Hanoi is a sparkling, cultural cocktail and the international schools offer a range of curricula to satisfy most tastes. However, most of them are still too new to be awarded a cherry on top.
Transformed, over the last 45 years, from a frightened town on the edge of a war zone, into a charming, small, watery city, complete with almost everything that westerners want, including a choice of international schools. A major candidate for the title, Paris of the east, as the legacy of its French invaders has made croissants as easy to find as dumplings and left behind a Catholic cathedral amongst the 600 temples and pagodas.
In particular, if you live in the ‘Old’ or ‘French’ quarters on the edge of the Hoan Kiem Lake (think Sir Lancelot, Lake of the Secret Sword), both favourite spots for expats to settle, you really can enjoy a near-perfect mix of east meets west. Alternatively, a lot of expats choose the even more water covered West Lake District, which has evolved from fishing villages and paddy fields into an upmarket residential area.
Unfortunately, whichever of these districts you choose (and in fact, from almost anywhere that expats are likely to live), you will have to get behind the wheel to take your child to school or use the school bus system that almost all schools operate. Of the schools that we have considered or that parents have recommended, two of them Concordia International School and St Paul American School are well outside central Hanoi and the remainder are between 20 and 40 minutes’ drive depending on whether you live in the ‘Old’ or ‘French’ quarter or further out in West Lake.
The curricula are as varied as the food but, as in many international cities now, the International Baccalaureate Diploma is available at several different schools. Sometimes, it comes as the last part of a full IB Programme but sometimes it is just offered as the qualification, acquired over the final two years of schooling.
Unsurprisingly, for a city with such long-standing connections with France, the Lycée Francais Alexandre Yersin (a doctor here in the 19th century but a somewhat odd choice of name, considering his notoriety was the discovery of the bubonic plague!) is the oldest foreign school in Vietnam, opened in 1982. Teaching a French curriculum and originally in central Hanoi but recently moved to a campus on the eastern edges of the city, which boasts an extremely professional looking sports field.
There were no international schools (probably, fortunately) in existence before the Vietnam war and the majority, which would now be of interest to expats have only been established in the last few years. Of the older ones both Hanoi International School and the United Nations International School (UNIS Hanoi), which is the only UN school in the world, apart from the one in New York, offer the full IB programme (barring the careers option) from kindergarten to graduation.
There are two schools, Concordia International School and St Paul American School, teaching a full American curriculum, culminating in an American High School Diploma and also offering Advanced Placement courses. The British International School (BIS Hanoi) is owned by the Nord Anglia Education group and offers a smorgasbord of English curricula, IGCEs and then the IB Diploma. Finally, the International School of Vietnam starts and ends with the IB Primary Years Programme and IB Diploma and sandwiches a Cambridge curriculum and IGCSEs as the filling in-between.
For more information on these schools, please go to each school’s individual entry on the GSGI database or The GSGI article 'Best schools in Hanoi considered by expats'.
Not really an option unless you are planning to live here permanently and want your children to integrate entirely into the local culture. There are three layers of schooling - pre-school and kindergarten, primary and secondary – but only primary is compulsory, so if they’re rebelling really badly, they can refuse to go, once they hit eleven!
Hanoi is full of charm but apart from the Lycée Francais Alexandre Yersin and the United Nations International School, we haven’t had a chance to know enough about the other schools yet to go further than put them on a ‘possibilities’ list. As soon as we have more personal reports, we will look at the city in greater detail.