A couple of days ago VietnamNet ran this article on the different levels of International Schools in Saigon.
There is always debate and comment bandied around by expats and some locals about what constitutes a “real” International School, and the latest edition of Asia Life magazine ran an article advising foreign parents what to look for when choosing one.
Vietnam is a country full of opportunistic business-people with little shame when it comes to over-stating what they do. False advertising, inflated claims, and sometimes downright lies are used to try to make money. Sadly, too many businesses in Vietnam are yet to understand that honesty, great customer service and quality business practices are the keys to success, not lies, deception and disregarding the needs of their customers.
Doing it right
My parents left the teaching profession after many years of service to start an automobile accessories franchise called Autobarn. With no experience in the automotive industry, but with hard work, ethical values and adhering to good business practices, they built a very successful business resulting in personal satisfaction and formal recognition within the business community.
On a personal level, unrelated to education services, I am constantly dismayed that so many small traders I’ve used here are disinterested in offering so much as a warm smile or even making a sale. They seem to think they are better than their customers, and I have no idea how repeat business works in these cases.
Back to the topic
Of interest in the news item linked to this post is that my school VAS (Vietnam-Australia International High School) is represented. VAS is one of 30 schools in Saigon that can be categorised as International – using four levels of measurement. According to the article, there are 100’s of unqualified schools declaring themselves International. Why? Probably in the hope of picking up desperate English learners or parents with more money than brains.
VAS is included in the second of the four levels, cooperating with the Education Department of Western Australia, overseen by the Hanoi Education and Training Department. We don’t, however teach the Australian curriculum. Again, according to the article, only one school here teaches an international curriculum. I’m not sure that’s true.
When graduating from VAS, students receive two certificates. One is the Vietnamese certificate all high school students are working toward, granted by the Ministry of Education and Training, and the other is from the Education Department of Western Australia.
Each year that I’ve worked in VAS I’ve seen improvements in methodology and administrative procedures, in keeping with a developing, professional business. In a country where the concept of adopting international standards is not openly embraced, this is positive and encouraging activity. Hopefully as time marches on, our curriculum and reputation will continue to mature, and dedicated, foreign career teachers (like me!) will find more freedom to teach relevant, modern material which genuinely prepares students for life in a technological, communication-heavy, teamwork and project-based, English-speaking workplace.
For the record, and to keep a balanced view, I keep up with what’s happening in ICT (Information Communication Technology) teaching in the UK and US (I am not aware of any online activity specifically addressing this in Australia). There is a lot of discussion and sharing of ideas among teachers within this discipline, in order to teach students what they need the most post-High School. However, from what I can gather, it seems the formal ICT curriculum is rather old-fashioned, not yet adapting to the fast-paced connected world in which we live. So, expecting Vietnam to lead the way in this field is rather naive, and I am simply happy to be given an opportunity to provide kids with an advantage over their peers in this field.