Vietnam reluctant to open education market to foreign investors

By    March 16, 2016 | 01:20 am PT
Foreign investors in the education sector are subject to a time-consuming and complicated process in order to tap into Vietnam’s education market, a meeting of a government working group on education and training issues heard on Wednesday.

Foreign investors are required to go through a four-step procedure to open a school, and these steps are “extremely bureaucratic”, said Do Nhat Hoang, an official from the Foreign Investment Agency, adding that the procedure involved several government authorities including the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the Ministry of Education and Training and other local agencies in charge of managing construction and the urban development.

According to the government’s working group responsible for reviewing legal regulations around education and training, foreign-owned schools deal with a great deal of red tape, including securing three different types of permits for each phase of investment, establishment and operation.

“With these regulations, even Harvard couldn't open a school in Vietnam,” Hoang said.

Statistics compiled by the working group show that Vietnamese families have a high regard for international-standard education, with more than 100,000 Vietnamese students applying to study overseas at a cost of around $3 billion a year.

Vietnamese nationals are allowed to attend foreign-owned international schools in the country, but the government is currently restricting the number of local students allowed to enroll in these schools where English is used as the primary language of learning.

The number of local students in international schools is capped at 20 percent of the total student population in high schools and 10 percent at primary and secondary schools.

This is, in part, because the Vietnamese government doesn’t want to put local schools in direct competition with their international counterparts. Such restrictions on the nationality composition of students also came from the idea that international schools were primarily established for foreign children living in Vietnam, and therefore were neither designed nor empowered to serve Vietnamese students.

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