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When parents homeschool their children in Vietnam



Homeschooling is no longer a strange concept in Vietnam, but the COVID-19 pandemic has turned many Vietnamese parents into homeschoolers.

The largest Facebook page for homeschooling attracts nearly 70,000 followers.

Study road map

After having dinner, at 7:00 pm, Pham Thi Diem, an office worker living in District 12, Ho Chi Minh City, and her nine-year-old son start studying online.

The two study with friends and foreign teachers in a homeschooling program licensed in the United States.

Up to now, Diem’s son has been ‘living in Vietnam, studying [math and English pronunciation] in the United States’ for more than six months.

For two hours in class, Diem is her son’s classmate. When the teacher is giving lessons, she also writes them down.

In speaking, the two read the words in chorus and then answer questions and do exercises together.

“It takes a lot of work for my son to study like today,” Diem recalled her son’s early days of studying the American program on his own.

Her son was not into studying. After turning on his computer and listening to the lesson, he started to yawn. She had to sit next to him to encourage him.

Later, she came up with the idea of studying together to get her son involved more and measure his progress at the same time.

She was in charge of English while her husband undertook Chinese teaching. They arranged alternately, one day for the American program and one day for Chinese.

Diem said that she does not really trust some foreign language centers due to incorrect teaching and pronunciation.

“Besides, with the same amount of money to study at the centers, why not let your child learn the original program of the native country?” she said.

Truong Hoang Minh, who lives in Thu Duc City under Ho Chi Minh City, provided her two children with full-time homeschooling based on a road map she has created for the next two years.

She thinks that early every morning is the time that her children will gain the most knowledge. Thus, she lets them study math and science.

In the early afternoon, they learn art and music, followed by basketball and swimming lessons at the end of the day.

From just teaching her children, she gathered a group of about seven students to have fun while studying. All of them are homeschoolers in Thu Duc City.

Every day, they will be in harmony with nature, while connecting with each other to help make up for the lack of communication in the process of online learning and to train their ability to work in groups as well.

Vuong, a freelancer in Ho Chi Minh City, has a son who is a second grader at Hong Ha Elementary-Secondary School in Binh Thanh District.

Since January 2021, he has let his son study the American homeschooling program in the evenings with the average of two hours per session.

There are 10 students from different regions in each class. Each period involves checking previous lessons, teaching new knowledge, and doing quizzes and extra exercises.

As for practice, the school also gives students software to experience 3D experimental space.

“There is an online library for students to find and read books if they want,” said Vuong.

Cases in need of homeschooling

According to education expert Bui Khanh Nguyen, homeschooling is often suitable for children who are able to learn independently.

The tuition fee for an online school is about VND250 million (US$10,560) per year, while international programs at private schools in Ho Chi Minh City cost about VND600-800 million ($25,360-33,815) a year.

Dr. Nguyen Thi Thu Huyen said that homeschooling should be more accepted in Vietnam.

A supplied photo shows students attending one of homeschooling activities held by Hoang Minh’s group.

A supplied photo shows students attending one of the homeschooling activities held by Hoang Minh’s group.

In addition to giving parents more options, it can help children with special needs.

Many children are slow on the uptake, making life tough for them to keep up with their peers in public schools in the first few years.

If homeschooling is available, parents may get their children homeschooling in grades one and two for the first three to four years.

After their knowledge and skills improve, students can transfer to public schools.

COVID-19 behind homeschooling spike

Education expert Bui Khanh Nguyen told Tuoi Tre (Youth) Weekly that his son left a public school and is attending a full-time homeschooling program.

His son, in grade eight, is studying an American program launched by an ‘online school’ with global enrollment.

The schedule is from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm with separate homeroom teachers. On the test-taking day, students do the test online, while the school will send their exam papers to independent units for marking. 

As for British programs, students can take the test at the British Council as private candidates.

“The homeschooling community in Vietnam has expanded to about 10,000 children. Most parents supply their children with both foreign and Vietnamese programs simultaneously,” Nguyen said.

Pham Hieu Thi, a Dong Nai resident and an administrator of many homeschooling parent groups on social networks, saw a sharp increase in the number of group members after COVID-19.

Some groups reported a two- or three-fold rise in the number of members and posts compared to the pre-pandemic period.

Thi has allowed her ninth-grade child to join full-time homeschooling for two years after four years of ‘part-time’ homeschooling, meaning attending school but studying online at home.

She lets her child study both Abeka and Acellus homeschooling programs which are reputable in the United States.

Yet she realizes that they lack reading comprehension of literary works, so she adds foreign literature lessons.

She also spends time taking her child to sharing and discussing courses held in Ho Chi Minh City.

Knowing that her child is interested in agriculture, she allows him to visit the cyclical organic farms of young people. 

Should homeschooling be recognized?

Dr. Nguyen Thi Thu Huyen at the University of East Anglia in the UK stated that in developed countries, homeschooling is credited as an alternative educational program, but it does not mean that parents can teach at will.

Enjoying compulsory general education is the right of children. Therefore, families who do not want to send their children to a formal school will have to explain it to them or be committed to using another method of education.

If homeschooling is chosen, parents are required to report their situations to local and welfare management organizations for verification.

After years of working in education in Vietnam, Dr. Huyen noticed that more and more parents are contacting her for advice on full-time homeschooling.

Their backgrounds are diverse but mostly belong to a few main groups.

The first group involves parents who studied abroad or are fluent in English, so they are quite confident letting their children study at home.

Most of them have active financial resources, are not working full-time, and can closely follow their children’s studying.

This group decides from the beginning that their children will not return to a public school.

When necessary, they will send their children abroad to continue their learning. This group is currently not large.

The second group consists of those who choose homeschooling to follow the trend. There is an increasing tendency in this sector. Parents in this group are well-off in terms of finance and time.

However, they do not possess education expertise. They create a teaching program by being introduced or self-evaluating lessons that they think are good for their children.

If parents fail to homeschool their children by themselves, they will look for a tutor while they make them ‘an editor’ of the learning program, Huyen said.

The third group includes the parents who bring their children to small groups of 10 or more, called ‘a school,’ but it operates as a skill education center.

Most schools are far from urban areas, partly to avoid the inspection of education management units.

These schools apply the Steiner method, which means students can play, paint, learn music, English and interact with nature. However, these programs are feeling-driven and not considered formal.

The former vice-principal of an international school in District 7, Ho Chi Minh City said that she had met up with three parents who sent their children to a Steiner school at an early age and wanted to transfer back to a regular school.

When taking entrance exams, these students disappointed their parents.

Their foreign language ability was not as good as their peers and even worse, they lacked many skills and knowledge.

They were great at imagination and creativity, but they lacked subject knowledge compared to their counterparts.

She added that many international schools are often quite cautious when accepting homeschooled children now, especially from the secondary level.

Parents frequently brag that their children are progressing very quickly; however, to experts, many of them are not up to the standard.

In other words, the success of homeschooling is usually heavily subjective on the part of parents.

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Daily challenges for a visually impaired teacher in Vietnam



More than twenty years ago, Le Hong Vu Minh was a blind student. Today he is an English teacher at the school where he once studied, Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for the Blind in Ho Chi Minh City, but many challenges Minh has faced are quite different.

One day in the past, at the age of ten, Minh found that his eyesight was gradually deteriorating until he could no longer see.

His parents sent him to Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for the Blind in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City to learn useful skills for the blind while trying to find treatment.

Despite their efforts, the exact cause of Minh’s blindness has not been determined to this day.

The decision to give back

“As for me, I may be even luckier, because tragedy struck when I was a child,” Minh recalled.

“At that time, I was too young to know how terrible blindness would be, so I was not too shocked.”

At Nguyen Dinh Chieu School, Minh had the opportunity to meet friends who were going through the same thing, which made him feel very compassionate. 

“I was so busy with many things, including finding treatment for the disease and learning life skills for the blind, that I did not have time to feel sad,” Minh said.

Over time, the boy who suddenly went blind has grown up step by step, with the love of his parents, the naivety of his childhood, and the strength of his will in his later years.

After attending Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for the Blind for two years, Minh returned to regular school to study with classmates with normal sight.

At the same time, he still attended classes in survival skills at the special school.

In those days, Minh encountered numerous subjects that were ‘not for’ the visually impaired, such as three-dimensional geometry, one that required him to imagine what they were in his head and to even ‘draw’ graphs in his mind.

Despite these challenges, he gradually completed all levels of general education and graduated from the Faculty of English Linguistics and Literature at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities under the Vietnam National University-Ho Chi Minh City.

He later won a scholarship to study for a master’s degree in special education in Australia.

“Actually, I did not want to be a teacher at first, so I worked in a company after I finished my bachelor’s degree. I still kept in touch with the teachers at Nguyen Dinh Chieu School and helped them when I could,” Minh said.

“One day I knew my old high school needed an English teacher and felt the job seemed to fit me, so I came back,” teacher Minh told of a turning point in his life when he became a teacher at Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for the Blind in 2011.

His decision may come as no surprise, as the old high school has always been a family to him and others.

Teacher Le Hong Vu Minh has been blind since he was ten years old, but he has tried to overcome his fate to become an excellent English teacher at Nguyen Dinh Chieu Special School. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre

Teacher Le Hong Vu Minh has been blind since he was ten years old, but he has tried to overcome his fate to become an excellent English teacher at Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for the Blind in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre

Knowing that there is no faculty that trains pedagogical methods only for the blind, Minh decided to study at two faculties at the same time in Australia, the Faculty of Education for the Blind and the Faculty of English Teaching, hoping to help students the most.

Minh has tried to learn English before, when there was no Internet. So, he knows how difficult it is for learners to find ways to learn foreign languages.

As a result, he is aware of the many advantages available to today’s learners thanks to innovative technological achievements.

Minh has focused on finding the best teaching methods that combine both traditional and innovative approaches to teaching English to his visually impaired students.

“When I was a student, there was only Braille, now there are more tools like computers, audiobooks, and the Internet to help students learn,” said Minh.

“I especially admire teacher Minh,” said Nguyen Thi Thanh Hue, principal of Nguyen Dinh Chieu School.

“As a normal person with healthy eyes, I find it exceedingly difficult to learn English.

“In contrast, he knows English very well and has effective methods to help blind students learn the foreign language comfortably and normally like sighted students do.”

Challenges for educational integration

Minh is not only an English teacher, but also responsible for helping the visually impaired students to participate in classes in a normal school together with healthy classmates, as per Vietnam’s policy to encourage the blind to mingle with those with normal sight. 

He helps the students find solutions to the problems they may have in class. While playing this role, Minh acts like a brother to the students, according to Hue.

“Students often turn to me to ask about the problems they have attending regular school,” Minh said.

“There is a student who had difficulty learning because the teachers only write on the blackboard and he could not see anything, while some others were discriminated against in some cases.”

In line with the government’s policy in recent years to help the blind integrate into the ordinary education system, the visually impaired have the opportunity to attend a school near their home when they reach the appropriate age.

Although the policy is humane and appropriate, its implementation faces many obstacles.

“Some schools are reluctant to accept blind students because they are not confident in teaching them with the specially required skills. We have tried to help schools overcome these difficulties,” Minh said.

He was incredibly pleased with the positive feedback from teachers in these schools, who said that it was no longer a challenge for them to teach visually impaired students after they had acquired the necessary skills.

When Minh told your correspondent about the positive feedback that he received from the teachers at Nguyen Dinh Chieu School, his face brims with joy.

During the three months of summer, Minh and many other teachers at Nguyen Dinh Chieu School did not have a single day off. They had to rush to prepare the new English textbooks in Braille for use in 6th grade in the 2022-23 school year.

Since there are three English books that schools can choose to teach, and the official decision on which books to teach was announced late, the ‘translation’ of these books into Braille is not yet complete.

Currently, Minh and two other teachers have to continue the remaining work.

“One of the biggest challenges for us in converting English textbooks into Braille is that there are so many pictures,” said Minh, explaining the process of creating a Braille textbook.

“We have to decide which photos to keep or remove as long as that does not have a negative impact on the amount of knowledge in the books.”

Teacher Le Hong Vu Minh teaches English to a class at Nguyen Dinh Chieu Special School. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre

Le Hong Vu Minh teaches English to a class at Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for the Blind in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre

Trying to protect students from the ‘negative impact’ of the Internet

Among the various challenges, Le Ho Vu Minh is most concerned about the negative impact of the Internet on his blind students, although information technology has helped them a lot.

According to him, before the Internet era, the blind spent so much time playing music.

There were many music talents that came out of the visually impaired community.

Nowadays, however, many of them spend their time not only studying and living, but also surfing websites or social media.

Therefore, the number of blind people who have a special talent for music has remarkably decreased, which can be observed by some music teachers at Nguyen Dinh Chieu school.

“I often tell my students that as blind people, we always need much more time to do the same work than normal people,” Minh said.

“In other words, we have to try harder to do everything in life, so we had better not waste time on worthless things on the Internet.

“But it’s not that simple. We are really trying to fight to protect our students from the bad temptations of the Internet.”

Truong Viet Toan, a schoolmate of Le Hong Vu Minh at university, said his friend is an excellent example of strong will and perseverance.

In their years at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Minh left his friends with the impression of a person with a good sense of humor who always sees the positive.

“He can take care of himself in everyday life, except when he has to ask others to guide him to school,” Toan said.

“But he is incredibly good at remembering the roads. Sometimes I drive him somewhere and he navigates my way.”

According to Toan, Minh is an excellent English teacher who has mastered the four skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

He is also enthusiastic about after-school activities, so others sometimes forget that he is blind.

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Vietnamese students make fifth largest group of foreign students in US



Vietnamese students constitute the fifth largest group of foreign students in the U.S. for the academic year of 2021/2022, the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi cited the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) annual Open Doors report.

Despite a 4.2 percent decrease in the number of students from 21,631 in 2020-21 to 20,713 in 2021-22, the position was up from sixth last year.

When assessed on a basis of overall economy size and measured through GDP output, the data indicates that Vietnam now sends more students to the U.S. than any other country, the U.S. Embassy said in a press release on Friday.

Vietnamese students also continue to demonstrate a strong footing in strategically important subjects across U.S. institutions such as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and business/management studies. 

The percentage of Vietnamese students pursuing STEM and business/management majors are 47.1 percent and 25.6 percent respectively.

A screenshot from 2022 Open Doors reports shows the numbers of Vietnamese students studying in the U.S. over the years.

A screenshot from the 2022 Open Doors report shows the number of Vietnamese students studying in the U.S. over the years.

“As the United States approaches the tenth Anniversary of the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership, the Open Doors data is demonstrable proof that education remains a cornerstone of the bilateral relationship, while the nature of our current educational cooperation is already strategic,” Genevieve Judson-Jourdain, U.S. Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer, was quoted as saying in the press release on Friday.

According to the U.S. Embassy, the U.S. Mission to Vietnam is committed to deepening the two countries’ education cooperation through enhanced linkages and dual programs between American and Vietnamese institutions, facilitating joint research, and increasing opportunities for Vietnamese and American students, faculty, administrators, and staff to have meaningful exchanges.

Over 948,000 international students from more than 200 places of origin studied at U.S. higher education institutions during the 2021-22 academic year, a four-percent rise compared to the previous academic year, the 2022 Open Doors report showed.

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British Council allowed to resume IELTS exam in Vietnam



The British Council received the permission from the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training to resume IELTS exam on Friday, one day after IDP Education was granted the same approval.

The approval allows the British Council to cooperate with Dong A Education Tech Ltd., ODIN Education JSC and University Access Centre Vietnam Ltd. to organize the tests.

Hanoi, Hai Phong City, north-central Nghe An Province, central Thua Thien-Hue Province, and Ho Chi Minh City are the British Council’s five licensed exam venues.

The mentioned companies have to inform People’s Committees at provincial and municipal levels about exam schedules at least five days in advance and are required to submit reports on their operations every six months, before June 25 and December 25, to the education ministry.

The British Council and IDP Education are the only two IELTS test organizers in Vietnam.

The education ministry issued a similar decision to permit IDP Education to resume the test on Thursday.

Last week, both the British Council and IDP announced the temporary postponement of all tests until further notice.

The reason for the suspension was that test organizers had not completed their legal dossiers as per the regulations.

The two IELTS test organizers just submitted the required document to the education ministry earlier this week.

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