Vietnam’s finance ministry has turned down a proposition by Ho Chi Minh City to make public middle schools in the city free for all students, citing concerns that such a policy would create unfairness among those living in different parts of the country.
According to the ministry, such tuition exemption must be passed into law by the lawmaking National Assembly.
As Ho Chi Minh City has one of the nation’s highest per capita income levels, current tuition rates at public schools would not be a major obstacle to accessing education for local students, the ministry said in its response to the southern metropolis’ proposal.
Public middle schools in the city charge VND100,000 (US$4.30) monthly per student in 19 urban districts and VND85,000 ($3.65) monthly per student in the other five rural districts.
The Ho Chi Minh City administration in September submitted a proposal to the finance ministry asking it to seek government approval in allowing the city to offer free education at local public middle schools. The city currently collects around VND350 billion ($15 million) in yearly tuition from its public middle schools.
If middle school students in Ho Chi Minh City were to be exempted from paying any tuition, it would be unfair for students living elsewhere in the country, the ministry said.
The finance ministry proposed that the city work with the education ministry to provide more financial support for poor students instead.
The ministry’s comments are in contrast to a previous government resolution in July, where cabinet members agreed that preschoolers and students of state-funded middle schools across Vietnam should be exempted from tuition fees.
The government is seeking lawmakers’ approval in passing a revised Law on Education to extend its tuition exemption policy.
If implemented, the new policy will likely benefit over five million children in the Southeast Asian country.
Vietnam already has universal tuition exemption for public grade school students.