Vietnam’s international schools' sector is relatively new compared to many other expat destinations in South East Asia, and the first school – International School Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC) – only opened just under 30 years ago in 1993. Since then there has been a steady rise in the number of primary, secondary and all-through international schools as Vietnam has become one of the leading countries for international schools in South East Asia, alongside Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. According to ISC Research data from July 2022, the number of English-medium international schools in this region has increased by 25% from 1,528 schools in 2017 to 1,905 today.
Today, there are over 120 English-medium international pre-schools and schools in Vietnam for children aged between three and 18. These are predominantly located in the country's two major metropolises of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnam still has a small share of the international schools market; as revealed in an ISC report in January 2022, 2% of international schools are based in Vietnam. However, the growth of international schools here is significant.
From 2011-2016, there was a small increase in the number of schools from 84 to 109. After 2017, there was another surge in the international schools’ market when a new government policy removed the cap on Vietnamese students. Previously, international schools were restricted to a maximum enrolment of 10% local children at primary level and 20% at secondary level.
There were no restrictions, however, at locally-owned international and bilingual schools where up to 100% of the students can be Vietnamese. The removal of this cap on local student attendance was expected to attract new foreign-invested international schools – and it did.
While Vietnam's small expat population has seen an increased demand for international schools, it is Vietnam's growing middle class population who are driving the need for the high-quality education that international schools can offer. The country's more favourable regulatory environment is certainly helping to support the growth of private education, too.
The 2022 ISC Research White Paper 2022 reports:
"Facilities in international schools are, in general, dramatically better than most government and domestic private schools throughout South East Asia.”
Today, there is a mix of independent schools and those run by global international school groups such as Nord Anglia Education, UWC and Cognita in Vietnam. The largest education group in Vietnam is KinderWorld, a Singaporean-based group that owns 15 schools under the brand name of Singapore International School (SIS) in the cities of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Binh Duong New City, Vung Tau, Nha Trang and Ha Long.
Until recently British public schools have not expanded to Vietnam, but by the end of 2023 there will be four prestigious UK school brands to have opened campuses across the country.
Two British schools have opened already in Vietnam – Reigate Grammar School and North London Collegiate School Ho Chi Minh City (NLCS HCMC). Although these schools are British by name, their curriculum is, to varying degrees, more international by nature. RGS Vietnam offers both the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme and A Levels, while NLCS HCMC offers a hybrid curriculum that blends elements of the UK, IB and Vietnamese systems. However, as exports of a British public/independent school, they are all founded on British traditions and incorporate elements from their pre-prep and prep schools in teaching.
Westlink International School Hanoi (WIS) also opened in August 2022. This is an IB candidate school which plans to offer a hybrid curriculum that combines the IB programmes with the US Common Core and Vietnamese MOET Curriculum,
Next: New international schools for 2022 and 2023