As South East Asia continues its rise to prominence new nations provide both destinations and sources for students looking to study globally. Vietnam is one such country whose rapid development is leading to a vastly increased interest in domestic students who want the opportunity to study overseas.
The country is already sending over 120,000 Vietnamese students abroad and numbers show no signs of slowing. Popular destinations included the US, Australia, Japan, Singapore and China who alone accounted for over two thirds of the Vietnamese studying abroad. This growth is being heavily driven by improvements and rising incomes amongst Vietnamese families who, as they become more affluent, are increasingly interested in investing in their children’s education.
Despite these developments there are significant challenges to overcome. Vietnam still remains a one party communist state and, in many ways, has not entirely recovered from the war. Of perhaps the most immediate concern for educators interested in getting involved in the Vietnamese market is the underdeveloped financial sector.
Vietnam remains, for the most part, a cash economy, with most transactions being carried out in hard currency and savings tending to be kept at home rather than in a bank. While this is changing overtime as the country develops to meet the standards of its neighbours this is of particular concern for foreign educators where the matter of visa applications is required. Many countries requires that a visa applicant have a certain amount of money in their bank account prior to granting visas which, given the preference for many families not to keep their money in banks can cause difficulties.
Aware of the problems inherent in a cash economy the Vietnamese Government has been taking steps to address these issues. Partly, work to grow the economy is naturally encouraging more individuals to use banks and other financial services once they come to realize the benefits. However in some sectors, the Government has explicitly legislated to require that transaction be done via non-cash means. For example, private lending and securities transfers).
Government intervention is also reaching out to agents that work in the education sector with various legal requirements that effectively force Agents to operate within the growing financial sector. Known as Decision No. 05/2013/QD-TTg (“Regulation on Overseas Study of Vietnamese Citizens”), Agents working on behalf of overseas institutions are required to:
- Hold sufficient financial reserves to protect the business in case of risk, determined as making a deposit of VND500 Million in a commercial bank. (Equivalent to $23,000).
- Must be legally established inside of Vietnam and possess the appropriate facilities and equipment to carry out consulting services for students and educators.
- All staff directly involved in dealing with students must themselves hold degrees, be fluent in at least one foreign language and have completed a professional training course with the Ministry of Education and Training. This requirement extends to the owner of the business as well.
This is a huge step up in requirements for agencies who previously operate under much looser guidelines. However, as a result of several scandals, a demand for greater scrutiny of these businesses has prompted the government to intervene with the new requirements. While it may increase the cost of doing business in Vietnam slightly it is nevertheless excellent news for students and foreign educators alike who can interact with greater confidence in the system.
As part of the efforts to ensure greater transparency amongst agents, Vietnam’s ministry of training and Education is in the process of certifying agents. The actual certification is left to regional government bodies known as Departments of Education and Training (DoETs) who are responsible for publishing the list. That said, not all DoET’s are currently publishing lists, but this is expected to change due to increasing pressure from students and their families as well as the government.
Nevertheless it isn’t all good news especially for smaller agents. Many will be effectively forced out of business due to being unable to comply with the requirements by the government. In particular the VND 500 million is simply out of the reach of small companies. Bigger does not necessarily mean better and just because a company has the financial resources to comply with government legislation it does not automatically follow that those Agents that remain will be the best for a particular institution’s needs.
For all this however, the growing interest in foreign education from young Vietnamese combined with active attempts by the Government to build a transparent, safe system to facilitate it mean that Vietnam is increasingly a country to watch and potentially recruit from within the region.
Subscribe To The ASIC Newsletter
Join the ASIC mailing list and keep up to date with all the latest education and accreditation news and updates from the ASIC team.