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My opinions on international schools in Ho Chi Minh at the moment

There are 7  International schools that are recognized by the Good Schools Guide International (1). However, they are not branded as a GSGI school which meets the  International standards for first tier schools. Obviously these schools in Ho Chi Minh City are generally in second or third tiers. Therefore, the researcher is going to look at the school's curriculum, the teachers, diverse student bodies and the facilities of the schools. In order to do so, official school websites, expat forums/reviews (2) and parent's reviews and testimonies (3) on them. These schools are listed as follows:

ABC International School
www.theabcschool.net

American International School
www.ais.edu.vn

Australian International School
www.aisvietnam.com

Renaissance International School Saigon
www.rissaigon.edu.vn
Saigon South International School
www.ssis.edu.vn
The British International School
www.bisvietnam.com
The International School, Ho Chi Minh City
www.ishcmc.com


Firstly, ABC International School is a independent for profit school that belongs to British International Schools Worldwide (BISW) and the Federation of British International Schools in South East Asia and East Asia (FOBISSEA). It comprises of 580 students in total ages 2-17 and offers IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education)  following the National Curriculum for England. It is a co-ed school with a diverse student body of Vietnamese, Korean, Indian, Singaporean, Filipino, Canadian, British, French, Americans etc The facilities are standard and the campus is near Phu My Hung residence which houses International families.

The American International School is an Independent,  private also for profit school that employs five Vietnamese teachers amongst American and International Teachers. Generally they have around 900 students as of 2009 exact figures for 2016 have not been released. Students range from aged 6-18 studying in a co-ed environment following  either a choice of the IB (International Baccalaureate)  system or the American High School Diploma (College preparatory) system.  The school has a imbalanced student body of 90% Vietnamese and the rest are foreigners.

The Australian International School is an Australian Based Curriculum school established in August 2006 by a Vietnamese couple, in which its is a independent private for profit school that employs mainly Australian  and New Zealand teachers. It was facing financial trouble before it merged with Academic Colleges Group International School Vietnam (ACG) (which a private company based in New Zealand with more than 10 schools from 3 countries ) from July 1st 2013. It has a diverse student body with over 1100 students from 35 different nationalities at 3 campuses. It follows the Cambridge Lower Secondary Education Program (IGCSE) through years 7-11 and the IB (International Baccalaureate) program for senior students through years 12-13.

Saigon South  International School is a non profit school run by the Phu My Hung Cooperation. Established in 1997, the school one of the first International Schools in Vietnam. It is a coed school with a diverse student body of over 850 students from over thirty-three countries. The teaching staff comprises of North America, Australia and the United Kingdom. The School has a student to teacher ratio of 10:1. Their facilities are modern and meet International standards. The school offers an American standards-based curriculum (AP) and International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) in senior school.

The British International School Vietnam is a for profit school established in  August 1997 by a Vietnamese couple. It is a a coed school with 2000 students with a diverse student body. The School implements a British curriculum for primary school students following the IPC(International Primary Curriculum) and utilizes IGCSE Cambridge for high school students, and  for senior school students they offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) in senior school. The School's consists of three campuses a Primary Campus, A secondary campus and an extension of it. Their facilities  for academic and extracurricular are sufficient.

International School Ho Chi Minh City is a for profit school run by a company called Cognita, which is a private international schools group, currently encompassing sixty-four schools across three continents. It is the oldest International School in Vietnam established in 1993. The school is coed with 850 students from 50 nationalities. It folllows the IB program system all the way from primary to senior school (PYP, MYP and IB diploma). It has diverse teacher nationalities. The school has only one campus, with sufficient facilities to meet international standards. They also promise an expansion in 2017.           
     


Generally these schools are second to third tier International Schools due to the fact that these schools were not reviewed by a credible independent third party organization such as The Good School Guides International. In addition, these schools are relatively new with the oldest school ISHCMC (1993). This results in inexperience in teaching, managing the schools and building a good curriculum. Also, some of these schools are run by for profit companies and private individuals who do not have the school's best interest in mind and only care about profit maximization and rapid growth/expansion to compete with other schools in attracting more students.  The top three International Schools in the researcher's  opinion along with information gathered from expat forums and parents blogs are as follow:

1. Saigon South International School
This school is a not for profit school with with a small student to teacher ratio 10:1 and has less than 1000 students which makes it a very close knit community. In addition the campus is great as it is very large and has a proper soccer pitch and this school has the best America curriculum available in Vietnam.
Comparison of SSIS SAT results with worldwide averages

Critical Reading
Math
Writing
SSIS
Class of 2013 Results
552
656
599
Average SAT score for American students entering college in September 2015
494
511
484

This table shows that this school student's SAT Scores are much higher than the national average.  A parent in the expat forum said that As far as teacher packages South has the best in HCMC. Money is spent on PD every year and it is the only not for profit school in HCMC.

2. British International School
According to a parent the British International School has the best British curriculum  in Ho Chi Minh City. However the Primary and Secondary campuses are crowded and packed as it has around 2000 students.

University Destinations 2015
Total number of graduates:
74
Number of students going to universities in the UK:
16
Number of students going to universities in Australia:
6
Number of students going to universities in the USA:
18
Number of students going to universities in Canada:
5
Number of students going to universities in mainland Europe:
6
Number of students going to universities in Asia:
13
Number of students on gap year:
9
Number of students doing national service
1
http://www.bisvietnam.com/wp-content/up … online.pdf


3. International School Ho Chi Minh City

International School Ho Chi Minh City on the other hand has the most experience as it is the longest international school operating in Vietnam, however after ownership changes by Cognita a privately held education company owning over 66 International Schools Worldwide many of this international school's talented minds left. In 2016, they plan to build a new campus less than 10 minutes drive from the current campus. 

http://ishcmc.com/download.php?file=TWpJMw


Conclusion:

Although none of the International Schools in Ho Chi Minh City met the requirements of the Good Schools International Guide to the best international schools there are some decent schools. The most problematic issue facing expat and national families when the right international is that there no alternative program to IBDP as a senior student. The only school that offers A levels as an alternative to this program is ABC International School, however this school has a small student body, poor facilities and doesnot have a good reputation like the top three schools mentioned above. The researcher's advice to prospective parents is that if their son/daughter knows exactly what they want to do in life and major in University it is strongly recommended that you send them to Singapore, Hongkong or Shanghai/Beijing for their senior years and take Alevels. If your children prefer to do the IB than it is more prudent just to let them study in Vietnam and save costs.

Citations/Sources:

Good Schools Guide International (1)

http://www.gsgi.co.uk/site

expat forums/reviews (2)

http://internationalschoolsreview.com/v … php?t=2527

parent's reviews and testimonies (3)
http://www.expatexchange.com/rspnet.cfm … amp;rid=62
http://hello-saigon.com/2013/01/16/what … minh-city/
https://xotours.vn/blog/2013/10/27/a-gu … n-vietnam/

Thanks Anonxx for doing the research, compiling, and sharing.  It's very useful and informative.  Appreciate it.

Yeah, thank you. As a future teacher of ESL in Vietnam, this is very informative. I appreciate all of your research and insights.

No problems if you have any questions please do not hesitate to email me! cheers.  :)

Are there any english speaking primary school options that are more affordable than the ones you listed? What are the public schools like? are there any that cater to english speakers? Is home schooling my best option?

I've got 2 boys ages 7 and 10 and am currently considering a position in Saigon but there is no way I can afford $15 - 25K per year for each kid.

Any insight you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

abonnema :

Are there any english speaking primary school options that are more affordable than the ones you listed? What are the public schools like? are there any that cater to english speakers? Is home schooling my best option?

I read recently that public schools are not available to foreigners.  I have no verification of this but it seems plausible.  Of course if they were available, your boys would have to learn Vietnamese pretty quick but that is certainly possible at their age. 

Also I don't know about elementary level but middle and high schools in Vietnam are definitely ability tracked based on standardized testing.  There is a substantial quality difference from top to bottom.

Unless you are a VNese citizen you can not attend public school here. And the question is why would you want to. They do not teach during the regular school day, but will offer to be your tutor at night to learn the subject matter they were to teach you during the day. Another twist on the coffee fund form of government salary.
Having home schooled my children, in my opinion it is a no brainer. If you want them to get a quality education and not just someone to babysit during the day home school is the BEST.

Moreover the 15-25k you mention for the ripoff private schools is a waste of money in my opinion. These were founded on the basis of them having a captive audience that has no alternative for their children. Seeing that they need to recruit workers from outside the country to do many tasks, coupled with the fact those they employe can not send their children to public school, the private schools were born. The teacher continuity is terrible and the fees way out of line with the quality of the education provided. You can pay for home schooling for a fraction of the cost. Mind you home schooling takes far less hours out of your day to do than any other form of education. My children spent about 3 hours per day, and could matriculate to any university in America.

My son attends SSIS and I highly recommend it to anyone who can (comfortably) afford it. Excellent facilities, small class sizes, qualified teachers, with a range of extra of extracurricular activities.

The students begin taking computer science classes at grade 4 but my little guy won't be in Vietnam for that long.

So called "international school" have change over the years. Initially, "international schools" were for diplomats' children, and for children of foreigners who worked for large foreign companies like CokeCola as an example. So the government would allow a private school soley for these children, but they were to have no local students. That is to say only foreign passport holders from that country.  The curriculum and teachers were from the same country and taught in the language of that country. 
In the last 25 years, "international schools" have taken more and more local students, and here in VN, most of the schools listed in this article are 90% or more local students; this even though the current law in VN is that a foreign private school can have no more the 10% local students for elementary school and no more that 20% local high school students. The market is to the elete, wealth families because they can afford the high tuition fees.  Is it worth sending a local student to these schools? Parents may want their children to speak English by foreign teachers, or parents may think that graduating from one of these high priced educational institutions, may give them the edge to get their child accepted by e.g. an American University.  The reality is the the U.S. Counselate doesn't care whether the applicant graduated from an "international school" or local school.  Parents would do much better not spending the $20 to $30 a years to send their child to an international school, but rather save that money for their child's university years.

Interesting insight to the original intent. I do think there is some merit to getting an English oriented facilities education. But solely for the purpose of passing the exam required of a foreign student. But I think the general discussion here is for tge exoat child's education. They can matriculate to , say,  an American university with no more problems than a student who attended school in the USA his entire childhood. However, the fact remains that a primary education here in a private school or in a US school is far more inferior than a home schooled child.

Diazo :

Unless you are a VNese citizen you can not attend public school here.

That's not correct!
Non-Vietnamese students too can attend VN public schools, provided they have a satisfactory command of Vietnamese language for the relevant training level or curriculum. . Their education must be entirely self-financed.

I know at least two non-Viet families residing in Vietnam for a very long time whose kids (with foreign nationality) went to VN public schools.

VN Law and Legal Forum
alternate link:
Vietnamnet.vn

Excellent information
So thanks
Regards Chris

Great news. But who could meet the bar to entry. And why would anyone on earth PAY to get a Vietnamese primary education. Then they must have their child pay coffee money to a tutor to actually get taught after school hours.
But I had always been told here that it was not possible, of course, not possible is always possible here. Not sure if it is above board. But if it blows your skirt up enroll them. I imagine the coffee money fee is pretty high.
Good news for those who desire such a thing.

My daughter, born in Vietnam, attended kindergarten and primary schools for five years in VN. Yes, she speaks absolutely fluent Vietnamese.  VN schooling concentrates on maths, science, and VN language culture and history; and NOTHING ELSE. So now we are back in Oz, where my daughter loves school, speaks fluent Oz after only 18 months, and declares that she will never live in VN again. Not bad for a nine year old.

You left NT. I thought you were still here. Good luck.
Did you know Randy? He moved back to the US , gosh, I guess 3 years ago or so. Soon after they had the baby.

Diazo - No, sorry, I don't know Randy. Choosing to live outside NT restricted my interaction with expats.  I preferred to live a semi-rural life.

My ex was from your home city. I just realized that. Well enjoy.

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