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The most moving moment in Khalid Muhmood’s 23-year attachment to Vietnamese education may have been when he witnessed Thanh, a former shoeshine boy who had studied English and worked at Apollo Centre, rise to become the owner of four major hotels in Hanoi.
Khalid is also joyous every time he meets an office worker who now speaks English with fluency and confidence, but who was, not long ago, a cleaner at Apollo English.
Khalid found such moments filled him with pride, comparable to the moment he was conferred the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) medal by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to Vietnamese education.
“All of us want to leave some legacy in life. I founded Apollo English and the British University Vietnam (BUV) with the expectation of creating a good legacy by bringing education to diverse Vietnamese lives. What has made me most happy in the 23 years of living and teaching in Vietnam is the number of global citizens we have trained, and the influence we have exerted to leverage education,” he said.
To grow into global citizens, young people must be proficient in a global language and knowledgeable of global issues. They must be the masters of their minds and acquire broad vision. This is not only beneficial to them, but also contributes to their country and global development.
Khalid Muhmood Co-founder of Apollo English Centre
Khalid came to Vietnam long ago, in 1992. At that time, the streets were overwhelmed with cyclos and bicycles, and few Vietnamese families had TV sets. However, he was deeply impressed with Vietnamese people’s incredible fondness for learning.
Khalid recalled that the older cyclo drivers and street vendors were very friendly to visitors, and exerted much energy into learning English every time they had a chance to practice it with native speakers.
These images left a profound impression on Khalid, who came from a family with a proud history in education. His parents were renowned educators who achieved multiple successes in Europe and the Middle East.
Khalid had already dreamt of forming his own education organisation, the function of which would be to turn children into global citizens. After his trip to Vietnam, Khalid decided to stay in the country to realise his dream, even though most people, including his parents and close friends, advised him to go to China, Singapore, or at least Thailand, which they believed would be better choices for him.
“Everyone was rushing to China where there was too much pressure, coupled with mounting competition – and you don’t know where to begin: Shanghai, Beijing, or Chongqing? Or maybe even Indonesia? It seems to me that the people there are not as studious as the Vietnamese. Singapore is a small island, not providing much space for development. Vietnam proved to be my top choice, which explains why my wife and I settled down here,” Khalid recalled.
Since then, Khalid and his wife, teacher Arabella Peters, have ramped up efforts to realise their mission – providing excellent English courses as well as classes teaching essential skills of the 21st century, thus helping to turn young Vietnamese people into global citizens.
“To grow into global citizens, young people must be proficient in a global language and knowledgeable of global issues. They must be the masters of their minds and acquire broad vision. This is not only beneficial to them, but also contributes to their country and global development,” said Khalid, adding that becoming global citizens ought to be the ultimate target of every child and is the lodestar to their future success.
Apollo English came into being in 1995, with $50,000 in seed capital. Initially, it was the Apollo Education Centre Joint Venture, positioned at Tay Son street in Hanoi’s Dong Da district.
In 1998, Vietnam’s first wholly foreign-owned English language training centre Apollo English was officially inaugurated at Le Van Huu street, witnessed by Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, and Vietnamese Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Minh Hien.
Apollo English soon garnered prestige, leveraging its discerning English language education and state-of-the-art teaching aids and curriculum.
“Apollo aims to make the best become better; that is also the way I lead my life. I always yearn for finding ever-better teaching methods. Empowered by technology, education has seen constant improvements and become increasingly individualised.
“We want to play a decisive role in bringing the most advanced education technologies to Vietnam. At Apollo English and BUV, you can see the way we have used technology to individualise learning experiences and improve service standards,” said the Apollo co-founder.
Asked why he has devoted his life to training global citizens, Khalid said it is because Vietnamese parents invest much in the education of their children, and because Vietnamese children are very smart.
According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the results of which were announced by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2015, Vietnam was in eighth place based on student performance in mathematics, reading skills, and science.
“With improved English skills, Vietnamese students will surely perform better. Apollo wants to lend a hand in helping Vietnamese students manage fluent English and be kitted out with essential skills necessary in the 21st century to reap successes in the wake of on-going international integration,” said Khalid.
As a committed educator with influence on human resources training in Vietnam, Khalid has also given useful recommendations to Vietnamese education.
In his words, human resource training is a key element for Industry 4.0, so Vietnam needs to be ready to embrace well-rounded education sector reforms.
What has occupied Khalid’s mind is that Vietnamese education provides mainly academic rather than practical values. Meanwhile, little attention has been given to vocational training, which is badly needed. That explains why alongside Apollo English, Khalid moved on to establish BUV in 2008.
As many Vietnamese parents want to send their children abroad – particularly to the UK, a leader in education – for further study and thus have to sustain high tuition fees, Khalid wants parents to be able to realise their aspirations at more affordable costs.
“The birth of BUV helps Vietnamese students take comprehensive courses with the engagement of experienced native teachers right here in Vietnam. At BUV, the students also have a chance to experience distinct UK culture, and acquire UK degrees at competitive costs – only 30-40 per cent compared to studying in the UK,” Khalid said.
At BUV, Khalid and associates offer training majors that are currently badly needed in Vietnam and that perfectly match Industry 4.0 requirements.
In addition to theoretical training, students will be equipped with practical skills helping them to quickly find jobs after graduation.
After 10 years of development, BUV is set to launch its new campus’ first investment phase valued at $25 million this year, at the award-winning Ecopark township in Hanoi’s outskirts.
Total investment capital for the campus’ three-phase investment surpasses $70 million.
“With Apollo English Centre and BUV, we want to lead the trend and bring the best to Vietnamese students. We will continue our ceaseless efforts to fulfil our mission – training global citizens for a better and more thriving world,” said Khalid.