Recent years have seen a growth in the number of private schools in Vietnam. This is partly due to the demands of the country’s growing expat population. There are a number of prestigious international schools in Vietnam, especially in Ho Chi Minh City, and these offer top-quality education to both expats and wealthy Vietnamese families.
Despite its status as a developing country, Vietnam has a good standard of public education and a literacy rate of 95 percent.
Outside the country’s main urban centres there are schools that are under-resourced and poorly staffed. However, in the cities, many expats choose to enrol their children at a good public school to save on the extremely high costs of international school fees.
Public schools in Vietnam
Expat students may find the teaching methods employed at Vietnam’s public schools to be quite unfamiliar – students are expected to study quietly and passively, which contradicts the more innovative learning methods and active class discussions encouraged in Western culture.
There are, however, a small number of schools in Ho Chi Minh City that are making a break from traditional Vietnamese style methods and offering American-style learning. These more modern public schools tend to have extremely long waiting lists, however.
Vietnamese students often experience enormous pressure to perform well academically, from both their families and teachers. Most children have private extra tuition after school.
Private and international schools in Vietnam
International schools in Vietnam are a relatively modern phenomenon – the oldest international school in the country was established less than 30 years ago – but over the past few decades many new international schools have emerged to fill a gap in the market and cater for the country’s rapidly growing expat population.
The top international schools tend to employ native English speakers or those who have trained in the country that the particular school is affiliated with.
The most popular international schools in Vietnam tend to be oversubscribed and there are long waiting lists, so it's best to make applications as soon as possible.
Applying for international schools in Vietnam
Most international schools in Vietnam accept applications throughout the school year, but it's worth bearing in mind that some of the more popular schools fill up fast. It's therefore best to apply ahead of time.
Some international schools in Vietnam have entrance exams that test potential students for proficiency in English and maths. In many cases, international schools will request an interview with both the parents and the student before a formal offer is made.
International schools may ask parents to pay fees in advance or provide a non-refundable admission fee for each child. Fees vary for different schools and increase with the age of the child.
Most private schools in Vietnam provide students with bus transport and cafeteria lunches, but these are additional costs. Expat parents will also need to make allowances for school uniforms, extra-curricular activities, school trips and stationery.
Special-needs education in Vietnam
In the past, Vietnam operated on a policy of separating special-needs students from mainstream schools. However, since the early 2000s, Vietnam has adopted a more progressive and inclusive approach to education for students with special needs, focusing on integration with mainstream schools and classes. Along with public schools, numerous private schools in Vietnam offer similar services with interventions varying depending on the level of care the student is in need of.
Tutors in Vietnam
In Vietnam, after-school tutoring is popular, with around a third of households making use of tutors. Education is highly valued and students often face pressure to succeed, leading to a booming tutoring industry.
Expats will have plenty of options to choose from for everything from subject-specific tutoring to more general language and exam preparation. The right tutor can also help expat children adjust to a new curriculum, providing support as they catch up to their peers. Recommended local companies include Everest Education and International Tutor Group.
►Find out about expenses for expats in Cost of Living in Vietnam
Are you an expat living in Vietnam?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Vietnam. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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