business environment outside of a classroom requires some creative work. Only what you’re doing, and teaching mirrors work that would happen in a corporate environment in Saigon, so business consultant Carsten Ley said to seek opportunities to involve yourself in other projects with defined outcomes.
After all “[w]hat is a project, right? If you say you’re an English teacher in a school and they want to write a new curriculum or open a new school, you’re already a project manager,” he said. Look for places where you’re doing something that’s not specifically your job to build these new skills.
How’s the money: The salary in an entry-level business position is 100 to 150 percent of what a typical teaching salary would be, according to Ley.
How you get in: “The first thing is how do you build your CV. I mean, you don’t put ‘teacher’ directly in your CV, that’s a little bit far from business,” Ley said. Instead, he suggests identifying projects that you’ve been involved in that involve defined goals, like recruiting and retaining new students.
A business degree and other certifications will help you land a job in this field, but Ley said these are less than strict requirements in our particular job market. “The good thing about hiring in Vietnam is that the hiring is not so formal,” Ley said. “They look more to experience than degrees.” Look for ways to phrase your teaching skills as abilities to manage projects and communicate with others to make you more attractive for your desired position. Ley said Saigon’s startup-rich business ecosystem lends itself well to those who are trying to work themselves into a new discipline or field.
Teaching may not be your thing, but maybe you’re incredibly skilled at connecting with the students and you generally have an easy time talking to others. Corporate recruiting may be for you.
It can be difficult for companies to find and hire the right candidates, so they regularly contract out this work to individuals who proactively recruit prospective hires for them. Recruiters are generally paid per successful hire; an entry-level one can expect to make about a tenth of the salary of the hire as their fee.
This is an entry-level fee. An experienced recruiter can command a higher rate, but also don’t be afraid to formalize your service and make the motions of official service, including getting your own office and an email address from something other than Gmail. It’s not unheard of for companies to refuse to pay above the entry-level rate because you don’t have your own physical office or a website. This is an industry where these kinds of investments may pay dividends for freelancers.
How your teaching skills are suited to this industry: You can connect with learners and have likely spent a lot of time on the computer planning lessons (or on Facebook. It’s cool, we won’t tell). Great! Freelance recruiter Karol Czajkowski (“chai-koff-ski”) said much of his recruiting work is done on social media and remotely, so you’ll be doing more of that if you decide to make the switch. Also, if you’re a teacher, you’ve probably thought intensively about how to take a complicated grammar topic and turn it into a digestible, learner-friendly lesson. Your work is similar to a recruiter, only you’re explaining an unfamiliar position to a candidate.
Czajkowski said the biggest difference between this kind of work and teaching is the need to sell. This is a position that needs to persuade a human resources executive that he or she is the right person to help them hire. Once they’ve secured the assignment, the recruiter would also need to convince a prospective hire to, first, talk to them and, second, take a job they’re probably unaware of and not looking for.
How’s the money: Recruiters are paid a percentage of the hire’s salary. A fair amount for someone who’s never done this kind of work is 10 percent of the hire’s salary, Czajkowski said. A more active recruiter may be able to replace their salary quicker, but it depends on the frequency and size of the employee’s pay.
How you get in The freelance job board UpWork is a favorite resource of Czajkowski’s. Enterprising recruiters can also write to the hiring manager of a company and seek opportunities that way.
A plethora of services like 97 Kid, Topica Native, and VIPKID have emerged over the years to link teachers with students over the internet. The pay per hour for these kinds of services starts at about US$10 but can go as high as US$25, which is comparable to what you’d make teaching inside a Vietnamese classroom. There are a handful of online educational services that pay as much as US$30-35 per hour for an educator, so do your homework (we do not apologize for this pun).
Because you can do this work anywhere, you can also take it with you when you holiday or move to a new country. Students online are just going to be looking for a friendly teacher. These services typically allow you to select your own hours but have a minimum per week hourly commitment that a teacher must meet. Some services include student evaluations via rating systems for pupils to evaluate their teachers; educators who earn a higher score from their learners usually get a bump in their pay.
How your teaching skills are suited to this industry: This is a teaching position, so we’ve probably answered this question already.
How’s the money: Teaching online offers its employees the ability to select their own hours as long as they meet a minimum hourly commitment. Brit Isbell, an American national temporarily living in Vietnam who works at 97 Kid, said it wouldn’t be hard to replace a typical teacher’s salary. He makes about US$20 per hour.
How you get in: As in many cases, Google is your friend here. Websites for these services will have easy-to-follow web interfaces for applicants to get you started teaching remotely before you can say “mornings off”.
One last note: in the course of our reporting, we’ve learned that some online teaching companies prefer foreign teachers located in the US or another western nation due to a perception that internet infrastructure in the developing world (read: Vietnam) won’t be reliable enough for a remote employee to be consistently available. Know that prospectives look better if they present themselves with an address other than one here.
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO LEARN VIETNAMESE?
Living in Saigon for more than two years now, I’ve been taking Vietnamese lessons from the start. A friend convinced me to go to a Vietnamese class. That was at a time when I tenaciously called every noodle soup pho and gladly paid VND 250,000 for a shoe shine on the street.
It’s been two years and God knows I am anything but fluent. (My friend, I’m afraid, has dropped his language-learning efforts long since.) When asked, I always tell people how difficult it is to learn Vietnamese. The main problem isn’t merely the language: it’s Vietnam and me.
Problem No. 1: Can Somebody Please Make Me Speak Vietnamese?
Life in Vietnam doesn’t make you learn Vietnamese. This might seem to be a weird thing to say, but think about it: why does someone who goes to, say, Spain, inevitably learn Spanish? Because Spaniards refuse to speak any other language than their own! Do you want to grab a sandwich for dinner? Then you better order it in Spanish or you go to bed hungry.
Vietnamese are much less demanding. A little “cam on” is enough to make people go wild about your supreme Vietnamese skills. You try and say “merci” in Paris. Never was an effortless appreciated.
This leads to a much bigger issue: if you don’t have to learn Vietnamese, then why put any effort into it? My teacher, Bùi Quang Thục Anh, or simply ‘Annie’, is the founder of Learn Vietnamese with Annie, one of the most well-known private institutes offering Vietnamese classes in Ho Chi Minh City.
She says, “If you want to communicate in a language, you need a vocabulary of several thousand words. Most people give up before they even reach 200, and then they say: Vietnamese is so difficult.”
She estimates the rate of students quitting within the first two months at 80 percent. In her view, Vietnamese is not harder than any other language to learn. But people tend to lack dedication because you can live a perfectly convenient life in Vietnam without speaking a word of the language.
Problem No. 2: The Pronunciation Is Not Only Darn Difficult, but Crucial
And without dedication, without actual practice, you can’t possibly get the part right that is surely the hardest for us Westerners when learning Vietnamese: the tones. Hands up who has heard or even said this more than three times since they arrived in Vietnam: “Oh, come on, I just said that!” The fact is, you didn’t.
Do you know how many different meanings the simple combination of letters “ban” can have in Vietnamese, disregarding diacritics and accents? 11! Now imagine you tell a taxi driver a street name with only three syllables in it, each with, say, six different meanings depending on your (wrong) pronunciation of it. That’s 216 possible outcomes!
Annie says, “Often enough, Vietnamese are scared of talking to foreigners because they are just so likely to get them wrong.”
So please, learn from my mistakes and follow these five essential rules for learning Vietnamese.
Quick and Dirty Tips to Learn Vietnamese Properly
1. Start right away
I’ve met so many ex-pats saying they will start soon, very soon. Personally gathered statistics prove that if you don’t start within your first months here, you never will.
2. Realise that you already know how to pronounce Vietnamese
We all do use tones in our native languages, just for different purposes! Take the admittedly not very common question “Fur?” (Like a doubtful answer to somebody asking what the difference between mammals and reptiles is.) Pronounce it like Sherlock and you’ll say an almost perfect phở.
3. Speak loud and clear
Basic, I know. But if you wait for your Vietnamese level to give you confidence, you’ll wait forever. Most of the time, people quite simply can’t hear what you mumble. Speak up, even when in doubt.
4. Put yourself in situations where you have to speak Vietnamese
If life doesn’t force you, force yourself. Two to three minutes per day are enough, be it with your colleagues, your cleaning lady, or that fried-bananas guy on the corner.
5. Get a Vietnamese boy- or girlfriend
It’s sad but a fact. You rarely ever meet someone who’s committed to learning Vietnamese for longer than a couple of months without a very good reason. And what better reason would there be than good ol’ love?
SAIGON INSPIRATION EDUCATION TEACHME.VN – THE EASY WAY TO FIND YOUR PRIVATE TUTOR
Launched in 2016, TeachMe.vn is a unique educational experience. The first online platform of its kind in Vietnam, this website specializes in making connections. We all have that one skill we wish we had. Maybe it’s playing the guitar; maybe it’s speaking another language; maybe it’s learning to paint or sew. You might think it’s too late to learn something new, but it’s never too late – TeachMe.vn has made sure of that.
If you’re a student and you want to improve a skill or learn something new, your private teacher or tutor is waiting on TeachMe. If you’re a teacher, tutor, or expert with a passion for instructing, TeachMe will connect you with new pupils. It’s that simple, and it’s brilliant.
What Can You Learn?
Vietnamese language tutoring? Check. English language tutoring? Check. Fortune telling instruction? Check. If you want to learn it, it’s probably listed on TeachMe, and there’s probably a teacher just minutes away. Right now the website has 62 skills available for tutoring, and that’s just at last count. The word is spreading, and experts in all fields are waiting to teach young and old whatever they have to offer at reasonable hourly rates.
How Does It Work?
TeachMe.vn is a platform that connects people; the rest is up to you and your tutor. When you go to the homepage, all the choices are there: simple drop-down menus let you look at the teachers available near you in each subject.
So if you just moved to District 1 in Saigon and you’d like to improve your Vietnamese skills, boom: dozens of Vietnamese tutors show up with a picture and biography explaining their qualifications. And if you’re not sure about the qualifications of a particular tutor, just look at the reviews: comments from past students will tell you everything you need to know.
After you’ve found the perfect tutor for you, you can contact your new teacher with the click of a button.
There you have it – set up a time, pick a location and start learning.
Who Can Use It?
The real question: who can’t use it? Everyone wants to learn something new, so why not pick your subject? Whether you’re a Vietnamese student who needs some help with computer science or an expat who wants to hold conversations at the local market, TeachMe is here to help.
But if you think it’s just a strictly academic environment, think again. Dozens of the skills available to be taught on TeachMe are fun and perfect for group activities. Maybe you have a few friends who have a yen for leathercrafting, have always wanted to learn Arabic or want some tutelage when it comes to karate. It’s a good thing TeachMe tutors have got you covered. Many teachers offer discounted rates for small groups, so you can have your arts & crafts night in style, with the help of a trained professional.