Dr Tran Nguyen Thy Binh, Superintendent of APU International School, spoke with VET's Ngoc Anh about the school's performance and Vietnam's education sector.
How have you expanded the operations of APU in Vietnam?
APU has been in operation in Vietnam for over a decade and graduated hundreds of outstanding high school students, with most going to the US on scholarships that annually exceed VND50 billion ($2.38 million) in total. We are proud that nearly 90 per cent achieve Deans’ List status and emerge as campus leaders, returning to Vietnam to be productive members of society. We have doubled the size of our classroom buildings and expanded our outreach effort around Vietnam and the world.
How did APU perform in 2013?
Dr Tran Nguyen Thy Binh, Superintendent of APU International School
APU had a very strong 2013. Many of our parents faced financial challenges but, working with them, our enrolments grew and our offerings expanded, with a new College Bridge programme, more AP courses, and even more partnerships with high quality US universities, including the State University of New York and Cal State systems, the University of Missouri (KC), and FIT – the Florida Institute of Technology.
What are the plans for APU in 2014 and following years in order to expand operations and confirm its position in the education system in Vietnam and around the world?
APU has ambitious but realistic plans for this year. We anticipate final approval from the Ministry of Education and Training will come soon for us to open the American University of Vietnam in Da Nang, meeting the need for quality, foreign-founded universities in the country, especially American universities. We are looking to provide corporate training programmes in many business sectors, such as hospitality, aviation, and medical sciences.
We are also about to launch the most innovate dual enrolment programme seen in Vietnam, that allows high school students to earn university credits while still in high school, saving on their education costs and putting them on the fast track to a quality US degree. We will also be hiring more US educated teachers with Masters and Doctorates to teach at APU.
What is the attraction of APU for foreign investors or businesspeople who move their families to Vietnam?
Expats in Vietnam as well as Vietnamese retuning from abroad are attracted to what we offer at APU, from pre-K to university prep, including the US curriculum, courses taught by US educated teachers with outstanding credentials, small class sizes, and a caring environment that provides what many call “the Best Pathway to American Higher Education”. We also have safe, secure dorms for students from outside of Ho Chi Minh City, a full range of co-curricular activities, and students from the US and from elsewhere in Asia.
What should Vietnamese parents consider when selecting an international school for their children, given the choice now available in Vietnam?
Education investment is an essential expenditure for every family. Parents are always concerned with “Where should my children learn? Where has good teachers?” These questions are often raised at the initial stage of selecting an education establishment for their children. But choosing a school these days is not just about choosing somewhere that provides general knowledge and has good teachers. It must be a reliable environment, providing knowledge and equipping students with life skills so that they can be confident to step into the outside world.
Many students lack confidence when they graduate, having gained insufficient knowledge and life skills and capacity for working independently. More importantly, their qualifications may not be recognised outside of the country. Many international training institutions now apply training programmes that do not correspond with Western education systems and their courses are not recognised by prestigious universities around the world.
When considering a learning programme for their children, parents must consider what happens upon graduation. Where will their children be able to continue their studies? Who will accept them and how will their abilities be assessed at an international level?
How would you assess Vietnam’s education market at the moment? What factors make the country’s education sector attractive to foreign investors? What should the government and authorities do to attract more foreign investment in the field?
Vietnam has made great progress over the last 20 years, with the government investing a high proportion of GDP in education at all levels. Many language programmes have opened and a growing percentage of Vietnamese students wish to study abroad in the US.
At the same time there have been some instances of schools not being licensed or willingly misrepresenting their quality, so Vietnamese families need to be careful. This is why schools like APU and others with US partners, with a licence from the Ministry of Education & Training, and with high standards, are doing so well. The Vietnamese Government should make sure there is an environment where the rules are clear and transparent, licensing procedures are rigorous but streamlined, and quality standards are enforced.