US higher education colleagues who offer intensive English programs (IEPs) often ask me about the demand for ESL training among Vietnamese students. Vietnam was once the #1 sending country in SE Asia because of the tremendous need for remedial English training for many students. For example, in 2008 16.85% of all Vietnamese students in the US were enrolled in an IEP for a total of 25,036 “student weeks”. A year later, that percentage had decreased to 10.09% and the number of “student weeks” to 20,545.
By 2013, while Vietnam was the 2nd leading sending country in SE Asia – after Thailand (Indonesia was a distant 3rd with only 182 students) – for intensive English program in the US, 1,195, or 6.21% of Vietnamese students, were studying in an IEP for 18,432 “student weeks” and an average of 15.4 average weeks per student.
Below is a graph that illustrates the changes in enrollment over an eight (8) year period. As you can see, the number has been gradually increasing again since 2010.
What explains the percentage decrease from a high of 16.85% (1478 students) in 2008?
- more quality opportunities to improve one’s English proficiency at home, thus reducing the need for remedial English training in the US;
- a growing ability to pay for those opportunities; and
- an increase in the number of institutions with less demanding English proficiency requirements.
Many students who need additional English training are high school students, simply because of their age, and students from rural areas who are not afforded the same opportunities to study and improve their English as those in the major urban centers.
Having said that, it’s still a significant market compared to most other SE Asian countries and worth devoting time, attention and resources to for a select group of institutions, especially those that are willing to aggressively market their programs and travel to Vietnam to participate in fairs and other public events that enable them to reach out directly to students and parents.
Follow this link to read the 2013 report (the latest year for which IEP enrollment statistics are apparently available). After country and number of students are student-weeks and average weeks per student.