Last week, Viet Nam News invited its readers to share their experiences about whether they think Viet Nam offers quality international schools. Here are some responses.
Philippa Wood, Australian, Ha Noi
We were able to identify the schools where places were most keenly sought after by expatriates. Due to the high demand for places, we had to join a waiting list and hope that our children would be accepted into our preferred school - the United Nations International School of Hanoi. We have four children and, at the last minute, our eldest two were accepted into our school of choice, while the others were enrolled at two other schools. This made it difficult to have the children at three different schools.
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Foreign fans of cai luong (reformed drama) will for the first time be able to enjoy performances of the shows in English.
The Chuong Vang Theatre in the capital's Hang Bac Street hosted a performance of Menh De Vuong (The King's Fate Opera) with an English translation at an experimental performance last week. About 40 front-row seats were equipped with headphones through which audience members could listen to an English interpretation of the show.
Tourists in Ha Noi want to learn about Vietnamese culture including tuong (classic opera), cheo (popular opera) and quan ho (folk singing). However, they are faced with the language barrier.
Have you enjoyed traditional Vietnamese performances? What forms do you like best? How did you overcome the language barrier?
Do you think that interpretations would be a useful way to introduce the arts to foreign tourists?
Do you have suggestions about how Viet Nam can convey aspects of her native art forms to foreign audiences?
We welcome your opinions. E-mails should be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org – or faxed to 84-4-39332312. Letters can be sent to: The Editor, Viet Nam News, 11 Tran Hung Dao, Ha Noi. All comments must be received by September 1.
It is very important for our children to learn about Vietnamese culture, the language and the city in which they live in so we were pleased this was included in the school curriculum.
It is difficult for me to say whether international schools should be better regulated. I am very happy with these schools our children attend as they are world class; however I have heard that the educational experience can vary widely in other schools. Vietnamese and expatriate parents alike expect a high standard of teaching, facilities and curriculum materials in return for their considerable financial investment. International schools must strive to deliver the level of educational experience and learning standards they promise they will provide.
In fact, our family has made difficult choices to ensure the children stay at school in Ha Noi for as long as possible because we believe our children have received an extraordinarily high level experience – and that includes the wider reaching benefits and level of understanding the children gain from studying alongside classmates from over 50 other countries.
Steve Cook, American, Ho Chi Minh City
International schools in Viet Nam can be very hard to sort out at first. A quick tour, meeting, and a few brochures, it's not enough. There are many schools. It's not an easy decision to make, but one you will have to live with for the year. It's more daunting for a newcomer, and the recommendations of colleagues and acquaintances can be very helpful.
If possible, it's best to visit the school when it's in session. The kid's faces are a good mirror of what the school is really like. International schools here are smaller; hence there are more personalised instructions.
Many have a genuine international air, with students and teachers from around the globe. I'd think that some international schools here should be more progressive in their curriculum and style, breaking away from traditions. At the same time, they need to prepare students not just for the SATs, but for successes at college and in life. These formative years are important in academic, social and character development. I think they should offer Vietnamese language lessons. My kid was given a choice between Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese.
In terms of the quality? Only some. These schools are probably the family's biggest expense. It's a big investment, not to mention it's difficult and costly to move on if things do not work out.
Le Thi Hien Giang, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
It's not just expat parents but also Vietnamese parents who have to worry about whether their investment on the child's international education here in Viet Nam will pay off. As someone who has a six-year-old, I also wonder whether I should send him to an international school in Ha Noi. For many local parents, the word "international" might sound appealing. It also has become trendy or "a la mode" to have your kids attend international schools.
They hope their kids would turn out to be confident, speak English like their mother tongue and not be overloaded with schoolwork and extra classes similar to the Vietnamese schools. And international schools here could be the stepping stone to future years of studying abroad.
However, many Vietnamese parents end up disappointed. While their kids might have perfect English accents, they end up having problems communicating in Vietnamese. As the booming economy creates a wealthier generation of parents, it also allows many businesses and individuals to take the opportunity to open schools that are only "international" on paper.
It depends entirely on the parents to pick one that they think is most suitable for their children. We've seen many parents ending up paying thousands of US dollars without a clue about what their children study. I think these schools should be better regulated and if there are violations, their licensces should be revoked.
Pham Duc Kien, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
I think the increasing number of international schools in Viet Nam reflects the rapid economic growth. With the local education system blamed for putting too much pressure on students to memorise knowledge, Vietnamese parents are starting to rely on international schools for a foreign-style education and a more global curriculum.
However, only some international schools here offer true quality education, often programmes that are also accredited abroad such as the International Baccalaureate or the International General Certificate of Secondary Education. Many other schools claim they offer international curriculum and hire certified teachers from abroad, but there's often no way for parents to verify it, only after seeing the results of the "international" tuition fees and costs.
In South Korea, the government finances a national plan to invite foreign investment to establish branch campuses of Western schools, offering quality international education for expatriate families and also providing good options for local parents who want to keep their children at home instead of sending them abroad too early. Similar efforts could be made in Viet Nam. At the moment, we only provide education providers with licences to operate here, and leave the quality checks to the parents.
Thomas Treutler, American, Ha Noi
When we moved to Viet Nam several years ago, although our oldest boy Ben is an American citizen, we sent him to a Vietnamese school (Doan Thi Diem), even though he was in fourth grade and only knew a little bit of Vietnamese. We did this because we knew we could be sure of the excellent quality and rigorous curriculum of the Vietnamese school, and strong dedication of the teachers. We wanted to be sure he would have an education with emphasis on good Vietnamese morals and ethics, with respect for teachers. It worked out well, because now our son can speak both languages very well, and has a good understanding of Vietnamese culture, and many local and foreign friends.
Tom Lancaster, American, Ha Noi
My daughter was enrolled in Rainbow School International Kindergarten in Ha Noi. We initially chose it because it had good reviews on The New Hanoian, and we've stuck with it because she is happy there and we like the environment. I think beyond basic safety requirements, there doesn't need to be government oversight of private kindergartens. Parents are perfectly capable of assessing their children's school themselves. And if they don't like it they can always vote with their children's feet.
I think it's high time there was more choice in the international school market. Up to now the market has been too small, which has kept prices in Ha Noi high. I recently compared prices in Ho Chi Minh City and was shocked how much cheaper schooling is down there.
The market, with the help of reviews sites like The New Hanoian, So Saigon (shameless self-plug) and word-of-mouth, will sort out which schools provide quality education. — VNS