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Tough high school decision

Hello everyone,

I plan to move from the U.S. (Orange County, California) to VN (Saigon) to be near my parents, whose health has been on the decline. Of all the decisions that I will have to make, none weigh on me more than choosing the right high school for my child (who will be a 9th grader this coming September). I researched to the best of my ability and went through the thought process below.

1. As per my internet research, the state of education in VN (both public and International School) is abysmal. Homeschool is the way to go. Unfortunately, I'm not confident that my wife and I have the skill set to pull it off, so homeschool is not an option for us.

2. My child is not proficient in Vietnamese, so public school is also out the window. Therefore, the only remaining option is the International School route.

3. Since my child will return to the States for higher education, I think it's best to pick an International School that offers American style/base education. I feel that this is a safe option, but can't help to ponder which system (i.e. American, Australian, British, Singaporean, etc) would yield a better all around education.

4. Per the data and reviews that I was able to find, I believe South Saigon International School (SSIS) is probably the best choice at the moment. Its teacher to student ratio is a low 10:1. The facility is modern. There are decent after school activities.

For now, I'm leaning toward SSIS, but worry that the information I gathered from the internet no longer reflects the reality on the ground.

My fellow expats, I'd be grateful if you could share with me your thoughts, insights, or your current/past International School experience in Saigon.

Many thanks in advance.

if you want an English School but not so expensive, you can try Saigon Heritage Academy in Tan Binh district, they have school buses also that can fetch your child at your home. They have american, Filipino, Nigerian, Vietnamese student their also. pm me i will give you the address, cause maybe it's not allowed in here. but if you want expensive school then there is BIS, AIS and many more in D2. in D7 they have SSA

Thanks very much Allan. I'll look into Saigon Heritage Academy asap. If I couldn't find the address via Google, I'll pm you for it. Thanks again.

My children go to SSIS and love it. The website was just redone recently so the information is pretty up to date. You should go to see the school.

Zimgang :

My children go to SSIS and love it. The website was just redone recently so the information is pretty up to date. You should go to see the school.

Thanks for sharing your firsthand experience Zimgang.
I'll be in town next month,... will definitely go see the campus when I get there. Much appreciated.

I thing you are underestimating the top tier of schools here.  My experience is that SSIS was very good.  I also think ISHMC is very good as well.   So I would not fret over the poor quality of schools here.  There are a number of other schools here that are good quality but they are not US oriented i.e. Brit Intl School, Canadian Bilingual School etc.   
   As an aside, you housing selection may very well drive your school selection.  SSIS is in D7 and ISHMC is in D2.  Both are growing rapidly as all of VN.  Apartments are going up all over the place.  Just yesterday I looked at some of the newest and they are nice but very small and have little storage space/closet space.  Guess the natives here pack lite.
   I suspect you will be happy with either school and your child will be able to strut his/her stuff back in the US with a diploma from a foreign school.  That is points already for admission to U's back iin the  US.   
Good luck and again dont sweat it.
Joe

bangkokjoe :

I thing you are underestimating the top tier of schools here.  My experience is that SSIS was very good.  I also think ISHMC is very good as well.   So I would not fret over the poor quality of schools here.  There are a number of other schools here that are good quality but they are not US oriented i.e. Brit Intl School, Canadian Bilingual School etc.   
   As an aside, you housing selection may very well drive your school selection.  SSIS is in D7 and ISHMC is in D2.  Both are growing rapidly as all of VN.  Apartments are going up all over the place.  Just yesterday I looked at some of the newest and they are nice but very small and have little storage space/closet space.  Guess the natives here pack lite.
   I suspect you will be happy with either school and your child will be able to strut his/her stuff back in the US with a diploma from a foreign school.  That is points already for admission to U's back iin the  US.   
Good luck and again dont sweat it.
Joe

@bangkokjoe, thanks for the info, really appreciate it. Glad to hear about ISHMC, and that it is on a par with SSIS, I'll check them out.

Regarding housing selection, my plan is to select a school first, then find housing near the school. Hope it will work out.

It's encouraging to hear that a foreign international school's diploma would earn some points with the university admission office back home. All along, I was worrying of the reverse, that my child would get penalized for not graduating from a US high school.

Thanks and cheers.

avhexpat :
bangkokjoe :

your child will be able to strut his/her stuff back in the US with a diploma from a foreign school.  That is points already for admission to U's back iin the  US.

It's encouraging to hear that a foreign international school's diploma would earn some points with the university admission office back home. All along, I was worrying of the reverse, that my child would get penalized for not graduating from a US high school.

I wouldn't count on that if I were in your shoes. 

-  Students who graduate from foreign high schools still have to take the SAT or ACT like everyone else.  Depending on the international school, SAT/ACT prep may not be an important part of the curriculum.  Since a great number of American students spend about 3 months in private SAT/ACT courses starting in junior year, and again in senior year if the first score is not high enough for the universities of their choices, you'll need to find a very good prep course when the time comes (not all prep courses are created equal, but I'm  sure you knew that.)   

-  There's not a universal point system for acceptance into undergrad program in the States because every college has its own scale.  Unless the secondary school (high school) diplomat is from Eton, Cambridge, Westminster, St. Paul, Lycée Louis-le-Grand, Henri-IV, etc., every diploma from every high school in the world including the US would still be placed at the bottom of the student's application packet.   

-  It's not the high school's name and curriculum (except the few internationally famous ones as mentioned above) that give the student the advantage or the disadvantage in the battle for college acceptance.

#1 factor is his SAT/ACT score (I'm using the male gender for simplification),

#2 is his GPA.

#3 is his extracurricula (captain of his school football team, star in a local theatre company, co-creator of a mobile app...),

#4 is his civic involvement (teaching illiterate children, cleaning an oil-spilled beach, helping abused women...),

#5 is whether the college of his choice is also his parents' alma mater.

and #6 is his essay and the compelling reasons he presents to the acceptance admin, so that they feel they must make him a member of their future alumni.

Your child is an American who will have a diploma from an international high school in a developing country.  While living here, he's not doing anything special like working for NGOs to help the unfortunate children or similar folks, therefore he doesn't have any advantage over other applicants. 

An international high school diploma in VN is not any thing to "strut" about, no matter how high up the tier the school claims to be.  Top tier in VN is not the same as top tier in England, France, Switzerland, etc.  OTOH, he'll receive excellent grade in his English class and will not need to take a language proficiency test for college, so that's one less thing on his plate.

Last but not least, don't forget that if you child is accepted into a state university a few years from now, you'll have to pay out-of-state tuition for his first year. 

If he plans to attend a UC or Cal State, both he and one of his parents must live in CA for 366 day continuously (no international trip) before the first day of the second year to qualify for in-state tuition for that year.   That means you or your wife must live in CA every day of his freshman year so he can be qualified for in-state tuition on his sophomore year. 

So, aside from paying his tuition for the next 4 school years in VN, you should also prepare to pay his full tuition for at least one year in college, unless he can receive need/merit-based scholarship.  As for that, there are thousands of Asian-Americans with perfect GPA, perfect SAT, and either valedictorians or salutatorians every year, so competition for merit-based scholarships is extremely fierce.

On the last point, if it's possible, perhaps you'd want to make some arrangement so your child can spend his senior year in the States with someone you can trust.  That way, he'll have easy access to SAT/ACT prep courses, many mock tests, a counselor available for his college plan who would give him advice on his essays, help him plan his extracurricular activities and civic involvement.  Finally, that way, you wouldn't have to pay out-of-state tuition if he's accepted to a UC or Cal State.  Just a thought.

Hi Ciambella, thank you for taking the time to write up a very informative and extremely helpful post. I'm indebted to you for your kindness and sage advice.

Ciambella :

I wouldn't count on that if I were in your shoes. 

-  Students who graduate from foreign high schools still have to take the SAT or ACT like everyone else.  Depending on the international school, SAT/ACT prep may not be an important part of the curriculum.  Since a great number of American students spend about 3 months in private SAT/ACT courses starting in junior year, and again in senior year if the first score is not high enough for the universities of their choices, you'll need to find a very good prep course when the time comes (not all prep courses are created equal, but I'm  sure you knew that.)

Hopefully when the time comes, we'll be able to find some good SAT prep courses and choose wisely.

Ciambella :

-  There's not a universal point system for acceptance into undergrad program in the States because every college has its own scale.  Unless the secondary school (high school) diplomat is from Eton, Cambridge, Westminster, St. Paul, Lycée Louis-le-Grand, Henri-IV, etc., every diploma from every high school in the world including the US would still be placed at the bottom of the student's application packet.

I'd give an arm and a leg for my kid to have a shot at Eton. 

Ciambella :

-  It's not the high school's name and curriculum (except the few internationally famous ones as mentioned above) that give the student the advantage or the disadvantage in the battle for college acceptance.

#1 factor is his SAT/ACT score (I'm using the male gender for simplification),

#2 is his GPA.

#3 is his extracurricula (captain of his school football team, star in a local theatre company, co-creator of a mobile app...),

#4 is his civic involvement (teaching illiterate children, cleaning an oil-spilled beach, helping abused women...),

#5 is whether the college of his choice is also his parents' alma mater.

and #6 is his essay and the compelling reasons he presents to the acceptance admin, so that they feel they must make him a member of their future alumni.

Your child is an American who will have a diploma from an international high school in a developing country.  While living here, he's not doing anything special like working for NGOs to help the unfortunate children or similar folks, therefore he doesn't have any advantage over other applicants. 

An international high school diploma in VN is not any thing to "strut" about, no matter how high up the tier the school claims to be.  Top tier in VN is not the same as top tier in England, France, Switzerland, etc.  OTOH, he'll receive excellent grade in his English class and will not need to take a language proficiency test for college, so that's one less thing on his plate.

Thanks for the check list above. I'll have to print it out and refer to it regularly so as to remind us to give adequate attention to all the items on the list. Hopefully we will be able to plan for some good civic involvement and extracurricula activities.

Ciambella :

Last but not least, don't forget that if you child is accepted into a state university a few years from now, you'll have to pay out-of-state tuition for his first year. 

If he plans to attend a UC or Cal State, both he and one of his parents must live in CA for 366 day continuously (no international trip) before the first day of the second year to qualify for in-state tuition for that year.   That means you or your wife must live in CA every day of his freshman year so he can be qualified for in-state tuition on his sophomore year. 

So, aside from paying his tuition for the next 4 school years in VN, you should also prepare to pay his full tuition for at least one year in college, unless he can receive need/merit-based scholarship.  As for that, there are thousands of Asian-Americans with perfect GPA, perfect SAT, and either valedictorians or salutatorians every year, so competition for merit-based scholarships is extremely fierce.

On the last point, if it's possible, perhaps you'd want to make some arrangement so your child can spend his senior year in the States with someone you can trust.  That way, he'll have easy access to SAT/ACT prep courses, many mock tests, a counselor available for his college plan who would give him advice on his essays, help him plan his extracurricular activities and civic involvement.  Finally, that way, you wouldn't have to pay out-of-state tuition if he's accepted to a UC or Cal State.  Just a thought.

We haven't thought of about this yet, thanks for mentioning it. To cut cost, my wife will probably have to go back to the States with my kid for the senior year, or may be we'll have to consider community college for the first year, or even contemplating a gap year. I think we will go broke very soon :sosad:. We definitely have our work cut out for us.

Thanks very much again Ciambella.

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