Top Tips & List of Secondary Schools in HCMC
For anyone who has arrived recently in Ho Chi Minh City, the task of selecting a secondary/ high school for their children to attend is something of a challenge. Firstly, there are a number of excellent institutions to choose from. Secondly, each school tends to be presented in a similar way with ‘international standards’ ‘compassionate and inspirational’ teachers and ‘world class, modern facilities’ being very much the norm.
Then, if you have one eye on college applications, many schools offer International Baccalaureate programmes which are generally considered to be the most generally accepted international qualifications. If your child is not quite at the applying for college level, then Cambridge programmes or American Common Core programmes are also frequently available. All of which is excellent news for the student, but doesn’t really help with decision making.
So, how do you decide which school is best for your child. After years of living in Ho Chi Minh City, our advice will tend to lean closer to common sense than anything more statistical or evidence based.
Word of mouth
Much more valuable than the glossy brochures and flashy websites, getting an opinion first hand from those who have experienced the school is often an invaluable starting point. Asking neighbours, colleagues or members of social media networking groups can give you an insight into what is really going on in the school. If you can’t find any parents with a bad word to say about a school, that’s a great sign. Obviously, if the result is the reverse and you can’t find anyone with a good word to say, it might be worth seeking an alternative.
The wide network of teachers in Saigon is also a good source of information as teachers definitely share their experiences with each other, and those that have been here for a year or two may have worked at more than one school. Luckily, many of Saigon’s secondary schools have excellent reputations and credentials to back it up, so you’re unlikely to hear any horror stories. But the difference between hearing about an excellent parent /faculty communication system and hearing about difficulties in getting facetime with a child’s teacher, could be the difference between a memorable school experience, and one you want to forget.
Visit the school
If you’ve got a long ‘shortlist’ of schools to check out, this might seem like a time- consuming task, but there really is no substitute for actually going onto the campus and getting a sense of the atmosphere at the school you are considering, However, our advice is to try and get a sense of what the school is really like, rather than how effective the sales and marketing team are!
Most schools in Ho Chi Minh City will offer open days or, in some cases, community events (Christmas Fetes etc) where you can take the chance to visit the school in a less formal situation. Try to speak to parents and students when you attend so that you get a ‘real’ response to your questions. In our experience, students are generally willing to talk openly about their experiences, most of which are very positive. They also tend to be very honest so if they think the sports facilities at the friends’ school are better, they’ll most likely tell you. And if your child is a sports fan, this may be a good way to whittle down that ‘long list’.
When you visit the school, make sure that you also visit the classrooms, not just the admissions office. You will generally be able to tell how much effort and enjoyment has gone into decorating a study space. Find a room that makes you feel happy and encouraged, and you’re likely to find a school that will encourage your child too!
Find your fit
Visiting a school will also give you an insight into what your relationship with the school may be like. If your visit is strictly timetabled, with an endless series of Powerpoint presentations it may be a sign that the school will continue to be regimented once your child is enrolled. If you experience a relaxed evening, with a chance to chat to students and teachers, and explore the campus in your own time, it is much more likely that the school is willing to communicate openly, with both parents and students. Choose the school that offers the type of relationship you prefer.
With more and more scrutiny being placed on international schools and tuition fees on the increase, the truth is, many of Ho Chi Minh City’s international schools offer a very high standard of education. The overwhelming majority of schools work very hard to provide your child with every chance to fulfil their potential, and many of them offer a variety of extra-curricular activities, enrichment classes and facilities that compete with premium educational institutions across the world.
Overall, our advice is to do the groundwork, find a school that you and your child likes the look of and then trust the staff to do what they are trained to do. Allow your child the opportunity to find what inspires them and success will likely follow.
Listed below is a selection of some of Ho Chi Minh City’s top international secondary schools. For the latest information for 2021, please continue reading.
Budget: A non refundable application fee of VND 4,500,000 is payable at the time of application. Annual fees for secondary students range between VND 577,000,000 and VND 699,000,000 annually. Click here for full details.
Languages: English instruction.
Curriculum: IB, IGCSE and IB Diploma Program.
Uniform: The school has a variety of uniform options all based around the school colours of blue and white.
Unique feature: AIS offers an extensive range of facilities over the school’s three world-class campuses, with each of its classrooms and learning environments being spacious, well-resourced, and technologically rich. With an excellent reputation in HCMC, AIS students have been accepted to universities around the world, including Duke, Georgetown, Oxford, Queen Mary and Warwick; the universities of British Columbia and Toronto in Canada; Keio, Waseda and Sophia in Japan; and Seoul National University, Hanyang, Yonsei and SungKyunKwan in South Korea.
Budget: An admission fee of VND 50,000,000 is required for all secondary applications. Annual school fees start at VND 688,900,000 for Grade 6, rising to VND 821,900,000 in Grade 12. For full details of fees and repayment schedules click here.
Languages: English instruction.
Curriculum: IB curriculum.
Uniform: The school uniform is a blue sweater and whote polo shirt featuring the school logo.
Unique feature: ISHCMC is the first and most established school in the city. They consistently achieve high IB results that score well above the IB World Average. The distinguishing characteristic of the IB DP at ISHCMC is a focus on the whole educational experience of each student. The curriculum framework and its supporting structures and principles are designed to ensure that each student is exposed to a broad and balanced curriculum.
Budget: Administration fee of VND 4,500,000 per student, acceptance fee of around VND 40,000,000 in grades 6 to 10 and VND 32,000,000 for Grades 11 and 12. Tuition fees start at VND 525,000,000 for Grade 6 and range up to VND 632,000,000 in Grade 12. Tuition can be paid in up to 10 installments. The school has a partnership with a few banks which allow 0% interest rate by credit card payment. For more information please see this fee page.
Languages: English instruction. Additional languages: German, French, Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese.
Curriculum:International Baccalaureate (IB) Continuum.
Uniform: The school uniform is a white polo shirt with orange details and school logo.
Unique feature: European International School offers a rich variety of extracurricular activities that allows students to engage in athletic, cultural and artistic activities in a relaxed and fun atmosphere. IB Diploma Class of 2020 achieved a 100% pass rate, with the average point score of 35, which is 17% higher than the world average score. In addition, almost half of EIS graduates were offered university scholarships.
Budget: A non refundable application fee of VND 4,000,000 applies to each student when an application is made. A further one time registration fee of VND 49,700,000 is payable when a place is the primary school is accepted. Annual tuition fees for secondary students start at VND 591,830,000. Please click here for more information.
Languages: English Instruction. Mother tongue tuition in Vietnamese and Korean. French and Chinese as additional languages.
Curriculum: English National Curriculum (see website for specifics), IGCSE and IBDP.
Uniform: School Uniform is required for all students but varies depending on age. For full details click here.
Unique feature: Renaissance International School Saigon has an impressive range of accreditations including CIS, FOBISIA and Round Square. Recent graduates have been accepted to a variety of prestigious universities around the world, including King’s College London, the University of Leeds, University of Loughborough, North Eastern University, Savannah College of Art and Design, University of San Francisco, University of Arizona State, University of Hong Kong, Chinese University of Hong Kong, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Polytechnic, Ritsumeikan University, Korea University, Yonsei University and University of Seoul.
Budget: A non refundable application fee of VND 4,500,000 for all secondary students is required as are security deposit fees, however the cost varies depending on which programme you enrol in. Annual fees for the International programme start at VND 499,230,000, in grade 6 whilst fees for the bilingual programme are significantly lower. For full details visit this page.
Languages: English instruction. Some classes in Vietnamese.
Curriculum: VFIS offers two different programmes, ‘International’ and ‘Bi-Lingual’. Both embrace a Finnish philosophy in early years but the ‘International’ programme develops to follow the IB approach when the student is older.
Uniform: School uniform is either a blue or white polo shirt featuring the school logo.
Unique feature: VFIS is the first International School in Vietnam to be established under a Vietnamese state university (Ton Duc Thang University). It is also the only school in the country to follow the philosophy of ‘Education Finland’, a programme operating under the guidance of the Finnish National Agency for Education.
Budget: An admission fee of VND 25,000,000 is required for all secondary school applications. Annual school fees for the bilingual programme start at VND 215,590,000 for secondary students. Visit the fees page for full details.
Languages: English and Vietnamese
Curriculum: Bilingual Program: Horizon International Bilingual School is the first school to introduce and apply the Bilingual Programme in Vietnam. The bilingual curriculum practices are carried out according to Vietnam’s Education law requirements. The aim of the Bilingual Programme is to nurture Vietnamese students according to the National Curriculum. The international programme follows a Cambridge International Curriculum up to year 13.
Unique feature: HIBS has two rather unique features to consider. Firstly, it is recognised as being the oldest Bilingual school in Vietnam having opened in 2005. Second, it prioritises a modern approach to lesson delivery, utilising i-pads and a variety of apps to deliver lesson content. Maths and Science are areas of particular success to the school
Budget: Expect to pay a non refundable application Fee of VND3,500,000 and a one-off Registration fee of VND 70,800,000 per child for Secondary school children when accepting a place. Annual fees start at VND 637,900,000 (can be paid in instalments) from Year 7 and range to VND 730,800,000 in Year 13. See this Fee Sheet for more information.
Languages: English instruction, Vietnamese as an extracurricular club. Plus French, Spanish and Mandarin.
Curriculum: IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education), IBDP (International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme), International Primary Curriculum. Co-education.
Uniform: The school uniform is a white shirt or maroon polo with neutral coloured trousers or skirt.
Unique feature: Firmly established as the international school of choice in Ho Chi Minh City, the British International School is a selective, independent and co-educational day school that provides a diverse international education measured by British standards. Their academic programmes, exceptional teaching staff, and personalised approach to learning has fostered a strong reputation for delivering world class results. Additionally, through their connection to the NAE family of schools, students of BIS HCMC are able to access unique, life changing opportunities with world leading institutions such as Juilliard, MIT, and UNICEF. The school has excellent specialist facilities including gymnasiums, music suites, theatre and auditoriums and other specific spaces for art, dance and design.
So there you have it, a relatively short, but exceptional, ‘short list’ of the top International Secondary Schools in Ho Chi Minh City. City PassGuide: Education will continue to visit international schools throughout 2021 to ensure the information listed here is up to date and as reliable as possible. For updates on all things education, sign up to our E-News letter here.