Foreign language centres, which have been mushrooming in HCM City, have been using eye-catching adverts at crowded road junctions as well as attractive promotions to attract students.
HCM CITY —
According to a report in Tuoi tre (Youth) newspaper, foreign-language centres are located mostly in the districts of Binh Thanh, Tan Binh and 10, with more than 12 centres near the Hang Xanh Roundabout (in Binh Thanh District).
The centres are easy to recognise as they are plastered with large billboards and signs advertising the benefits of the schools: "modern language lab," "international partners," "international curriculum," "native-speaker teachers from England, America, Australia" and "international certificate".
A centre on Dien Bien Phu Street in Binh Thanh District has an imposing façade and a dazzingly bright reception and registration office.
However, students have to walk down a 1.5m-wide and 10m-long alley and climb up an iron staircase to reach classrooms that once served as housing units.
The centre has only one restroom under the staircase, and no emergency exits, while its students are mostly children.
The same situation can be seen at a centre in Phu Nhuan District.
"The brochure said the centre has modern and spacious classrooms, but I have to share a 20sq.m class with 30 students," a student said. "The classrooms are too narrow and do not allow teachers to organise interactive or group activities."
Most of the centres, which were once private homes, have advertising panels covering three sides of the house that block all emergency exits and light from outside.
"Many centres launch interesting promotions, including a free course for a student's relative, but in fact the relative has to pay for several items. Other promotions such as scholarships, gifts, and free communication courses with a foreign teacher are put into pratice only for students paying for two or three courses," said a consultant at a foreign language centre in District 3.
One of the most common promotions is a 30 – 50 per cent discount for students registering for two courses.
At a centre on Dien Bien Phu Street in Binh Thanh District, students have to pay only VND4.5 million (US$220) if they register for two courses of communication English, which usually cost VND3 million ($145) each.
However, a student at primary level said that a native-English speaker was supposed to be the teacher after the first or second week of the class but did not appear until after a month.
"The native speaker teaches one day and on the other day is often absent. Teachers usually come late and leave class early, or talk rot all the time," another student said.
A student at another foreign language centre in Thu Duc District said the centre had advertised a very low fee, but he discovered that it was only for primary-level courses after arriving to register at the school.
"They said I have to register for at least six months to enter free courses with foreign teachers, or register for at least one year to enjoy the 50 per cent discount on the fee."
A student at another centre in Go Vap District enrolled for a course to practise English with native speakers.
He said he was disappointed because of the frequent absences of the native English-speaking teacher, so he quit the class, although he had paid more than VND3 million for a year-long course. — VNS