Parents stuck in HCMC international school teachers' strike

By Le Nguyen   March 23, 2024 | 05:00 am PT
Parents stuck in HCMC international school teachers' strike
Parents come to the American International School Vietnam (AISVN) to demand their money back after having loaned it to the school, Sept. 21, 2023. Photo provided by parents
Ha paid $600,000 to the American International School Vietnam (AISVN) for her three children's education, but with the school closed on a teachers' strike, she doesn’t know what to do.

Living in HCMC's District 7, Hong Ha invested $400,000 five years ago for her two children's enrollment in AISVN.

As per the contract, this investment was to be refunded upon her children's graduation or transfer, essentially covering tuition costs.

Consequently, three years ago, she committed an additional $200,000 for her third child's education at AISVN.

On March 18, AISVN suspended classes, affecting over 1,200 students, due to a teachers' strike over unpaid salaries and insurance.

Ha's two older children have been studying at the school for four years, while her youngest joined just a month ago.

"This has been a tremendous shock for the family, considering the substantial investment made," Ha said.

To many parents like Ha, the suspension of AISVN operations has not only disrupted their children's education but also leaves them uncertain about the future.

The sudden disruption caused by the strike has left parents scrambling to secure alternative educational opportunities for their children. However, the transition to a new school comes with its own set of challenges.

Hai Anh, parent of an 11th grader, and Phuoc Nguyen, parent of two children in 7th and 10th grade, also find themselves in a similar predicament.

They've invested between VND2.5-5 billion ($55,932-111,864) in AISVN.

Hai Anh mentioned that although she had reached out to other international schools in HCMC offering the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, she hasn't made a decision yet.

An expert with several years of experience managing international schools in HCMC noted that the IB program is widely recognized for admission into universities worldwide. However, switching schools mid-year presents challenges as the new school must offer the same subjects at equivalent levels as the previous school.

Moreover, given the rigorous nature of the IB program, transitioning between schools during the academic year can be particularly arduous, posing a significant disadvantage for 11th and 12th graders. The principal of another international school also cautioned that students might need to retake certain subjects if they switch schools.

Despite HCMC boasting around 35 international schools, only seven offer the IB program. Even if Hai manages to transfer her children to another school, she anticipates a financial burden, with tuition fees ranging from VND500-900 million annually.

Thu Thuy, the parent of a 7th grader, said she had reached out to a reputable public school in District 7. However, she was informed that the school doesn't accept mid-year transfers.

An official from the education department highlighted the complex regulations regarding transitions from a foreign to a Vietnamese program. The new school must evaluate the student's curriculum to ensure compatibility, as certain subjects are exclusive to each program.

Parents are also anxious about losing the money they've already invested in AISVN.

Nguyen Thi Ut Em, head of AISVN, admitted uncertainty about the total amount invested, suggesting that only the accountant would have such information.

Last September, several individuals gathered at the school demanding refunds for payments made, with no resolution yet.

Le Thuy My Chau, vice director of the HCMC Department of Education and Training, mentioned AISVN's plans to secure investment funds for restructuring within a week.

Hai Anh, along with approximately 160 others, aims to engage directly with the school board, offering additional funds to sustain operations until the end of the year.

Amid the ongoing turmoil, parents are divided in their approach.

Some, like Hai Anh, advocate for maintaining stability and allowing their children to finish the school year at AISVN.

Others, like Phuoc Nguyen and Hong Ha, are actively seeking alternative solutions.

Hong Ha is determined to switch schools, prioritizing her children's education. She believes that addressing the financial aspect at AISVN can be postponed.

"With only two months left in the school year, I must transition to another international school so my children can complete their program. Any further delay could result in them repeating a year."

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