Education in Vietnam is managed and monitored by the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET). Many reforms have been made, such as the integration of English in the curriculum and universal pre-K, but the system still has problems keeping up with international standards. In the last two decades, the private sector has proven to play an important role in Vietnam education system. As public schools in urban areas get overcrowded easily, many parents sought other options, including Vietnamese private schools and international schools.
In Vietnam, private schools are especially popular in primary schools and universities. Most of the time, primary schools are public since it is (almost) free to attend, but there has been an increase in pupils attending nonpublic schools for the quality advantage. Most private schools have well-renovated facilities and a citywide bus transportation system, which make them superior to their public counterparts.
The same case applies to international schools. Since the beginning of the 1990s, international schools have become more popular in Vietnam, not only for expats. The majority of international schools use English as their language of instruction; however, a few schools are taught in French and Russian (a product of postcolonialism and connection to the Soviet Union). Many parents are led to believe that “international” automatically meant “better,” which led many Vietnamese people to spend all their income on their child’s education to send them to an international school.
If you want to invest in the education system in Vietnam, you should know all the existing school models, and whether with your status (e.g., Vietnamese nationals, international corporations, Vietnamese corporations, etc.) which type of school is the most beneficial to invest in.
In general, there are 05 types of schools, which are divided into 03 categories: Public, Non-public, and International.
Public schools | Public
These schools are run by the state, the state invests in the schools and is in charge of office decisions.
This model of schooling is by far the most popular in Vietnam.
It acts as the backbone of an education system, though there are still gaps that could have been improved among these schools.
Semi-public schools | Public
These schools are set up by the state, but financially independent of the government. Parents of the schools typically share the operations costs of the school. In addition, private organizations are also encouraged to invest in the facilities and the infrastructure.
This model is more popular in the 90s and early 2000s. As of now, most of these schools no longer exist in the market.
People-funded schools | Non-public
These are not supported by a state budget. They need permission and licenses from the MOET and are set up by social and economic organizations.
As Vietnam education is encouraged to be socialized, many private corporations have turned to invest in this sector. Dr. Hoang Ngoc Vinh - Former Director of the Professional Education Department (Ministry of Education and Training), currently a Member of the Advisory Group of the Education and Training Innovation Committee, openly promotes Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in schooling, as he believes private resources will be used effectively, which in turn will reduce losses.
There has been a recent push for this agenda among the government since the PPP model has been approved and welcomed by other nations.
Examples: VinSchool, FPT School, iSchool, etc.
Private schools | Non-public
On the other hand, these schools are also non-public and set up by individuals or groups in the community. They also need to get permission, and the funders invest in the schools themselves. Many Vietnamese investors have found success with this school model, as private schools such as Hanoi Star and Archimedes Academy gained recent popularity among parents.
Private schools founded and managed by Vietnamese investors typically have less expensive tuition than international schools, ranging from 5 to 10 million VND per month excluding other fees. This price range is more suitable for middle-class parents, who desire to provide the best education to their children without having to take out expensive loans.
Example: The Olympia Schools, Marie Curie Hanoi School, Doan Thi Diem School, Hanoi Star, Archimedes Academy, etc.
International schools | International
Technically, international schools are not considered as part of the MOET approved schooling in Vietnam but referred to as "foreign-invested educational institutions." Up to now, only foreign-invested economic organizations (FIEO) can establish "international schools" in Vietnam and recruit Vietnamese students. These schools are allowed to teach international program and award students with international degrees.
According to Clause 7, Article 2, Chapter 1, Decree 73/2012 / ND-CP, foreign-invested educational institutions are defined as 100% foreign-owned educational institutions and joint-venture educational institutions between domestic and foreign investors.
According to Clause 1, Article 2, Chapter 1, Decree 86/2018 / ND-CP, foreign-invested educational institution must receive total investment from FIEO, operating in accordance with the laws of Vietnam.
Thus, it can be seen that, according to the current regulations in Decree 86/2018 / ND-CP, there are still certain limitations that prevent Vietnamese investors from entering this sector without having affliation with foreign entities.
There are 02 types of international schools.
The first has an international curriculum while all lessons are held in English. Most of them either follow a British curriculum, International Baccalaureate, or US curriculum.
The second teaches both Vietnamese curricula, approved by MOET and an English-based one. These schools are called bilingual international schools.
Examples: International School Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC), British International School (BIS), United Nations International School (UNIS), Saigon South Internation School (SSIS), etc.