Teaching Tolerance: A Facebook Message from the Head of School, The Northwest School (Seattle, WA, USA)


I noticed this post on my Facebook feed and felt compelled to share it with a wider audience.  The Northwest School has 509 students, 70 of whom are international, including some from Viet Nam.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Dear Parents and Families:

Sadly, I write yet again to acknowledge and denounce acts of hate and violence that have racked the country this past week, including the racist murders of two African Americans in Kentucky, a rash of pipe bomb mailings to more than a dozen Democratic political figures, and the mass murder of Jews as they marked the Sabbath on Saturday in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.  

I am, of course, heartbroken for those directly affected, for family members who’ve lost loved ones and for communities whose very sense of place and belonging have been threatened or destroyed. But like others, I’m also angry and trying to figure out a productive outlet for that anger. And if adults are struggling to make sense of these horrific acts, we can be certain that our children are, too.  

We can find both solace and agency in community. In that spirit, Temple de Hirsch Sinai in Capitol Hill (1441 16th Avenue) is holding a community-wide vigil for people of all faiths tonight at 7:00. We hope many of you will consider attending with your student(s). Standing together in solidarity is one simple step we can take to counter those who would divide us. Here at Northwest, our Jewish Student Union met during lunch today to support one another and contemplate productive responses to anti-Semitic violence.  

We can also contribute to change by simply talking to one another: while such unspeakable violence is painful to process and virtually impossible to rationally explain, it is crucial lest silence lead to normalizing. For this is in no way normal. As one way into the conversation, faculty shared with one another the following resource from the magazine Teaching Tolerance:  


We hope you might find it useful, as well.


Mike McGill
Head of School, The Northwest School

ITA Report with a Vietnam “Case Study”: Useful but Not 100% Accurate

259709-1 (ITA education report)Global competition for international students is rising quickly, especially among English-speaking countries and countries increasing their English-language course offerings. Although U.S. institutions still host the largest percentage of internationally mobile students, this share is eroding as competition increases. This report assesses global market opportunities for U.S. colleges and universities, providing guidance for U.S. institutions interested in the recruitment of international students.

The International Trade Administration (ITA) of the US Department of Commerce published a report year entitled 2015 Top Markets Report – Education:  A Market Assessment Tool for US Exporters. (PDF)  It begins with an overview of international mobility trends, including information about the top host countries…

intl overview - leading host countries

and the US share of internationally mobile students (2001 vs. 2014) .

us share of intl mobile students

The authors chose to focus on the largest markets with the most potential for growth. While 40 markets were considered, eight (8) were selected for case studies, including Vietnam, “as these markets were large, exhibited significant past growth, and/or had economic and demographic indicators of future growth.”

  • China:  biggest market, high growth
  • India:  second largest market, stable
  • Saudi Arabia:  rapidly growing market
  • S. Korea:  large stable market
  • Germany:  medium-sized market, stable
  • France:  medium-sized market, stable
  • Brazil:  medium-sized market, rapid recent growth
  • Vietnam:  medium-sized market, good growth

Appendix 1 of the report contains a description of the methodology they used to determine which countries to focus on for case studies. Specifically, the authors looked at “four main factors in assessing which markets were most promising for U.S. colleges and universities attempting to recruit foreign students in the coming years.”  The factors and their weightings are as follows:

  • The number of students from a given country currently studying in the United States (0.40)
  • The number of students from a given country studying anywhere outside that country (0.40)
  • Historical growth rates and changes in those rates regarding internationally mobile students studying in the United States (0.15)
  • Share of each country’s students studying in United States, a measure of untapped potential (expressed as a percentage) (0.05)

Mapping SEVIS by the NumbersAmong the countries listed six (6) are in the top ten of all places of origin.  Vietnam ranks 6th, according to the 12/15 SEVIS by the Numbers update (PDF download) and 9th, according to Open Doors 2015 (PDF download), using information from previous academic year.  According to the former, there are 28,883 Vietnamese students studying at all levels in the US.

There is nothing new or surprising about the Vietnam “case study,” just the usual facts and figures about growth trends, current numbers (IIE/Open Doors 2014), popular majors (i.e., business and management, the STEM fields, the social sciences, intensive English), the interest in US boarding schools and some information and predictions about future growth/opportunities.

The report notes that “in the near term, the number of Vietnamese students is likely to increase.”  The percentage increase over the past 10 years was 424%, secondly only to Saudi Arabia.  It mentioned that the growth rate decreased between 2008/09 and 2013/14 to 30% and pointed to two developments that “might further slow increases in Vietnamese student enrollment in the United States.”  Below are the points and my counterpoints.

Point #1: Improvements in domestic higher education as a top priority for the Vietnamese government, meaning that once this happens fewer Vietnamese students will study overseas.

Counterpoint #1:  Yes, it will happen eventually (and should happen!) but not in the short- or medium-term future.

Point #2: Other destinations such as Australia and Singapore that “offer proximity, affordable costs, and possible post-graduate employment.”

Counterpoint #2:  Those countries rank 2nd and 5th, respectively. (They are often second-choice countries for students who are unable to obtain a US student visa.) Other top five countries not mentioned are China and Japan.  Interest in the former is because of cost and simply because it’s China and the latter because of the large number of scholarships.  Both countries are major trading partners of Vietnam and there is significant interest among young people in their cultures.  According to a 2014 HSBC survey, Australia and Singapore – in that order – were the two most expensive overseas study destinations in the world.  The US ranked 3rd.

Not surprisingly, the report mentioned one of ITA’s pet projects, the Vietnam Education and Training Export Center (VETEC), located in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC):  “VETEC offers US institutions and Vietnamese students a broad variety of services, including year-round promotion of US education in Vietnam; advertising campaigns and promotions; on-site student advising and counseling; and facilitation of institutional contacts and exchange.”  The report concludes by asserting that similar methods “will help increase student recruitment in Vietnam over the long term.”   Good advice!  Coincidentally, those are some of the same services that my employer, Capstone Vietnam, a full-service educational consulting company with offices in Hanoi and HCMC, has offered since its founding nearly seven years ago.

Future Projection a Shot in the Dark

While the report is generally favorable about future prospects for Vietnamese student recruitment, it’s projection of 20,100 students for 2017/18 is way off the mark.  It doesn’t take into account the record number of student visas issued in FY14 (14,822) and the impressive results of the most recent SEVIS by the Numbers quarterly updates.  As mentioned, as of November 2015 there were 28,883 Vietnamese students in the US at all levels, but mostly in higher education.


China & Vietnam: A Study in the USA Comparison

Given the  intriguing historical relationship between Vietnam and China, I thought it might be interesting to do a brief comparison between the two as it relates to study in the USA. But first, here’s some basic up-to-date (as of 2014) information about each country.


  • The population of China is estimated at 1,393,783,836 as of 1 July 2014.
  • China’s population is equivalent to 19.24% of the total world population.
  • China ranks number 1 in the list of countries by population.
  • The population density in China is 145 people per km2.
  • 54% of the population is urban (756,300,115 people in 2014).
  • The median age in China is 35.7 years.

Source: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/china-population/


  • The population of Vietnam is estimated at 92,547,959 as of 1 July, 2014.
  • Vietnam’s population represents 1.28% of the total world population.
  • Vietnam ranks number 14 in the list of countries by population.
  • The population density in Vietnam is 279 people per km2.
  • 33% of the population is urban (30,482,811 people)
  • The median age in Vietnam is 30.3 years.

Source: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/vietnam-population/

The 2015 populations of China and Vietnam are 1,401,586,609 and 93,386,630, respectively. This means that China has 15 times as many people as Vietnam.  For what this figure is worth – it is, after all, only an aggregate indicator of economic growth – China’s per capita income of $6807 in 2013 was 3.56 times as high as Vietnam’s ($1911), according to The World Bank.

China, Vietnam & StudyUSA

As of February 2015, there were 25,982 Vietnamese studying in the US at the secondary and postsecondary levels and 331,371 Chinese. China is the world’s leading sending country for US-bound students while Vietnam ranks 7th.  While China’s population is 15 times larger than Vietnam’s, it has 12.75 times as many students in the US as Vietnam.

If you look at secondary (mostly boarding school) vs. higher education enrollment in the latest year for which both data sets are available (i.e., 2013) the breakdown was as follows:

Secondary Total

  • China: 23,562 (#1)
  • Vietnam: 2,289 (#6)

Postsecondary Total

  • China: 235,597 (#1)
  • Vietnam:  16,098 (#8)

87.6% and 12.4% of Vietnamese enrollment was in higher and secondary education, respectively. The figures for China were 91% and 9%.

Using the NAFSA formula for 2014, with information from IIE’s Open Doors Report and the US Department of Commerce, Chinese and Vietnamese students and their families contributed $8.04 billion and $543 million to the US economy last year.

Assuming the average annual cost of attending a US boarding school is $38,580, Chinese and Vietnamese parents paid at least $909 million and $88.3 million, respectively.  (Many are full-paying students at boarding schools in the 45k-55k range.)

It is safe to assume then that Vietnamese families spent over $631 million on secondary and postsecondary study in the US for their children while Chinese families spent nearly $9 billion.  (Memo to the purists:  pardon me for mixing data from 2013 and 2014.  I don’t have the economic impact information for Vietnam and China in 2013.  These are ballpark estimates anyway; this is not an exact science.)

Two Predictions

Like most, I don’t have a crystal ball so these are just educated guesses based on the above data and some information that I have not included about the state of higher education in each country.

Something to keep in mind is that each country has experienced dramatic growth over the past few decades but that Vietnam had a very different starting point because of two consecutive wars, the devastating impact of a US-led economic embargo that dated to 1965 and was lifted in 1994 and post-war poverty.  In terms of urbanization and median age China is now what Vietnam is quickly becoming.

I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb by making the following predictions:

  1. Chinese enrollments at both levels will peak and begin to decline.  China’s population (35.7 years) is quite a bit older than Vietnam’s (30.3 median age) and there are more and more quality educational opportunities available at home.
  2. Vietnamese enrollments at both levels will continue to increase.  Vietnam has a younger median age, incomes continue to rise and it will be a while before the domestic higher education system improves to the extent that most Vietnamese of means will want to send their children to local institutions.

This is yet another reason why US colleges and universities should diversify their international recruiting strategy to include the four emerging markets identified in a recent World Education Services (WES) survey:  Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia and Nigeria.


Charting New Pathways to Higher Education: International Secondary Students in the United States (IIE)

SH-Charting-New-Pathways-To-Higher-EducationAccording to an Institute of International Education (IIE) report released earlier this month, there were 73,019 international secondary students in the U.S., encompassing students enrolled in grades 9 through 12 in both public and private schools last October.   International students enrolled in US high schools to earn a diploma have more than tripled in number since 2004.

Among the leading places of origin, Chinese and South Korean students comprise 44% of the total, while at the postsecondary level 37% of international students hail from these two countries.  67% of international secondary students hold F-1 visas and 33% hold J-1 visas, which generally distinguishes those attending boarding schools vs. their peers who are participating in exchange programs.

Surprisingly, Vietnam ranks 6th – in the same tier as Brazil (#5) and Mexico (#4).  This means that last year 12.4% of all Vietnamese students were attending a US high school or boarding school and 87.5% were enrolled in an institution of higher education. 2,052 were on a F-1, while 237 were on a J-1 visa.  They comprised 3.1% of all international secondary students.

The implications are obvious:  1) more parents are sending their sons and daughters to study in the US and other countries at an earlier age; and 2) the large numbers of international high school students creates yet another recruitment pipeline for US colleges and universities.

Top places of origin of intl secondary and postsecondary students in the US, 2013

Below is an excerpt from a press release issued by IIE about the study.  Follow this link to download the report (PDF, 950 KB).

NEW YORK, July 8, 2014—A new report published today by the Institute of International Education, “Charting new pathways to higher education: International secondary students in the United States,” provides comprehensive analysis on the more than 73,000 inbound international students who come to the United States for high school, and what the trends mean for higher education enrollments and recruitment.

The new IIE report looks closely at where the students come from and where they study—with breakdowns by U.S. state and types of schools. It provides narrative analysis and data tables that compare specific numbers and trends for international students at the secondary level with those for international students in higher education in the United States.

“While secondary school students from around the world have been coming to the United States on high school exchange programs for many years, IIE’s new analysis shows that the number of students who enroll directly in U.S. schools to earn a U.S. high school diploma now significantly outnumbers those who are here on exchanges,” said IIE’s Deputy Vice President for Research and Evaluation, Rajika Bhandari. “This is a remarkable finding, and one which has implications for U.S. higher education.”

Highlights from the report include:

  • In October 2013 there were 73,019 international students pursuing a secondary-level education in the United States, with 48,632 or 67 percent of these enrolled for a full diploma.
  • The number of international students enrolled directly in U.S. secondary programs more than tripled from fall 2004 to fall 2013, while the number of exchange students grew only about 15 percent during the same period.
  • Most of the nearly 49,000 diploma-seeking students at U.S. high schools are from Asia (with 46% of this segment coming from China).
  • The majority (66%) of the roughly 24,000 high school students who come to the U.S. on cultural exchange programs are from Europe.
  • Compared to Australia, Canada, and the UK, the U.S. hosts a much larger number of secondary students, which is also the case at the postsecondary level.


Bài viết: Những điều làm cho học sinh Việt Nam đặc biết

Bài được viết bởi Sarah “Sally”: Chuyên viên tư vấn tuyển sinh, trường Stuart Hall, Staunton, Virginia, Hoa Kỳ.

stuart hall logoTrong suốt tám năm làm việc cho Stuart Hall ở khu trung tâm Virginia, tôi đã có cơ hội tuyển chọn được rất nhiều sinh viên quốc tế cho trường. Thật là vinh dự khi được làm việc và tiếp xúc với các bạn trẻ và gia đình của họ đến từ khắp nơi trên thế giới với vai trò là một phần trong sự lựa chọn để cùng họ có những trải nghiệm tuyệt vời tại ngôi trường thân yêu này. Khó mà so sánh được sinh viên của nước này với sinh viên của nước khác một cách công bằng, không phiến diện, nhưng với tôi, sinh viên Việt Nam luôn thật nổi bật với những đặc trưng không thể bị trộn lẫn.

Sinh viên Việt Nam cho dù là các bạn đã tốt nghiệp hay hay chưa tốt nghiệp đều thể hiện rõ là những người giao tiếp giỏi với khả năng tự lập ấn tượng. Điều này không chỉ thể hiện ở khả năng trò chuyện lưu loát bằng tiếng Anh mà còn ở tinh thần tích cực học hỏi, sẳn sàng thách thức bản thân và ước muốn được kết nối và hòa nhập.

Bữa tối tại nhà của một học sinh trường Stuart Hall

Bữa tối tại nhà của một học sinh trường Stuart Hall
Bữa tối tại nhà của một học sinh trường Stuart Hall

Mùa thu này chúng tôi sẽ chào đón thêm nhiều học sinh Việt Nam đến nhập học tại trường Stuart Hall. Không khó để nhận ra điều đó bởi họ chính là những người gửi mail cho tôi nhiều hơn tất cả các bạn học sinh khác. Có thể đối với người khác thì đó là một sự làm phiền, nhưng với tôi đó là những cuộc nói chuyện và chia sẽ thú vị nhất và chân thành nhất xuất phát từ cả hai phía. Điều thú vị là sau những cuộc nói chuyện, chúng tôi dần dần trao đổi đĩa nhạc, trò chuyện về những mất mát khi phải đi học nơi xứ người và bỏ lại những gì thân yêu nhất ở quê nhà. Chúng tôi cũng khoe hình gia đình, chia sẻ công thức nấu ăn và cả những khác biệt về văn hóa giữa hai nước.

Ngoài ra, chúng tôi cũng sử dụng skype để trò chuyện và nhìn thấy nhau thường xuyên, không phải chỉ để giải quyết những thắc mắc hay gỡ rối cho nhau vì đối với một du học sinh thì việc theo học tại một trường nội trú Mỹ quả là thách thức rất lớn. Có rất nhiều điều mà họ cần phải thích nghi và điều tiết như ngôn ngữ, văn hóa, nỗi nhớ nhà, khát vọng học tập tốt và hòa nhập xã hội. Điều gây ấn tượng nhất cho tôi về học sinh Việt Nam là sự quyết tâm của họ để hòa nhập cộng đồng mới bằng thái độ cảm thông và cởi mở. Họ luôn chủ động bước vào mọi cuộc chơi, đảm nhận những vị trí lãnh đạo để chia sẻ văn hóa và làm quen với rất nhiều bạn.

Những sinh viên Việt Nam đã tốt nghiệp từ Stuart Hall thường liên lạc với tôi qua Facebook và email. Họ chính là đội ngũ hỗ trợ tích cực nhất của nhà trường. Họ rất vui khi được giúp đỡ những học sinh mới và sẵn sàng giải đáp những thắc mắc mà tôi gặp phải (như việc thỉnh thoảng bảng điểm cũng gây rắc rối cho tôi chẳng hạn). Đồng thời họ cũng sẳn lòng chia sẻ về những thành công và những nỗi lo âu trong cuộc sống đại học và nhiều hơn thế nữa. Không gì có thể so sánh với những nghĩa cử cao đẹp như thế?

Một câu hỏi được đặt ra là tôi có đối xử thân tình như thế với sinh viên đến từ những nước khác? Câu trả lời đương nhiên là phải như vậy rồi nhưng những điểm tích cực mà tôi nghĩ về học sinh Việt Nam chính là lý do tôi viết bài cảm nhận này. Chắc chắn một điều rằng ngoài khả năng giao tiếp và sự tự lập đầy kinh ngạc, sinh viên Việt Nam luôn là người từ tốn, từng bước một, vững chắc tiến đến con đường trở thành một công dân toàn cầu, trong một thế giới mà chúng ta luôn phải tự quyết định cách li hay hòa nhập. Họ cũng là những người muốn thành công và mong đợi điều đó cũng sẽ đến với những người chung quanh. Đơn giản là như vậy thôi.

Vietnamese Student Awarded $180,000 Scholarship to Study in Switzerland

Trần Liên Khánh Hoa

Trần Liên Khánh Hoa, a 10th grade student at Đinh Thiện Lý/Lawrence S. Ting High School in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), has been awarded a two-year scholarship to study at Leysin American School (LAS), a Swiss boarding school located in the alpine resort village of Leysin, Vaud, about two hours east of Geneva.  The Ott Foundation for Advancement of International Education Scholarship, valued at $180,000 (160,000 CHF) for both years, covers all tuition, room and board and mandatory costs. It is without a doubt one of the most generous scholarships awarded to a Vietnamese student in recent memory.

Khánh Hoa will enter the International Baccalaureate program in the 11th grade.  In order to be considered for this scholarship, applicants had to be in the top 5% at their school, be extensively involved in extracurricular activities, be fluent in English, have won international and national contests and have a strong interest in attending a world-renowned U.S. or European university.

“I feel honored to have received this wonderful opportunity to challenge myself and gain life-changing experiences. I am truly thankful to Capstone Vietnam for informing me about this scholarship program, as well as helping me throughout the application process. I would also like to express my gratitude towards the LAS Financial Aid & Scholarship Committee for selecting me. I will – with all my passion and responsibility – do my best to prove myself deserving of the scholarship and to meet their expectations. Last but not least, I would like to save my greatest thank you for my parents, who have always supported and encouraged me to follow my dreams.” (Khánh Hoa)


“I am excited to welcome Khánh Hoa to LAS next school year. The Financial Aid & Scholarship Committee chose her not only based on her excellent past academic achievement and family financial need, but also because she will benefit and help further the school’s mission, which is ‘developing innovative, compassionate and responsible citizens of the world,’,” said Marc-F. Ott, Ed.D., LAS Head of School.

“Capstone Vietnam is proud to have played a role in publicizing this fantastic scholarship opportunity, bringing it to the attention of outstanding students throughout Vietnam and facilitating their applications,” noted Dr. Mark Ashwill, managing director.  “The Leysin American School made a wise decision by selecting Khánh Hoa.  She is deserving of this prestigious scholarship and I know will take full advantage of all of the opportunities that it offers,” he added.

Follow this link the read the rest of this Capstone Vietnam press release.  Click here to read it in Vietnamese.


Guest Post: What Makes Vietnamese Students Special

A guest post written by Sarah “Sally” Day, Admissions Consultant, Stuart Hall School, Staunton, Virginia, USA.

stuart hall logoFor the past eight years, I have recruited international students for historic Stuart Hall School in central Virginia. It is always a pleasure to meet young people and their families from around the world and to be part of their education choices and experiences. While it is facile and unfair to generalize about students from one country or another, there are some characteristics of Vietnamese students that stand out.

Vietnamese students who have graduated from Stuart Hall and the students who have applied, been accepted, or enrolled are remarkable communicators and capable of impressive independence. Some of this is due to strong English language skill but it is more than that. These are students who want to engage and ask questions, want to challenge themselves, and want to stay in touch.

Boarder dinner at the home of a Stuart Hall day student.
Boarder dinner at the home of a Stuart Hall day student.

We have a number of Vietnamese students who will attend Stuart Hall this coming fall. Without a doubt, they have emailed me more than any other applicants and accepted students. You might consider the high number of emails as an annoyance but the opposite is true. I have enjoyed all of the communication because it has been thought-provoking, funny, heartfelt, and, above all, honest. We have exchanged music videos, discussed the unnerving and scary aspects of applying to schools and leaving home behind, shared photos of our families, shared recipes, and discussed cultural anomalies. We have Skyped to be sure all questions were answered but also to see each other, to stay in touch.

It is challenging to be an international student in an American boarding school. The adjustment is huge: language, culture, homesickness, academic expectations, and fitting in socially. What has impressed me about our Vietnamese students is their willingness to dive into the mix with a combination of sensitivity to others and an attitude of exuberance. They get involved, take leadership positions, share their culture, and make many, many friends.

The Vietnamese graduates of Stuart Hall communicate with me on Facebook and via email. They are great supporters of the school and of their classmates. They are happy to communicate with prospective students and willing to answer any questions I might have (e.g., sometimes transcripts can be confusing). They share their successes and worries about university life and beyond. What could be better than that?

Have I had similar communication with students from other countries? Yes, but the consistency in my experience with Vietnamese students is why I am writing this post. The level of communication and independence is exceptional. These are students who have taken the necessary steps to become global citizens in a world prone to focusing on what separates people and not what brings them together. These are students who want to succeed and they want the same for everyone else.