The last several years have seen a rising number of young Vietnamese traveling to the Philippines, hoping to quickly improve their English skills and score big on the IELTS exam.
18-year-old Vo Tri Dai from Tra Vinh Province in southern Vietnam is one of the many Vietnamese who have made their way to the Philippines to improve their English.
Dai currently attends one-on-one lessons at CPILS English Center in Cebu City.
“I paid an all-inclusive price of VND170 million (US$6,971) to participate in their learning program so that I could spend four months preparing for the IELTS exam for four months,” Dai explained.
CPILS’s all-inclusive package includes tuition fees, accommodation, a free laundry service, three meals a day, and the use of a gym and swimming pool.
The program includes several class each day, including one-on-one, 4-student, and 15-student classes. It also includes weekly mock-IELTS exams.
“I was admitted to Ho Chi Minh City Industrial College but applied for a one-year leave-of-absence to practice for the IETLS exam,” Dai shared.
“I have been studying for a month and have already noticed some progress. I hope to achieve a 5.5 band score [on the IELTS exam], so that I can study in Australia.”
There are currently 15 Vietnamese learners at CPILS Cebu, most of whom are preparing for the IETLS exams.
CPILS isn’t the only center in the Philippines where Vietnamese are studying English.
Twin sisters Pham Kim Ngoc and Pham Kim Ngan, 18, from the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho, are currently honing their English skills at GLC, another center in the Philippines.
According to Ngoc, the two have been studying at GLC for six months.
“In Vietnam, I wasn’t able to practice English. I hope I can get a 6.0 band score [on the IELTS exam] to study in Australia,” she said.
But not all Vietnamese English-learners in the Philippines are studying for the IELTS exam.
“I am taking a crash course to fulfill the English requirement for RMIT University in Vietnam,” said Truong Anh Tu, a Vietnamese student at I. Breeze English Center in Cebu, the Philippines.
According to Nguyen Thanh Tung, marketing manager for the Vietnamese market at CPILS English Center, many Vietnamese learners choose the Philippines because of the opportunity for a fully-immersive English experience.
“If you immerse yourself in an environment where only English is spoken, you will progress very quickly. Also, many English centers work with the British Council and IDP to hold IELTS exams right in the centers, which is very convenient for learners," Tung said.
Tung said CPILS students include learners from South Korea, Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Mongolia, and Russia, with Vietnamese learners accounting for about 10-15 percent of the total student number.
Another major draw is the all-inclusive experience.
"When you come here to learn, you do not have to think about anything. You just focus on learning, except for when you are eating and sleeping.
"When you study at home, you might be asked by your friends to go out, but that is not the case here, so you can improve quickly,” said Chau Thi Nhu Quynh, a student at GLC English Center.
Price is also a major factor.
“Other countries also have this type of instruction, but the cost is much more expensive. Besides, enthusiastic teachers and a comprehensive English environment can help learners practice effectively and improve their level,” said Marissa Anonuevo Masangkay of the Philippine Department of Tourism.
A burgeoning market
The phenomenon of Vietnamese travelling to the Philippines to practice English is relatively new, according to Truong Thi Lan Anh, the director of an overseas study company in Vietnam.
From 2017 to 2019, the number of Vietnamese learners in the Philippines grew drastically, with 10-20 percent of the students at many all-inclusive Philippine English centers hailing from Vietnam, according to Anh.
Though that number dropped drastically due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many in the industry believe it will begin to rise once again.
Anh also noted that it is relatively easy for Vietnamese learners to travel to the Philippines.
“It is simple for learners to do the paperwork if they want to go to the Philippines to learn English, they do not need to apply for a visa. Besides, English centers are well-organized and learners are not allowed to go out after curfew, which reassures their parents,” Lan Anh explained, adding that tuition fees for English courses in the Philippines range from $1,200 to $1,800 per month, depending on the center.