The recent annual tuition increase and the online education fee at international schools during the COVID-19 pandemic
24/06/2021

 

Dear Parents,

The recent annual tuition increase and the online education fee at international schools during the Covid-19 pandemic is a major concern for parents. The justification the schools have provided for the tuition fee increases are: (i) investment and improvement in facilities to ensure international standards, (ii) curriculum development to meet international quality standards, (iii) recruitment and training of teachers to ensure high professionalism, as well as other objective reasons.

After careful consideration, we do not find the above reasons convincing.

Regarding the increase in tuition fees

In reality, does the increase in tuition fees relate to the teaching quality or does it simply create even more barriers to our children’s right to education that is protected by Vietnamese law? Although tuition fees are subject to the agreement between school and parents, Vietnamese law mandates that this agreement must reflect the long-term interests of education for all children within Vietnam. There currently exist education and consumer protection agencies in Vietnam which are open to receiving complaints concerning illegal “manipulation”. Nevertheless, there is not yet a “legal culture” in the country that emboldens its citizens to seek legal intervention, and the common phenomenon is that parents psychologically do not want to complain or sue the institution. Instead, any problems are usually handled informally outside of the legal system.

As such, many schools cannot justify the reasons why they have increased tuition fees. Instead, generic excuses are given without providing any specific proof or reasoning. For instance, schools will not publicize documents showing expenses used to improve facilities, develop the curriculum or to meet international standards.

Regarding online education

When organizations and individuals want to do business in education (opening schools and requesting a license from Vietnamese authorities), their goals are to create an acutal community (including teachers, students, and parents) and to establish and upgrade facilities for studying which will develop students’ thinking and characteristics.

The laws of Vietnam, as well as the Vietnamese education and licensing authorities, have no precedent for licensing “online education” as official educational programs. As it exists, “online education” is basically considered a temporary solution to assist students in the timely completion of their school curriculum as they cannot attend regular classes. There should be no reason for schools to increase their tuition fee during this “online” time. This is because students cannot attend classes physically, use any facilities, participate in normal school or community activities, or obtain other educational benefits that “online education” fails to provide. Thus, due to the realities of cost and value, tuition fees must be reduced commensurate to what “online education” can bring to students. Clearly, these schools are chasing profit rather than pursuing their true purpose in educating students.

In addition, as students study ‘online’, parents cannot feel at ease and focus on their work because they have to spend a significant of time monitoring their children at home. When students attend physical school, parents are able to do their own work and have peace of mind as their children are well taken care of and protected by the school. Further, there is no need to spend money hiring nannies or private tutors to assist their children studying at home. Thus, ‘online education’ has necessitated a psychological burden, incurred additional costs, and demanded more of parents’ time. Therefore, schools have not only failed to understand and share these ‘expensive concerns’ with parents, but have also added to the burden by ‘increasing tuition fees’ based upon spurious and educationally questionable reasons (only for the sake of revenue).

During the Covid-19 pandemic, a few overseas schools have already implemented tuition fee reduction policies for students. Other schools have considered financial assistance such as cost of living assistance, student loans, tuition fee waivers or student loan waivers. With the impact of the pandemic, should schools in Vietnam consider the above supportive actions?

Reference: https://www.bestcolleges.com/blog/college-tuition-discounts-rebates-covid-19/

Before schools escalate tuition fees and rates, they should first carefully consider as the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on everyone in the World. This is about not only profits but also is a humanitarian issue.

In essence, parents enroll their children in international schools because they hope to gain access to internationally recognized educational programs so that their kids can become truly global citizens in the future (e.g., to become proficient in English, to learn how to think and behave in a civilized manner, and to act reasonably in a progressive way with a broad social perspective). The manner that the school handles the tuition fees reflects on their educational culture for students. Should parents feel secure and satisfied with the educational quality of the school?

Conclusion

In consideration of the above facts, Vietnamese parents should embrace a culture of filing complaints and lawsuits (e.g. filing complaints with international educational institutions and authorized management agencies of Vietnam or consumer protection agencies; filing lawsuits to authorized Vietnamese courts) in order to protect their legitimate rights and interests and receive fair value for the education they receive.

In Vietnamese culture, there is an old saying that goes “he who sues is disfavored by the gods”. However, this only reflects a distorted view from past centuries. In the US and other developed countries, complaints and lawsuits have become a hallmark of the culture and civilized conduct. Only by regularly utilizing appropriate legal avenues can legitimate and fair rights be established and enforced. We send our children to international schools to learn and acquire good conduct, and the legal culture is one of those positive and progressive features of Western civilizations. Unfortunately, we have not advanced to the point of accepting and implementing this culture to protect our own interests.

Justice Magic

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