American International School Vietnam seeks $5M to keep running

By Le Nguyen   March 30, 2024 | 03:41 am PT
American International School Vietnam seeks $5M to keep running
Parents gather at a meeting with the American International School Vietnam in HCMC, March 30, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Le Nguyen
The head of the American International School Vietnam (AISVN) in Ho Chi Minh City has asked parents to pay VND125 billion (US$5 million) to help it remain open.

At a Saturday afternoon meeting between the school's owner Nguyen Thi Ut Em and city authorities, Em asked for financial support from parents, at least until the end of this school year in June.

She aplogized to parents about the disruption of classes over the past weeks amid a teachers' strike due to unpaid salaries and insurance. She said at least VND125 billion would be needed to keep the school running from April 1 to the end of the school year.

She asked for VND9.5 million each month from families of kindergarteners, VND14.5 million for those in primary school, VND20.5 million for grade 6-8, and VND22.5 million for grade 9-12.

Vu Thi Thuy Ha, deputy head of the Department of Internal Political Security at the Ho Chi Minh City Police Department, said at the meeting that the school's investors were no longer financially capable of maintaining operations.

"There was much tension among the foreign teachers yesterday, and the principal said they would quit if the school could not ensure its financial capabilities," Ha said at the meeting held in AISVN's 800-seat hall, which was almost full.

Ha said the authorities would closely monitor Em's activities. Not all negotiations between Em and investors had been fruitful, she added. Certain partners said the school was experiencing losses because its tuition was much lower compared to other schools with the same level of quality.

In the long run, Em plans to equitize the school, with parents paying tuition as investment to raise capital. Paying parents would get shares of the school, the meeting heard.

A parent asked Em about the school's debts, which are reportedly over VND3 trillion, bringing the school close to bankruptcy. Em did not respond with a specific amount of debt, but reassuring that once the equitization happens, authorities would determine the value of the school.

Ha said the equitization plan is feasible, but further details need to be fleshed out, including the exact amount of contributions from parents and investors, as well as determining methods to call for investment.

Nguyen Van Hieu, director of the Department of Education and Training, said VND125 billion is a rough estimation by the school. The parents would oversee this amount of money, and authorities would send in personnel to support them.

Hieu said the foremost priority is ensuring the students' education. A survey by the school on Friday revealed that 85% of the parents want their children to continue studying at AISVN.

"We have promised the teachers that we will handle their salary and insurance issues, or else they will quit. Many of them are sick but cannot get diagnoses as their insurance has been cut, and they cannot return to their home countries," he added.

Hieu said a list of parents willing to pay the money would be made this weekend.

Em has been forbidden from emigration over personal income tax issues.

AISVN, established in 2006, has over 1,210 students studying under the International Baccalaureate program.

The school's tuition is VND280-350 million a year for kindergarteners, VND450-500 million a year for primary school levels, and VND600-725 million for middle and high school levels. The school has 129 foreign teachers, 26 Vietnamese teachers and 103 employees. But 85 teachers have stopped working.

In October of last year, several parents gathered to demand repayment of debts from the school. They claimed that the school had borrowed tens of billions of Vietnamese dong without interest to enable children to study for free. However, even after the children graduated, the debts remain unpaid.

HCMC boasts 35 schools utilizing foreign capital, predominantly employing curricula from North America and the U.K., supplemented by Vietnamese subjects. Tuition fees at these schools can reach up to VND1 billion per year.

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