Despite the fact that Vietnam is a developing country, it boasts a very good standard of education and a literacy rate of over 90 percent.

However, outside the main cities, schools tend to be under-resourced and poorly staffed. That said, because expats are entitled to use the public schooling system, many do take up this option, especially in the urban centres, because it offers a huge saving in comparison to the high costs associated with international schools.

For those that can afford it, Vietnam offers plenty of choice in terms of international schooling. There has been a growth in the number of international schools in the country in response to the demands of the growing expat population.

Foreign nationals legally living and working in Vietnam have the right to send their children to Vietnamese public schools. While this offers an excellent opportunity for children to assimilate culturally by mixing with local students, there are also certain difficulties that are worth bearing in mind.

Firstly, many expat students will find the teaching methods employed at Vietnam’s public schools quite alien: students are expected to study quietly and passively, which contradicts the more innovative learning methods and active class discussions encouraged in Western cultures.

However, the situation is slowly changing with a small number of schools in Ho Chi Minh City making a break from traditional Vietnamese methods of teaching and offering a more dynamic learning environment based on critical thinking. These more modern public schools tend to have very long waiting lists.

International schools in Vietnam are a fairly new phenomenon – the oldest international school in the country was established less than 30 years ago – but over the past few decades many new international schools have emerged to fill a gap in the market and cater for the country’s rapidly growing expat population.

The top international schools tend to employ native English speakers or those who have trained in the country that the particular school is affiliated with. A major draw of these institutions is that they follow the curriculum of a particular country or an internationally recognised programme such as the International Baccalaureate (IB).

The most popular international schools in Vietnam tend to be oversubscribed and there are long waiting lists, so it's best to make applications as soon as possible. Luckily, most international schools in Vietnam accept applications throughout the school to accommodate for the transient nature of the country’s expat population.

Admission requirements at international schools in Vietnam vary. Some have entrance exams that test potential students for their proficiency in Maths and English. In other cases, students and their parents may be required to attend an interview.

The major downside to international schools in Vietnam are the financial implications. Fees are high, with additional fees charged for services such as bus transport, cafeteria lunches, uniforms, extra-curricular activities and field trips.  Expats who choose to have their child attend an international school in Vietnam should therefore make adequate provisions by negotiating an allowance for school fees into their expat employment contract.