Popularising A-Levels in Vietnamese schools

10:21 | 02/07/2019
With 18 local schools already applying the Cambridge curriculum in teaching activities within seven years of presence in Vietnam, UK-based Cambridge Assessment International Education’s (CAIE) plan of popularising the international curriculum in Vietnam has already seen some satisfying results. Sitting down with VIR’s Van Anh, CAIE manager for Vietnam Melvyn Lim explained more on the support for local private schools as well as plans to further expand in the country.
popularising a levels in vietnamese schools
Melvyn Lim

Most schools applying the Cambridge curriculum in Vietnam are in the private sector. What are the ­reasons behind supporting private schools rather than public schools in meeting Cambridge standards?

As many Vietnamese parents lack the ability to pay high fees to send their childrem to international schools despite the wish of giving them the best education, the appearance of increasing private schools offering an international curriculum with more reasonable fees have partly met the local demand so far. However, with more comfortable costs, private schools have differences in terms of facilities, teacher quality, and other resources against the full international institutions. Many public schools have yet to meet international standards. Therefore, we choose to work with private schools, offering the Cambridge curriculum to help them teach more students at more affordable prices.

We also understand that most of them are run by Vietnamese principles and they often do not have the ability to pay a full team of fully-qualified foreign teachers. Therefore, we are looking at this and have been slowly upgrading private schools to the standards of international schools. We are looking at the private schools and trying to ensure they get better every year. They need time to properly understand international education, to improve, and to attain the correct resources.

What is the most important factor in ­getting a good education and have your schools achieved this?

We define a good education across four parts. These are the ­curriculum, the teaching, the ­learning, and assessments, and all of them must be aligned. Everything we do is to put the students at the centre of the four parts. Therefore, parents need to understand that each of these areas is separate, and each area can be achieved successfully if the teachers understand each of the steps. That is the difficult part. One of the best ways to ­understand whether schools are good or not is by the amount of ­resources they have, or how much investment is put in to training teachers. To date, these are still big problems across many Vietnamese schools.

For a big school, training ­teachers is a major investment and it can take several years for teachers to adapt to the ­relevant curriculum. To fix these and other problems, The CAIE annually offers many training courses for teachers but only a few schools have sent their teachers to these courses.

What is the A-Level ­qualification and the CAIE’s plan of popularising this type of qualification in Vietnam?

The A-Level, or Advanced Level, is a subject-based qualification conferred as part of the General Certificate of Education, as well as a school-leaving qualification offered by educational bodies in the UK and educational ­authorities of British Crown ­dependencies to students completing secondary or pre-university ­education. Obtaining an A-Level is generally required for university entrance.

The qualification is recognised for admission by British universities as well as universities in the US, Canada, the EU, the Middle East, New Zealand, and many other locations.

We work with Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. In the next few years, universities can accept students with A-Level qualifications. In some cases, students do not need to have a national diploma, and some private schools focus on providing international education only.

How do you assess the local ­education market, and what is CAIE’s strategy for ­expansion in Vietnam?

The potential here is huge. Vietnamese people are focused on providing good education to their children. On the policy side, Vietnam is gradually legalising the market. The Ministry of Education and Training’s new Decree No.86/2018/ND-CP allowed up to 50 per cent, instead of previous 10-20 per cent, of Vietnamese students to learn in foreign-invested schools. Thanks to this, more overseas investors are interested in the local market.

In addition, income level of Vietnamese citizens has increased. Now, more people can afford to pay higher-level fees and good education, or to send their children overseas. The trend of investment in private education will keep growing.

As for the CAIE, a huge number of local schools have contacted with the hopes of becoming the next Cambridge schools in Vietnam. However, the process of selection is very strict and we have to examine them carefully, and this is where our focus lies.

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