The International School marketplace in Ho Chi Minh City

International school hcmc

One concern for any caring expatriate parent is the education of their child or children in a foreign environment. It is an issue that poses so many questions for expatriates, and the answers to those questions will vary depending on whether the child/children are at the young early primary school age or early teens and in high school; whether they already have shown interests in specific areas or have clear aptitudes for certain disciplines; or they’re still too young for such specifics. For many, the simple financial burden associated with the education of expatriate children has to be considered very seriously.

Naturally, for most expatriate families the choices are strictly limited to the international schools, of which there are a multitude in Ho Chi Minh City. It is well beyond the remit of this article to recommend one above another, since the reality of a child’s education is that one size does not fit all.

As much as anything, parents should trust their own instincts when it comes to picking an international school. Equally, trust your child/rens instincts and reactions as well.

Talk with a dozen expat parents who have their offspring scattered in three or four different international schools and the chances are you’ll get a dozen varying comments on the qualities, or otherwise, of the respective institutions.

Parental support, help and guidance will be just as important in navigating the angst of school in HCMC as it would be back in your home country. Every child adapts in his or her own way to the scholastic environment they are faced with day-to-day. There will be some teachers they’ll like and respect and will find it easier to learn from, while there’ll be other teachers with whom they feel less comfortable. But that would be the case no matter where they were being taught.

On balance, the chances of your child gaining a great deal from being educated in a country like Vietnam and in a vibrant city like HCMC may be hard to quantify in terms of grade point average. Yet the simple fact of having been educated in a foreign environment may well prove a huge boon in later years, giving your child the confidence of having been educated out of the standard ‘comfort zone’ of ‘home’.

In a general sense, the choice of an international school will be largely determined by the cost of the education, the location of the school to your residence and, of course, the curriculum that school follows.

As might be expected, the fees are quite steep and vary from school to school. In general, the annual fee runs from around 135 million dong to 480 million dong and all schools require an application fee to be paid.

As with anything in life, the quality is not necessarily measured by the price you are asked to pay, although, in theory, the more expensive schools should provide a better level of education. That’s the theory; the reality for any experienced parent is that the capacity to learn comes very much from the child: a student who is willing to learn in a less expensive school can prove to be far superior to one who is less enthusiastic in a more expensive school.

Most of the international schools in HCMC follow programmes designed to suit American or British tertiary education standards. So, a child who passes well enough in HCMC will not necessarily be hampered when looking to study back in their homeland, be it the US or UK or Australia, for example.

The choices 

As Vietnam has become an easier place for foreigners to live and work, so the number of expat children is on the rise. The global education market is a lucrative one, and the price of an education is not cheap. Then again, the schools need to hire good teachers, and they don’t come cheap either.

The following is a brief alphabetical listing of the current international schools extant in HCMC.

The American School of Vietnam is one of the newer international schools to set up operations. It is in District 2 and follows an American curriculum, as one would expect given its name. It covers kindergarten to Grade 12.

The Australian International School is divided into two campuses, although both are in District 2. It follows the International Baccalaureate programme and has children from as young as two years of age all the way through to Year 13.

The British International School has three separate campuses with the pre-school and primary campus in District 3 while another primary campus and the secondary school are in District 2. Given the name it follows the British curriculum and caters for children from pre-nursery to Year 13.

The European International School is in District 2 and follows the International Baccalaureate programme. It caters to children from as young as nursery school age through to Grade 10.

The International School Ho Chi Minh City was founded in 1993, so it can boast a long track record in education in HCMC. Located in District 2, it follows the International Baccalaureate programme covering pre-nursery to Year 13.

The International School Saigon Pearl is situated in Ward 22 of Binh Thanh District (between District 2 and 3) and is purpose-built for children aged between two and 11. It follows an American curriculum.

The ISHCMC American Academy, located in District 2, is affiliated with the International School Saigon Pearl and takes students aged 11 to 18 and follows the American curriculum.

The Saigon South International School is in District 7, follows the American curriculum and takes children from five years of age through to 18.

The Saigon Star International School is located in District 2 and follows the Montessori curriculum for pre-primary classes and the British curriculum for primary education. It only takes children up to the age of 11, or the end of primary school.