Decree 86 Is Good News for Vietnamese Parents & Investors

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New Decree No. 86/2018/ND-CP implementing the Law on Education

Here is the unabridged version of an interview about Decree 86 that I did with Anton Crace, Reporter – Australasia for The PIE News (Vietnam increases domestic participation in international schools).   My answers are in navy blue.  The decree took effect on 1 August 2018.  


I saw Decree 86 increasing the proportion of Vietnamese students in international schools and have a few questions.

It’s good news for Vietnamese parents of means and those interested in investing in international schools in Viet Nam. Local students may now comprise up to 50% of an international school’s total enrollment. Under the old decree (73), the percentages of Vietnamese primary and secondary students in an international schools were limited to 10% and 20%, respectively.

Several of the provisions remain unchanged, for example, the one about curriculum requirements:  Educational programs must not go against the national security and public interests of Vietnam, (b) must not spread religion and distort history, (c) must not negatively affect the cultures, ethics, and traditional customs of Vietnam, and (d) must ensure the connection between all the levels and grades.

The main reason international schools in Viet Nam are so popular is the widespread perception that the quality of their education and training is superior to that of public schools and that the former do a better job of helping young people realize their potential, academic and otherwise.

How will increasing the proportion of domestic students benefit Vietnam?

It will enable more children from well-to-do families to attend international schools, which will better prepare them for overseas study, the ultimate goal of many. The rising competition will also make more international schools accessible to middle class families and could very well have a positive impact on Vietnamese schools. With more choices available than ever for parents and students, international schools will have to be at the top of their games in terms of curriculum, teaching staff, facilities, ancillary services, and reputation in order to be successful in the long-term. It is likely to become a “buyer’s market” to the benefit of the target clientele of parents and students.

Will the decree impact the number of new international schools being set up in Vietnam? Will it be a large enough incentive that a market exists?

Absolutely. The market is there is and not only in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). This was already a hot sector before Decree 86 was announced. Marcel Van Miert, executive chairman of the Vietnam Australia International School (VAS) in HCMC, was quoted as saying that VAS has had an annual growth rate of 20%, which explains in part the interest in international schools from an investor’s perspective. Decree 86 will only serve to accelerate this trend until the pent-up demand has been met.

Is this part of a broader strategy from the Vietnamese government to increase education opportunities and global connections for its citizens?

Exactly. The government is keen on attracting more foreign direct investment (FDI) and expanding educational opportunities for its young people. This decree accomplishes both.

Why has the decision been made now? What’s changed for the government to make this call?

I think this is part of the recent trend of encouraging more FDI and opening up Viet Nam’s economy to the world. It’s a smart and timely decision.

Peace, MAA

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Student Recruitment at International Schools: A Small Part of the Overall Picture

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Courtesy of Concordia International School Hanoi

These schools are the path of least resistance for colleagues who want to promote their institutions to overseas-bound students, including Vietnamese and expats.  For example, they tend to have guidance counselors who are fluent in English, which facilitates communication and there is little to no bureaucratic red tape associated with a visit.  

The reality, however, is that most of the students in Viet Nam who are planning to study overseas are Vietnamese enrolled in local public and private schools.  I would estimate that the national breakdown is 90% or more from Vietnamese schools.  (This is just an educated guess.)

Access to Vietnamese schools is more problematic, in some cities more than others, because of local rules and regulations.  Foreigners need a permit and schools have been inundated with requests from colleagues and education companies, all of whom are promoting institutions and programs. 

Since the schools’ primary mission is education, outside visits are a much lower priority in terms of staff resources and valuable teaching time.  Unless you know someone at a particular school, it’s very difficult to simply send someone you don’t know (and who doesn’t know you) an email and expect a positive outcome yet alone a response.  

In conclusion, while it’s worth visiting selected international schools, after determining your institution has what their students are looking for, e.g., many welcome the more selective schools, for example, you shouldn’t put too many of your outreach eggs in the international school basket, simply because they’re easier to gain access to.  It could end up being a waste of your precious time and travel/marketing funds.  

Peace, MAA