International Schools - Are they worth it?

After having two children at International Schools in HCMC for 8 years finally came to the conclusion that the cost of their education at schools in HCMC was not worth the expenditure. Look at the Tier 1  schools in HCMC and you will discover that they charge much the same. Is that a coincidence or what?

Good private schools in the UK or USA, boarding schools in Malaysia, and long established private schools in other neighbouring countries charged less that the International Schools in HCMC. How can that be?

Parents are subjected to educational scare tactics which the schools are well practiced at. Pupils are pushed hard with many hours of homework which saves the teachers actually teaching. They are pushed towards either IB or AP courses which are stated as being the requirement for University entrance.

Only when they complete the subjects and they are in their final year does the SAT exam requirement become known. If the children have completed a US curriculum education they will need a SAT exam score  before they can apply to a University. Yet another cost not mentioned in the glossy brochure.

Teachers are always going on about how they only care about the pupils but that does not stop them doing the two year stint and moving on. The pupils then have to get used to yet another new teacher.

Not really ideal for their education but that is the situation in most International Schools in HCMC. A rip off from start to finish with most being populated by pupils whose fees are being paid by their employer.

Could go on and on with more observations but think that the above is enough for readers to get the picture. Approach with caution and don't believe everything you are told at the admissions interview.

Only the rich can afford international schools here unless their employer pays at least partial tuition. IMHO, parents are much better off home-schooling or having their kids taught in small groups with a home-school curriculum. You can socialize your kids outside of school programs.

Spot on!!

So called International Schools in HCMC remain nothing but money making enterprises. Their fees bear no relationship to the cost of living in Vietnam. They pay their teachers reasonably well but still make enormous profits, even the ones who state they are " not for profit". Try getting a look at their audited accounts or finding out who actually owns the school. Good luck with that one.

They realise that they have a captive market  as most of the pupils cannot attend local schools. Most schools have an active admissions department who will be delighted if they can get paying customers who will send their children to the school for several years at least. Where else can you get a paying customer who keeps giving you large amounts of money and comes back year after year?

Developments in technology means that homeschooling is now a viable alternative.

Many International Schools in HCMC are not exactly "pupil friendly" . They are established to make money , both for the owners and the teachers.

Stand outside any International School in HCMC when  the pupils are arriving in the morning.

How many happy faces do you see?

All thanks for your views. The international schools are about the same costs as in Singapore from which we just moved from. We have entered my son into the new Vin School. He is only in Kindergarten so we are closely monitoring things. We paid visits to several of the international schools and have read similar complaints/concerns. The Vin School is about a quarter of the annual school fees. How much correlation between cost and education quality has yet to be determined.


You have commenced a very perilous journey which will cost you a lot of money. Unfortunately some parents associate high school fees with a good education. That might be the case in other countries.

The children are kept busy with plenty of homework which only increases as they get older. By their teenage years they have very little free time to do anything but homework. Every night and at weekends they will be immersed in school work. Their parents can only judge what they are doing by what they see. So much for the balance in life theory

After the children finish their school years they might move on to University or College. The institution will require a SAT or ACT score before their application will be considered. Regardless of what they achieved at school.

The international school system in HCMC is a money making enterprise. The pupils are the commodity and the parents are the source of income. Nothing more nothing less

I looked into this and researched it before I came. I think they are a total rip off with poor results. I had home schooled before and it was the best education I had ever seen. I would never put another child of mine in any public or private school. One issue I found here was the lack of continuity because the staff turnover is so today gone tomorrow.

You have certainly done the research

Can't understand why more parents do not seek alternative methods of educating their children

Understand when an employer pays the school fees as part of the relocation package but not the parents who pay from their own pockets.

Advances in technology means that homeschooling is a viable alternative. Even some Universities have separate entrance requirements for children who have been schooled at home. It has now become a recognised method of education.

Well worth a look

The sad thing is that many parents think they can monitor their children's poor education. But this is difficult to do in a quantitative way. I thought I monitored mine very well many years ago as well. I never thought to ask simple questions at the parent teacher conferences. Then, even though I felt they would think I was stupid for asking, I asked
how many chapters they had done this year. We were at the end of the year, and I would have thought they would have covered the text. Oh no, they were going at lighting speed...they had almost completed the first chapter. Say what.!!!! And they are very adroit at making sure all appears well. Send mom and dad A's and B's and all is well. Well I immediately had my 10th grader tested, and they tested at the 3rd grade level. I then took them out and began home schooling. In a little over a year I had them up to the 13th grade level. With their SAT scores they could have matriculated to the best universities . And this home school I used was well known for putting children in the best universities. Home schooling was the easies thing I have ever done. And I just loved doing it and the children loved it as well. Of course, some parents can not spend time at home to do it. But I am a man and I worked, and home schooled the children by myself. So I guess it can be done.

Well Done

Diazo :

I looked into this and researched it before I came. I think they are a total rip off with poor results. I had home schooled before and it was the best education I had ever seen. I would never put another child of mine in any public or private school. One issue I found here was the lack of continuity because the staff turnover is so today gone tomorrow.

Everyone is saying about the same thing and the point is well taken.

As a retired educator, the only thing I would add is that this is not just a Vietnam problem, but in fact happens all over and as much in the USA as anyplace else.

Indeed, the case in which I site occurred in the USA. I don't trust anyone with the education of my children in any country. The private schools here are  not a very good business model for the education of children unless it is looked at in solely a profit perspective in my opinion. Even if you can find good qualified teacher few can last in a foreign country such as Vietnam long enough to provide continuity in the schools.

We are concidering to move to HCMC with our two kids (5 and 7yrs). I think i would like my kids to go to a school - not home-schooling. What schools - not the expensive international ones - do you have good expirences with? It has to be english-speaking.

Thanks :)

I hear this from the locals that enrol their kids in the public school system. The good schools are the ones that need high score to get in or certain teachers have students that achieve high national standardized test scores.

With international or private schools anyone can get in as long they have the money.

In the end it doesn't matter. It's how well connected your parents are.

That's why schools in Vietnam are just going through the motions. My wife's cousin with a petrochemical engineering degree and she's working retail because her dad is a driver for hire. My other wife's cousin he just got a job and he's management level at a construction project because his dad is a white shirt cong an.

If you want your kids to have a good education, send them to Canada if/when you can afford it. They're currently #1 in the world.

Just my 2 cents and concur with other comments.  As my wife tells me, in VN, money buys everything, including a diploma.  So yes, if mom and dad have the money, their kids get a degree from the good schools, even if the kids are not smart and do not do well in school, the money makes it happen. 

In addition, I asked the same questions, why spend all that money in VN when you can send your kid to a better school outside VN and with results.  The response from parents "why would I do that, I do not want my kids smarter than me because if they are, they will figure out that I am not that smart and did not earn my money the old fashion way." 

I also asked, how do they get away with charging those absurd tuition rates?  Simple, the expat employers pay it so it is easy money.  For the rich VN, it buys a diploma from a well known school, even if the education is not that great, it is the name on the paper that counts.

I would not pay those high tuition fees in VN, it would be a combination of local and home schooling.

What home school curriculum did you use?

I used ACE. Great curriculum!

Worth doing a search on the internet. Gather as much information as possible, check out any reviews you can locate, then narrow down your search.
Conducted a similar exercise two years ago and eventually found a suitable school for my children.
No complaints about the school we are using and the children are now enjoying their education.

I must admit when I was searching for a high quality education system for my children their enjoyment was never a consideration. I knew they enjoyed amusement parks and not doing homework, and the easiest classes they could get. So to consult with them in a matter I deemed so important I did not think it would be if an benefit.
Instead I looked for high quality education  with an alumni that were able to matriculate to the highest rated universities in the world.
But the kids are now well educated adults and I think they enjoy the fact they receieved a great education. I know they really enjoyed their public school. But when the were in the 10 th grade and graded out at 2nd and 3rd grade levels I decided the were enjoying it far to much.

I have worked at all levels of Schools in Vietnam.  In all the schools without saying which ones, they are are all alike and seem to be working with each other to make as much money as possible.  Children are they ways of getting rich.  They do not put the profits back into the schools but just buy for themselves more happiness.  In American schools all kids are taught many things besides books.  They have intermural sport teams.  Baseball and softball are sports that teaches kids to work together and learn as a team and teaches competition between other children their same ages.  Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and may Chinese city have these sports and compete around the world. There are many other things that are wrong but why change when the system is making money and when I suggest changes this is what I am told.

Because like all communist countries, the deprivation of information and limiting the information is key to oppressing the masses and keeping the minority rich.  Thus, of course they will not change until the masses educate themselves and figure out they are not getting what they are paying for and change for an alternative (e.g., home schooling) and the money stops flowing like water.  Until then, it will not change.

Given all this information, I am leaning to home schooling.... are there others interested in hiring teachers and teaching groups of kids in a way similar to the Montessori system in the US? 

I am planning to relocate from the US near the end of the year, and will probably choose a school out of default, however, I will then be looking for tutors or teachers that can help.  I know of one group in district 2 that uses "My Father's World" , which is made for homeschooling and only takes 3 hours per day.  The children are in top percentiles after several years.

Is anyone else interested in this or knows of other groups?

Take a look at

We could be interested. Have our son in kindergarten at Vinschool. I will continue to monitor the situation. It is very concerning reading all the threads on the schools. Enjoy living here but the education status would be one of the few things that would make us relocate.


Well, let's keep in touch... we were pretty convinced to go to one of the schools until we started reading his posts.  Now, I'm getting more convinced that I need to take matters in my own hands, and it appears as though several couples could get together and chip in to create something for the children that would work better. It appears as though we are using a homeschool curriculum as a basic tool would help. I went to the Masters cup  in Ho Chi Minh City where they have language practice… Have you been there? They use a homeschool curriculum been very pleased with it.

Homeschooling is becoming a viable alternative to the more traditional "Bricks and Mortar" schools.  In Vietnam the traditional international schools are all about pupil numbers.

They have well paid employees,plus significant funds, to be very active in trying to get new pupils and using educational scare tactics to get the parents to enroll their children. Despite an educational facade, it's all about the money.

Online learning,  from kindergarten level to university level, is gaining in popularity throughout the world. However, it does take more involvement from the parents of adolescent children.

In return they will know exactly what the children are studying.

Two schools, side by side, in Vietnam. One International and one Vietnamese

International School - Starts at 0830 Finishes at 1500hrs. 6.5 hours less 1.5 hours of breaks
Vietnam School - Starts at 0730hrs Finishes at 1600hrs.  8.5 hours less 1.5 hours of breaks

International School teaches 25 hours a week
Vietnam School teaches 35 hours a week

The Vietnam School teaches 10 hours a week more than the International School over a 5 day week.

That equates to 2 days more of teaching a week at the Vietnam School. In addition the Vietnam School has fewer holidays than the International School.

Not sure it is fair to equate anything to Vietnamese public education. I agree private schools are a rip off. But you can not get an education in VNese public schools w/o paying their form of coffeee money. They refer to it as after school tutoring. They simply refuse to teach during the school day then are more than willing to "tutor " your child for a fee. Not that it matters to met expats. For unless the child has VNese citizenship they can not attend public school here. Hence the need for tge rip off private schools.
Still for me, even in my home country home schooling is the best means of education for most.

Understand the Vietnamese education system

The example was given to indicate how the so called International Schools do as little as possible for as much money as possible. Not only do they charge as much as possible they also do as little as possible.

The shorter school day means that the pupils are loaded up with homework. The employed and well paid teachers only teach for the minimum amount of time.

The pupils do the work themselves at home. The school saves on teacher salaries based on working hours plus the building is only occupied for a minimum amount of time. Other savings are on the support staff working hours plus the utilities used in the building when the pupils are present.

Another saving is the school meal setup. Captive audience so it's a take it or leave it situation.  Pupils are encouraged to take the school meal, which are overpriced for the quality and quantity of the food being served, as options for consuming a packed lunch are limited. Teachers probably get free meals as part as their employment package so the pupils pay more for less.

The school must view each parent as a walking ATM. Press the correct buttons and the money comes out.


Just a little more on the coffee money issue, my wife tells me, after school tutor (i.e., with the teacher of course) and the extra coffee money is mandatory otherwise, the student will receive a lower grade!  Thus, extortion vietnamese style at it's finest.  HCM must be so proud.

Exactly. That is what draws them to work in gov't. And even with the tutor the education received is the S*#+*. Shame, these children and most children have such wonderful minds.
Look at it another way.... look at one of the best assets the gov't has.... the minds of their youth and they piss it down the drain for greed. Sad


Can anyone recommend a good international school that actually teaches and does not hammer children with lots of homework?

And is also affordable considering I will be paying for school myself?\

Thank you

tonyk2002 :

Can anyone recommend a good international school that actually teaches and does not hammer children with lots of homework?

And is also affordable considering I will be paying for school myself?\

Thank you

What do you define as affordable?

Depends on the level of education provided, curriculum taught, the quality teaching and longevity of teachers.

In addition, if the school lumbers children with lots of home work it usually indicates there is not enough quality teaching done in classrooms.

All of the above dictates affordability.

tonyk2002 :

Depends on the level of education provided, curriculum taught, the quality teaching and longevity of teachers.

In addition, if the school lumbers children with lots of home work it usually indicates there is not enough quality teaching done in classrooms.

All of the above dictates affordability.

Simple answer would have sufficed.

How about I rephrase the question.

How much in dollar terms are you wanting to outlay per year to attain the necessary levels of education that you believe is suitable for your child/children.

Around $15,000 per year!

I did see there is a comment in the fees section that mentions annual fee. I've not seen this before in Thailand. There is a one off fee to pay for enrolment and then simply term fees.

Thanks … -minh-city

New topic