Brakes needed for foreign schools

November 26, 2012 | 10:00
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Lax state management is allowing some foreign-backed education entrepreneurs to cheat Vietnamese students.

Ho Chi Minh City’s Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs early last week issued Decision 11696/QD-LDTBXH-DN announcing that it  permanently revoked the licence of Singaporean-backed Melior Vietnam Company, which manages Melior Business School (MBS), because this company had “taken unfair advantage of the vocational training certificate to advertise, recruit and provide training courses on business administration, and hotel and tourism administration at college and university levels for profits.”

MBS was granted an investment certificate in July, 2009 and a vocational training licence in March, 2010 to provide only primary vocational training courses in Vietnam.

However, MBS then advertised that it would provide college and university training services. As a result, many students applied to the services, at an average cost of $10,500 for a 15-month course, excluding another $4,500 for studying five English training courses.

The story turned sour on the night of November 10 as MBS suddenly closed its door with Melior’s general director Cheng Sim Kok reported to have suddenly disappeared without any trace, absconding with the cash paid in advance by students.

After the scandal, the municipal Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs sent a document to the municipal People’s Committee asking it to block MBS’s bank accounts and prevent Kok from leaving Vietnam. However, no MBS assets were left and Kok was reported to have left Vietnam in September, 2012.

Notably, before the scandal, the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) in May 2012, fined MBS and prohibited it from advertising about its university and college training services. Nevertheless in September, 2012, MoET inspectors found out that MSP had been repeating its illegal activity.

Then in October, 2012, the inspectors fined MBS for a second time, while requesting the city’s authorities to rescind the licenses granted before to MPS and another three other schools including SIBME, IRA and ERC, which were also found to violate Vietnam’s education and training regulations. However, while the authorities were about to revoke MBS’ licence, the school was abandoned and Kok disappeared.

MPS was not alone in causing education scandals in Vietnam. In March, 2012, Raffles International Training Centre (RITC) Vietnam, a design institute run by Raffles Education Corporation, was penalised by the MoET for allegedly offering illegal joint training programmes with foreign colleges. RITC was fined VND220 million ($10.576) and had its license revoked.

In January, 2006, Singapore International Teaching Consultancy (SITC) suddenly closed in Vietnam with its manager absconding, leaving behind a chain of 14 English language schools in Vietnam, with 30,000 students and 1,000 unpaid teachers stranded. SITC’s manager Michael Yu, a Taiwanese national, was arrested two months later in Taiwan where he was detained under an Interpol arrest warrant issued by Vietnamese authorities.

Nguyen Thanh Hiep, head of Ho Chi Minh City Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs’s Vocational Training Division, ascribed the Melior scandal to lax state management.

At present, such foreign-related establishments as Melior are licenced by localities’ departments of Planning and Investment, while the establishments’ operations and staff are managed by localities’ departments of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs. Meanwhile, these departments often operate without close coordination in supervising these establishments.

Moreover, the MoET is also responsible for managing the training quality and programmes of these establishments.

By Nguyen Thanh

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