Education investment catching attention

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Photo: Viet Tuan (VET)

Here’s an informative article from the September 2019 issue of Vietnam Economic Times about the growth of private education in Viet Nam.  The introductory paragraph should whet your appetite for more, assuming you have at least a casual interest in this topic.

The International School @ ParkCity Hanoi (ISPH) will officially welcome hundreds of students to study at its new 2.5-ha facility in September. “We are here in Hanoi to meet the educational needs of Hanoi residents, both Vietnamese and expats,” Mr. Pham Duc Trung Kien, a private equity investor and Board Member of ISPH, told VET. “There are many great success stories in Vietnam’s education sector for both founders and investors. So I am upbeat about investing in the country.”

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Reflections on the passing of General Giap and the end of an era

reflectionsHot off the digital press, a retrospective view of the passing of the legendary Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap, who died six years ago this Friday at the age of 102 in Hanoi.  Click on the image to read the article in its entirety.  

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Here are two photos that will appear in the forthcoming Vietnamese translation.

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Group photo of Vietnamese, US and other foreign colleagues.
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From left to right: Michael Cull, who passed away in early 2018, Manus Campbell, MAA, and Chuck Searcy. Photograph by Catherine Karnow

Update:  Here’s a link to the Vietnamese translation on Soha.    

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Happy 10th Birthday, Capstone Vietnam!

Độc lập – Tự do – Hạnh phúc (Independence – Freedom – Happiness)

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10 years ago this week Capstone Vietnam, now one of Viet Nam’s premier full-service educational consulting companies, was established in Hanoi. That was a time when our vision, mission and values were still taking shape and the groundwork being laid for our future work.  Since 2012, we have had an office in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and a nationwide presence through various events and activities, both on- and offline.

recruit in vnWhile our official slogan is Reaching New Heights, which is related to our company name, Capstone, meaning a “high point” or “crowning achievement,” we are also inspired by this unattributed saying, Success Without Integrity is Failure. This sentiment will continue to guide Capstone’s work for the next 10 years.

10 year logoWe’re grateful to the many clients, both individual and institutional, and our partners, who have placed their trust in us, as well as staff who have contributed to the success of Capstone Vietnam, over the past decade.

Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, our development and growth have paralleled that of Viet Nam, in some respects.  I included Viet Nam’s national motto above because it also applies to private sector companies that are given sufficient leeway and flexibility to carve out a niche in the market, make contributions, and do what they do best. 

One testament to our Capstone’s success is that other companies have copied our business model in the spirit of imitation as the sincerest form of flattery.  On the dark side, this copy and paste mentality also reflects a decided lack of creativity and intelligence among some in this and other industries.  As you know, this tendency is not unique to Viet Nam.  

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Capstone student volunteers promoting our fall StudyUSA & Canada Higher Education Fairs – with smiles on their faces!

If the spirit moves you, raise your glass, alcoholic beverage or not, and make a toast to independence, freedom, and happiness in the field of international education in the private sector.  Chúc mừng sinh nhật lần thứ 10, Capstone Việt Nam!

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Patriotism: “The tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime”

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Photo by MAA

Vietnam’s National Day is a fitting time to take stock of what this country and its people have accomplished but also to think about what each and every citizen can do to meet unmet needs and challenges and make Vietnam an even better place to live, including environmental awareness and action, heightened civility on the roads, business ethics, and other concrete areas that are within their control. 

On a personal note, it is a time to reflect on my gratitude to this country, which has suffered so much at the hands of foreigners, including those from the country whose passport I hold, for its willingness to embrace me and many others, for giving me the chance to contribute to my chosen profession doing work that I find deeply satisfying and richly rewarding, and for allowing me to take the road less traveled by. It has indeed made all the difference. 

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People fly Vietnam’s national flag in front of their houses in Hanoi for National Day oo September 2, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.

This is the English version of an essay of mine that was published yesterday by VNExpress International

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Image courtesy of VNExpress

Here’s the Vietnamese version for those of you who read Vietnamese that appeared in VNExpress on 1 September:  Lòng yêu nước

Shalom (שלום), MAA

US Student Visa Issuances Up in May-July 2019 Over 2018

dos-logo-lightAs US international student recruiters know all too well, these are tough times for most institutions for a variety of social, political, and economic reasons.  Viet Nam, however, remains a bright spot on the recruitment horizon.  As of March 2019, there were 30,684 young Vietnamese studying in the US at all levels, most in higher education.  Viet Nam ranked 5th among sending countries.
Since I like to stay up-to-date with these trends and since we can all use good news in troubled times, I’m happy to report that the number of student visas issued by the US Embassy and Consulate to Vietnamese student has seen an increase of 4.58% during three of the peak months of May, June, and July of this year over the same months in 2018.  Here are the relevant stats:

May 2018:  1110
May 2019:  1223

June 2018:  3147
June 2019:  3148

July 2018:  4942
July 2019:  5250

SourceMonthly Nonimmigrant Visa Issuance Statistics, US Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs
If the 3% increase from 8/18 to 3/19 is any indication, many of these visas may be for secondary (boarding & day) school students.  sevis dhs
Regarding the latter, I emailed the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to ask when the latest SEVIS by the Numbers data would be released.   Lo and behold, I received a response in one day (thank you, US government civil servants!) informing me that “SEVP is currently in the process of clearing new data for upload on Study in the States’ Mapping SEVIS by the Numbers tool and we anticipate this data to be published in the next month or so.”  
Peak student visa season winds down next month so let’s hope August has followed in the footsteps of the preceding three months.  Stay tuned!
Shalom (שלום), MAA
Postscript:  On a related note, colleagues often ask me about issuance and refusal rates for Viet Nam.  All I can do is provide a general answer and distinguish between different types of institutions and programs.  Since the US government does not release those for some reason (these are not a state secrets, after all), my suggestion is for them to file a request for that information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  Anyone interested?

Public Debt as Temporary Burden & Long-Term Capital Investment

logoViet Nam’s infrastructure, including its roads, bridges, and airports, plays a major role in the country’s continued economic development.  Japan – through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), is the top ODA (Overseas Development Assistance) sponsor to Viet Nam.  ODA is a key part of its visionary foreign policy for Viet Nam in particular and Southeast Asia in general.  (Follow this link to view a JICA map of its nationwide activities as of 25 July 2019.)  

After arriving at the Noi Bai International Airport Terminal 2 the other day, I noticed this plaque just outside the exit.  

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This $900 million dollar project was begun in December 2011 and completed in 2014.  It’s a notable example of ODA projects that have either been completed or are currently in progress around the country. 

According to this 4 December 2011 JICA press release, it was considered to be “one of the most important transport infrastructure projects being implemented with Japan’s ODA.”  The Noi Bai-Nhat Tan expressway and Nhat Tan bridge were built at the same time.  All three projects made life much easier and more convenient for the legion of Vietnamese and foreign passengers arriving and departing from Hanoi.  

Public debt, like reasonable levels of personal debt resulting from solid long-term investments, makes possible what would otherwise be impossible in the here and now.  It is a frequent topic of discussion in the media, both positive (a key driver of economic growth) and negative (a risk and potential obstacle to the same). 

On the bright side, Viet Nam’s public debt is the lowest level since 2015.  Specifically, the Viet Nam Ministry of Finance estimates public debt at the end of 2018 at 58.4% of GDP, or $136.75 billion.  (Compare that with the US, where the national debt of $22 trillion is a staggering 107% of GDP.)  As of December 2018, 90% of Viet Nam’s bonds had a maturity period of over 10 years, with the average maturity period for all bonds coming to 12.7 years.

The Noi Bai International Airport Terminal 2 is one small piece of that multi-billion dollar puzzle.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

 

 

 

A Widening Crack in the Wall of Viet Nam’s Tourism Industry?

How to kill tourism in one easy step

I stumbled upon the following 29 July 2019 post with photos on the Danang & Hoi An Foreign Expats Facebook group, of which I’m a lurking member:  I wouldn’t be swimming anywhere near Apocalypse Now Beach Club in the next few days. Huge outpouring of sewage into the ocean. – AM

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Below are some of the more pointed (and slightly edited) comments by both expats and Vietnamese:   

PTA:  I’m a local here and stopped swimming 2-3 years ago. 😦  It is a bad thing when you live on the beach, you can’t swim.

BP:  Local Govt needs to fix all sewage flowing into ocean and collecting all rubbish on the beach and floating offshore everyday and make the beach and water as nice as they advertise which in reality is exactly the opposite.

RMM:  That drainage channel was fully extended to the sea by steam shovel this morning. They must have known that the rain was coming.

AM: You should have seen the paragliding guys running for their life. The sewage came so fast and just engulfed the whole area.

VK:  Show this to the tourist, they wont pay a penny on that hotel again.

TR:  How to kill tourism in one easy step. This has been going on for years…  Who the hell would want to spend their hard earned money on a place like this?

WC:  And you wonder why tourists don’t come back to VN?!?

LD:  My God, terrible smell on the beach today.

This 2017 article entitled Da Nang’s beautiful beaches under threat as sewage streams into the ocean sums it up.  It’s 2019 and nothing has changed.  Warning:  Don’t look at the photos on a full stomach.  

This issue has reared its ugly head in other locations in Viet Nam, including Nha Trang.  Last fall, sewage was being discharged directly into Nha Trang Bay, the result of an overloaded local pumping station.  

Over the past 10-15 years, billions of dollars have been invested in resorts up and down Viet Nam’s long and scenic coastline.  Tourism is a significant source of revenue for the country and tourists continue to flock to Viet Nam in record numbers.  2018 revenue was estimated at $26.5 billion, 11% of the country’s nominal GDP.  Last year, 15.6 million tourists visited Viet Nam, up from 2.1 million in 2000.  That’s a 638% increase in 18 years.  In addition, there were 80 million domestic tourists, an increase of 6.8 million over 2017, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.  

Here’s the bottom line, quite literally:  If the county, at the local, provincial, and national level, does not solve the pollution problem, word will (continue to) spread that the beaches are dirty and the water is polluted, which means tourists will begin to look elsewhere for a quality vacation.  Hotel occupancy rates will plummet and restaurants and other ancillary business will see fewer customers. 

Think of reputation as a container ship reversing direction on the high seas.  It will take an exceedingly long time to persuade tourists from all over the world that the beaches and the water are once again clean, not to mention actually making that idyllic scenario a reality.  

To further complicate matters, many foreigners who visit Viet Nam don’t return.  I’ve seen estimates that range from 70% to 90%.  Environmental pollution will give newcomers yet another reason to follow suit.  The short-sighted obsession with short-term profit has to stop.  Unless something is done very soon, the tourism party is going to be over for Viet Nam.  Change should come for the sake of the environment and all of us who share it.  If it comes because of the prospect of plummeting revenue, I’ll take it.  Same end result, a cleaner environment.  

Full disclosure:  I do not swim in the sea in Danang, Nha Trang, and other well-known resort cities.  Now you know why.  I know too much.  While ignorance is not bliss, the truth can sometimes be painful and sad.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA