American International School received at least $145M from parents via fund-raising scheme: official

By Le Nguyen, Le Tuyet   April 2, 2024 | 06:03 am PT
American International School received at least $145M from parents via fund-raising scheme: official
Students study at the AISVN in 2023. Photo courtesy of AISVN
Around 900 parents had paid a total VND3.6 trillion (US$145 million) for their children to study at the American International School Vietnam (AISVN) from first to 12th grades, the education department said.

Nguyen Van Hieu, director of HCMC's Department of Education and Training, said at a Tuesday meeting organized by the HCMC People's Committee, that the private school has three methods of raising funds.

The first method allows parents to pay a full package of VND4 billion ($160,417) for each child to study there from first to 12th grades. After graduation or when the students switch schools, the money would be refunded.

The second method allows parents to pay VND2 billion for their children to study all the way from first to 12th grade. However, the money would not be refunded.

The third method allows parents to pay for their children's tuition by each year, in accordance with their study progress.

"Around 900 students have had their tuition paid in VND4 billion packages," Hieu said, adding that AISVN has around 1,316 students from kindergarten to 12th grades.

The school made headlines in recent weeks after its teachers went on strike over unpaid salaries and insurance, causing classes to be disrupted.

AISVN, established in 2006, provides curriculums 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 around 130 foreign teachers, 26 Vietnamese teachers and over 100 other employees. Some 85 teachers have stopped working in the past few weeks.

Hieu, citing reports by AISVN, said the school had invested much money into its infrastructure, but low revenues had been putting the school in the red since 2018, and now it has been rendered financially incapable.

Since September last year, teachers' salaries have been delayed. In October, when the education department worked with the school, the school said there would be new investors coming in and helping the school pay the salaries and benefits of teachers.

"The school kept delaying, and by March, over 50% of the teachers had quitted, meaning students could not come to school," Hieu said.

The department has cooperated with AISVN to take surveys from parents last week, and 85% out of 1,000 respondents said they want their children to continue studying at the school.

Nguyen Thi Ut Em, head of the school, on March 30 called for parents to contribute an additional VND125 billion (US$5 million) to pay for teachers’ salaries and allow the school to operate until the end of the school year in June.

Em proposed an extra monthly payment at VND9.5 million for kindergarteners, VND14.5 million for primary school students, VND20.5 million for students at grade 6-8, and VND25.5 million for students at grade 9-12.

Hieu said a joint bank account between the school, the education department and the parents had been created to receive contributions. However, only 612 parents decided to pay the aforementioned amounts of money. By Tuesday afternoon, 542 parents have transferred a total of VND21.7 billion, enough to pay for the salaries of teachers by March.

"Students can return to school starting Thursday. Teachers hope to receive the salaries before they return to teaching. The department has sent personnel to encourage them to teach again," Hieu said, adding that procedures are being done for the teachers to be paid within Tuesday.

Phan Van Mai, chairman of the HCMC People’s Committee, said the foremost priority is to make sure that students can return to school as soon as possible. Sectors then need to cooperate with the school to draw up long-term plans for the school's operation, including the option of restructuring.

Em has been forbidden from leaving the country over personal income tax issues.

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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