With the Kinder World Education Group having officially broken ground at its Singapore Mixed Education Development in Ha Long city, northern Quang Ninh province, on April 9, Mr. Ricky Tan, Chairman of the Group, shared his thoughts with VET's Quynh Nguyen about the potential for education investment in Vietnam.
■ What were the reasons behind the timing and location of your investment in the Singapore Mixed Education Development?
Ha Long city in Quang Ninh province has seen major developments over the last five years. Ten years ago, when I visited, it was a quiet town. On a recent visit, at the invitation of Mr. Nguyen Duc Long, Chairman of the Quang Ninh People’s Committee, I was surprised by the large number of leisure and entertainment real estate developments. With the province’s population at over 1 million, I was sure there were many students who study in Hanoi and overseas.
After meeting with Quang Ninh authorities, I was convinced of the growth potential of Ha Long city. The establishment of KinderWorld International Kindergarten and Singapore International School will benefit not only the people of Ha Long city but also those in Quang Ninh province and surrounding areas. Quang Ninh does not have an international school or university as yet. Many parents have told us that they have had to send their children to study overseas at a young age.
As a foreign investor, we have to be clear about the investment policies of relevant authorities. For our investment in Quang Ninh, we looked at the demand for premium education at affordable fees, the investment incentives offered to us, and the efficiency and commitment of local authorities. It has been a good experience working with Quang Ninh authorities, who within seven months assisted KinderWorld to expedite investment procedures.
The Singapore Mixed Education Development is situated on a land site of 7.1 ha in the new township. We hope that, with the establishment of our school, people will make Ha Long city their home. For foreign companies who have projects within Quang Ninh province, their foreign staff with families will now be able to stay in Ha Long city instead of Hanoi, as their children can now attend an international school.
With the increase in the number of five-star hotels, our future plans will be the establishment of Pegasus International College, offering high quality courses in hospitality, tourism, culinary arts and business and commerce, to meet the ever increasing demand for skilled workers in the hospitality industry. Students will be able to pursue qualifications in accordance with national, ASEAN or international standards.
■ How do you see Vietnam’s potential for foreign direct investment (FDI) in the field of education after the establishment of the AEC?
Having been in Vietnam since 2000, we have witnessed changes in laws and regulations governing foreign investment in education. Decree No. 73 (on foreign investment cooperation in education), which was introduced recently, was a major challenge. Though Decree No. 69 (on policies to encourage socialization in education, health and the environment) was easier to interpret, there were still difficulties in implementation. In the last five years there have been few foreign direct investors who could obtain licenses to operate in Vietnam. Although investment procedures have been revamped, the processes and criteria are still too complex and vague.
With the TPP, which will link many countries in the Asia Pacific region, and the commencement of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) with the MRA-TP (Mutual Recognition Arrangement - Tourism Professionals), Vietnam will need to up-skill its human resources, which will face competition from skilled foreign workers in the tourism sector.
It will benefit Vietnam to align the national Vietnam Tourism Occupational Standards to the ASEAN and eventually the international framework. Recently, the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and the Vietnam Business Forum (VBF) reported that there are 40,000 Vietnamese studying overseas, resulting in an outflow of $3 billion annually.
KinderWorld Education Group hopes that with the establishment of its educational campuses in Vietnam we can provide an attractive alternative for Vietnamese students to continue their studies in Vietnam, which will result in savings for Vietnamese parents and the economy.
■ Do you have any recommendations for the Vietnamese Government in improving the attractiveness of education investment?
Vietnam is a big country with many provinces and each province has different interpretations of policies. As a Singaporean investor, we are used to complying with the law. However, it has been challenging to interpret different policies. Unified decrees and policies extended to all provinces would help foreign investors greatly.