Most Common Acronyms Used in the US, UK education system

Do you know the differences between ESL and ELA, IELTS and TOEFL, SAT and ACT? 

As you start navigating the special international education system, you might come across many abbreviations, acronyms and specialized terms such as IB, AP, IGCSE… which makes you feel as though you’re wading around in a bowl of alphabet soup, not to mention those acronyms of General English Qualification used by Cambridge Assessment English: KET, PET, CFA, CAE, CPE… and the list goes on. 

Acronyms are used a lot in international education systems, everything from descriptors for assessments and curriculum, to individual departments, and to educational legislation are referred to as acronyms.  And trying to understand them all is practically like learning a new language, it feels like swimming in a sea of information, legal terminology, curriculums and prerequisite.  But don’t let that discourage you, we believe parents should take time to learn the differences of these programs and courses, to decide a study pathway that fits perfectly with your child.  Go beyond the acronyms everyone knows, like SAT and GPA, to learn additional terms that are relevant and meaningful in international school culture today.

So, to get you started, this article will provide you a brief list of some of the most common terms acronyms used in the education system in the US and UK schools.


Let’s start with the easiest, and most common terms – IELTS and TOEFL!


IELTS is the International English Language Testing System, an exam for non-native speakers of English.  There is a general exam and an academic exam.  The general exam is often taken by people who want to immigrate to English-speaking countries, especially the UK and Australia.  The academic exam is for people who want to go to university in the English-speaking world. It’s more popular in countries outside of the US. 


The Test of English as a Foreign Language, the TOEFL, is for non-native English speakers who want to go to university in an English speaking country.  The TOEFL specifically tests academic English skills.  It’s particularly popular for people who want to study in the US, but universities in most countries accept the exam.


Both the TOEFL and IELTS are widely accepted at undergraduate and graduate schools around the world.  In general, TOEFL’s structure and language is more academically focused, while the IELTS has a more real-world communication feel.  The TOEFL is more commonly accepted by American institutions, while the IELTS is more commonly accepted overseas, but many schools accept scores from either exam.  However, a specific school may prefer one test over the other, so international students should make sure they research the preference of the schools they want to apply to.


If your child’s applying to a college abroad, she’s likely going to need to take the SAT or the ACT.  The SAT and the ACT are standardized tests that colleges and universities in the U.S. use to decide admittance, along with GPA, extracurriculars, letters of recommendation, and essays.


The SAT, which stands for Scholastic Aptitude Test, is the older of the two.  It was first introduced in 1926.  The SAT is intended to forecast a student’s ability to perform in her freshman year at college.  The test consists of two portions, one measuring students’ mathematical skills and the other their verbal skills. 


The ACT, which stands for American College Testing, was introduced in 1959.  The ACT is a standardized test to determine a high school graduate’s preparation for college-level work.  It covers four areas: English, mathematics, reading, and science reasoning.  The ACT is a test based on courses you have studied; it is not an IQ test. 


While the exams have their differences, they are similarly multiple-choice tests that have reading, writing, and mathematical sections.  The SAT attempted to test a student’s aptitude – that is, a student’s ability to learn – while the ACT was much more pragmatic. The exam tested students on the information they actually learned in school. 

>> Check out the detailed differences between SAT and ACT in our older blog post: Key differences between the SAT and ACT: which test is right for you?


Hundreds of thousands of students around the world also take ESL, English as a Second Language, sometimes known as EFL, English as a Foreign Language, while native students still have to learn ELA.  So what do they mean?


ESL stands for English as a Second Language.  This acronym has been traditionally used to describe non-native English speaking students who are studying English in a country where the first language is English.  For example, if a Japanese student came to London to study English, this student could be referred to as an ESL student or someone who is studying ESL.  ESL students acquire English as a means to communicate in the dominant language spoken in the community where they reside.


EFL, shorts for English as a Foreign Language, is learning English in a non-English-speaking country.  For example, students in China who are learning English are considered EFL students because English is not the official language of the country.  But if those same students were in the U.S. learning English, they would be considered ESL students.


ELA stands for English Language Arts, is the type of English taught in English-speaking countries.  ELA focuses on all areas of language development (including listening, speaking, reading, writing, grammar, and pronunciation), and ELA classes cover all manner of things related to the English language, from literature to grammar to how to write a punchy essay. You can imagine native students learn ELA just like Vietnamese students learn Literature at schools – even though Vietnamese is our mother tongue, students still have to learn “Vietnamese Language Arts” in order to make meaning, use language effectively in a variety of content areas and succeed in college, career and life.

Most families don’t understand that there are different “Englishes”They mistakenly believe that studying at any of the numerous learning centers for conversational English, IELTS, and TOEFL is good enough.  

In Vietnam, we have found that “English Language Arts” remains a new concept to most parents.  ESL is somewhat similar to an ELA class, because students learn reading and writing in English.  However, the focus is more on the building blocks of the English language – the foundations that will make it possible for students to succeed in international professional areas of study and in life beyond school.

As soon as your child can use everyday conversational English, challenge her to learn just like a native American student with English Language Arts.

General English Qualification by Cambridge Assessment English: KET, PET, FCE, CAE, and CPE

KET, PET, FCE refer to Cambridge exams for teenagers, after they finish Cambridge Young Learners English (YLE), including Starters, Movers and Flyers – normally for children from 6 to 12 years old.


KET is also known as the Key English Test (KET) or Key English Test for Schools (KETfs).  This qualification shows that you can communicate in basic English in everyday situations.  This is an Elementary level exam that tests the ability to use basic linguistic constructs in conversation and writing. If you understand simple texts, short phrases and can communicate in situations that are familiar to you- the KET exam is for you.

The Cambridge A2 Key certificate enables you to work abroad in some countries (for example, Denmark and the Netherlands) in areas that do not require advanced language skills.


PET is known as the Preliminary English Test (PET) or Preliminary English Test for Schools (PETfs).  This is an Intermediate level exam that shows that you can communicate in English in practical, everyday situations.  It will give you a good foundation if you want to study for a professional English qualification.  If you can read simple books and articles, write simple letters, and communicate on common topics, then this exam is for you.

  • Level of qualification: Intermediate = B1 on the Common European Framework (~IELTS 4 – 4.5 or TOEFL iBT 57 – 86)

B1 Preliminary (PET) will suit you if you plan to work or study abroad. Also, this exam can become an important experience and preparation stage for higher-level examinations.


FCE is also called the First Certificate in English or First Certificate in English for Schools (FCEfS).  This is an Upper-Intermediate level exam to prove that you can speak and write English well enough to work or study in an English-speaking environment.  If your English level is good enough for use in daily communication, business, and education, then B2 First (FCE) is an exam for you. 

  • Level of qualification: Upper-intermediate = B2 on the Common European Framework (~IELTS 5 – 6.5 or TOEFL iBT 87 – 109)

FCE is the perfect choice for those who want to work in an English-speaking business, live in an English-speaking country, or study a foundation-level or pre-university course taught in English.


CAE is also known as the Cambridge Advanced Certificate in English.  This general English qualification shows that your English is of a standard expected of a professional business person or an undergraduate university student.

  • Level of qualification: Advanced = C1 on the Common European Framework (~IELTS 7 – 8 or TOEFL iBT 110 – 120)

CAE is for students or adults who want to prove to employers or universities that you can communicate confidently in English in professional and high-level academic situations. 


CPE is also known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English  This qualification shows that you have mastered English and can use it fluently in demanding research, academic and professional situations.  This is the highest Cambridge English qualification.

  • Level of qualification: Proficient = C2 on the Common European Framework (~IELTS 8.5 – 9)

You should take the CPE if you want to prove to employers that you can use English at a senior management level, or if you want to study at postgraduate or Ph.D. level at an English-speaking university.

While both the Cambridge exams and the IELTS test all four major English skills – reading, writing, listening, and speaking, there are quite a few differences between them.

The main difference between the Cambridge tests and the IELTS is that while there is only one IELTS for every level, the Cambridge tests are level-oriented.  The CAE is aimed only at advanced English speakers, those falling into the B2 to C2 range. IELTS and TOEFL scores, on the other hand, will place your English ability anywhere among the A1-C2 range. Therefore, beginners or intermediate English speakers should not attempt the CAE.

Another point worth considering is that while IELTS or TOEFL score will be valid for just two years after the test date, Cambridge certifications do not have the expiry date, therefore you will have unlimited time to pursue your study and employment goals. 

For more detailed information, you can go onto the Cambridge exams website:


Key differences between the SAT and ACT: which test is right for you?

Key differences between the SAT and ACT: which test is right for you?

If you’re or having a child preparing for college admissions, you might have heard of the SAT and ACT tests, and might be curious about their differences.   The SATs and the ACTs are the two different tests that students are required to take for admittance to a US university.  When it comes to the SAT vs. the ACT, both exams are widely accepted by U.S. colleges, which often prompts students to ask: Which test should I take?

The answer to that question lies in understanding the differences between the two tests.  While both are standardized tests that colleges and universities use as a benchmark when making admissions decisions, there are some differences. 

This article will provide you with a brief overview of the basic structural and logistical differences between the ACT and SAT, to help you pick the right one as you get ready to apply to college.

The SAT vs. the ACT

At a glance, the two tests aren’t that different.  Both the ACT and SAT are nationally recognized standardized tests and common admission requirements for US schools.  Catering primarily to high school juniors and seniors, each test measures students’ proficiency in various critical skill areas – such as problem-solving and reading comprehension – that are necessary for college success.

Because all US colleges and universities accept scores from either the ACT or SAT, there’s no advantage in taking one test over the other.  This means you can apply to the same schools, regardless of which test you decide to take.

Despite all these similarities, there are still many ways in which the ACT and SAT differ from each other.  For one, the SAT is overall slightly longer than the ACT.  What’s more, the number of questions and time limits are different for corresponding sections.

Need a quick side-by-side comparison of the tests?  Check out this ACT vs. SAT Comparison Chart.




Content-based test

Type of Test

Content-based test
Reading: 1, 65-min section; Math: 1, 25-min section (no calculator) & 1, 55-min section (w/ calculator); Writing & Language: 1, 35-min section; Essay: 1, 50-min section (optional)

Test Format

English: 1, 45-min section; Math: 1, 60-min section; Reading: 1, 35-min section; Science: 1, 35-min section; Writing: 1, 40-min essay (optional)
Reading, relevant words in context, math, grammar & usage, analytical writing (optional)

Content Covered

Grammar & usage, math, reading, science reasoning, and writing (optional)
Questions are evidence and context-based in an effort to focus on real-world situations and multi-step problem-solving

Test Style

Straightforward, questions may be long but are usually less difficult to decipher
Math and Evidence-Based Reading & Writing are each scored on a scale of 200-800. Composite SAT score is the sum of the two section scores and ranges from 400-1600


English, Math, Reading, and Science scores range from 1-36. Composite ACT score is the average of your scores on the four sections; ranges from 1-36
No – you do not lose points for incorrect answers

Penalty for Wrong Answers?

No – you do not lose points for incorrect answers
Yes – you can choose which set(s) of SAT scores to submit to colleges. However, some colleges require or recommend that students submit all scores. Students should review the score-reporting policy of each college to which they plan to apply.

Score Choice?

Yes – you can choose which set(s) of ACT scores to submit to colleges.  However, some colleges require or recommend that students submit all scores. Students should review the score-reporting policy of each college to which they plan to apply.
Math questions generally increase in difficulty level as you move through that question type in a section. Reading passage questions generally progress chronologically through the passage, not by difficulty level. Writing & Language passage questions do not progress by difficulty level. 

Difficulty Levels

For the English and Reading sections, the difficulty level of the questions is random. For the Math section, questions generally increase in difficulty as you progress through the section. For the Science section, passages generally increase in difficulty as you progress through the test, and questions generally become more difficult as you progress through a passage. 
Arithmetic, problem-solving & data analysis, Heart of algebra, geometry, pre-calculus, and trigonometry; formulas provided

Math Levels

Arithmetic, algebra I and II, functions, geometry, trigonometry; no formulas are provided
Seven times per year: March or April, May, June, August, October, November, December 

Offered when?

Seven times per year: February, April, June, July, September, October, December 
Typically about four weeks before the test date

Registration deadline?

Typically about five to six weeks before the test date

More Information

Neither the SAT nor the ACT is harder than the other – but each test benefits a different type of student.  It’s essential that you figure out which test is best suited for you, so that you can achieve the highest scores possible.

ACT vs SAT: Which Test Is Right for You?

The best way to decide if taking the SAT, ACT, or both tests is right for you is to take a timed full-length practice test of each type.  Since the content and style of the SAT and ACT are very similar, factors like how you handle time pressure and what types of questions you find most challenging can help you determine which test is a better fit. 

Another quicker way you can determine which test is right for you is to take a short quiz. In the chart below, check whether you agree or disagree with each statement.

Statement     Agree    Disagree
I struggle with geometry and trigonometry.    
I am good at solving math problems without a calculator.    
Science is not my forte.    
It’s easier for me to analyze something than to explain my opinion.    
I normally do well on math tests.    
I can’t recall math formulas easily.    
I like coming up with my own answers for math questions.    
Tight time constraints stress me out.    
I can easily find evidence to back up my answers.    
Chronologically arranged questions are easier to follow.    

Now, count up your check marks in each column to find out what your score means.

Mostly Agrees — The SAT is your match!
If you agreed with most or all of the above statements, the SAT is what you’ve been looking for. With the SAT, you’ll have more time for each question and won’t need to deal with a pesky science section or a ton of geometry questions.

Mostly Disagrees — The ACT’s the one for you!
If you disagreed with most or all of the statements, you’ll most likely prefer the ACT over the SAT. On the ACT, you’ll never have to come up with your own answers to math problems, and you get to let your opinion shine in your writing.

Equal Agrees and Disagrees — Either test will work!
If you checked “Agree” and “Disagree” an equal number of times, either the ACT or SAT will suit you.  Unless you decide to take both, which does sound like a good option considering money and time constraints, try to take the official ACT and SAT practice tests to see which test’s format you’re ultimately more comfortable with.

All colleges require students to take either the SAT or the ACT and submit their scores to their prospective universities.  Despite the fact that many U.S. schools are going test-optional, an ACT, or SAT certification is still great-to-have for international students, as this is a concrete data point to compare you among thousands of applicants, and is what makes your application stand out more.  There is no advantage of taking one test over another, so it is important to choose the test that is best for you, whether you are a domestic US student or an international student. 


Updates on changed SAT requirements in 2020 and 5 common FAQ

Updates on changed SAT requirements in 2020 and 5 common FAQ

As dozens of U.S. schools dropped their ACT and SAT requirements, and many more are in the pipeline, is it the time for us to say goodbye to the SAT prep books?  What are the major changes to the SAT this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic?  What are the SAT score percentiles? And what is the good SAT score to apply to top colleges? 

These are the common questions that we often receive from our families and students. So here you are, in this article, we put together an SAT FAQ section to have all your SAT questions answered.  If you can’t find your questions here, let us know by commenting below!

Q: Some colleges are going to stop requiring SAT test scores for admissions. Is it true that the SAT is falling out of favor, and students don’t need to take SAT to get into college?

A: According to a list by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, or FairTest, a nonprofit organization working to end the misuse of standardized testing, about 51 universities, and colleges have dropped the ACT/SAT requirement for at least Fall 2021 in recent months.  Critics say the tests put less wealthy students at a disadvantage.  They acknowledge that SAT and ACT results follow a pattern of all standardized test scores: Kids from poor families do worse than kids with more money.  Wealthy parents can provide benefits that many poor families can’t, such as tutors, learning opportunities, the best schools with ample resources.  This comes on top of repeated SAT and ACT cheating scandals in the U.S. and abroad. The SAT in recent years has become the target of a sophisticated cheating system in Asia made possible in part because the College Board reuses questions.  Now, a growing list of colleges has announced they’re going test-optional for the class of 2021, meaning the SAT or ACT will not be required for admission.

Does it mean that students don’t have to worry about SAT/ ACT from now on?  When it comes to college admissions, we believe that the SAT/ ACT scores are still, not very inaccurate though, good indicators to compare students across disparate countries.  To compare students from totally different high schools, college admission committees can’t just choose the top students at each school; they need some way to compare students from across the nation and around the world, and that’s the history of SAT and why SAT scores are still important.  Therefore, even though more and more schools are going test-optional, we recommend students sitting the exam, especially if you are an international student and want to apply to competitive colleges, as this is a concrete data point to compare you among thousands of applicants, and is what makes your application stand out more.

That said, the fact that many schools are going test-optional has opened more options for applicants, and leveled the academic playing field.  SAT scores are not everything you need to apply to colleges – numbers can not tell the whole story.  If you think your scores are an accurate representation of your ability, submit them. If you feel they are not, don’t.  Instead, try to show your special-self in some other ways – which can come across in letters of recommendation, talent, extracurriculars, and college essays.

Q: When is the best time to take the SAT?

A: The SAT can be taken any time starting your freshman year.  We strongly recommend that all but the very strongest students do not take the first SAT exam until at least the spring of Grade 9, as this ensures you have covered the required academic content in school.  We also strongly recommend that all students should take their first SAT exam in either the spring of Grade 10 or fall of Grade 11. 

Doing so will give you enough time to take the test twice, which is highly recommended, as 67 percent of students improve their score the second time around. This also helps to unlock the power of Superscoring, which is a tremendous advantage for those who take the SAT multiple times.  

Once you receive your initial test results, you’ll know your weak points and can prepare to retake the test. 

The SAT exam is offered internationally every year in October, November, December, March, May, and June.  View SAT Test Dates and Deadlines here.

COVID 19 Update from SAT: Due to COVID-19 concerns, the College Board has canceled the May 2, 2020, and June 6, 2020 SAT and SAT Subject Test administrations.   College Board has announced that they plan to provide weekend SAT administrations every month through the end of the calendar year, beginning in August.  This includes a new administration on September 26, along with the previously scheduled tests for Fall 2020.  Learn more here.


Q: What Are SAT Score Percentiles? A: In addition to the composite score you get on the SAT (i.e., that number between 400 and 1600), you’ll get a percentile ranking, ranging from 1 to 99.  The SAT gives you a percentile ranking for your overall composite score as well as for each of the two-section scores: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math. Your percentile tells you how you did on the SAT compared with everyone else who took the test. 


Your percentile score is not like a grade out of 100.  For instance, if you get a percentile of 90, this doesn’t mean you got exactly 90% of the questions right.  It just means that compared with everyone who took the SAT, you scored higher than 90% of them.  

Colleges use percentiles to compare you with other students.  If you got, say, an SAT score in the 90th percentile, this would make you competitive for many schools since you scored better than 90% of students nationwide.

Q: What is an SAT superscore and which colleges superscore

A: Superscoring is when a college chooses to consider your highest section score from multiple sittings of the same examination.  For instance, imagine you’ve taken the SAT two times, once in the spring and once in the fall. The second time around, your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score increased 80 points, but your Math score came out 10 points lower. Colleges that superscore the SAT use your best section-level scores, even if they were from different tests. Many colleges that follow a superscore policy encourage students to submit all test scores, and some require it. This allows them to see and consider the highest section scores consistently and fairly across all applicants.

If you’re planning to take the SAT more than once, then superscoring is a beneficial policy.  You may incorporate this policy into your test prep strategy: If they superscore, then you can take the SAT on various dates throughout high school with a very specific section target score in mind each time.  In this way, you can use SAT superscoring to maximize your composite score and present a stellar SAT score on your college applications.  Make sure you research the standardized test policies of your colleges well in advance of applications.

Most colleges, but not all, consider your SAT superscores.  It’s always a good idea to review the SAT score-use policy for each college on your list so that you can come up with the best application strategy.  You can usually find this policy on the admissions website, usually in an “application requirements” section. Also, refer to this complete list of colleges that superscore the SAT

Q: What is a good score on the SAT?

A: Now, let’s look at the 25th and 75th percentile SAT/ACT scores for MIT, Stanford and all Ivy League schools:

If you’re scoring lower than the 25th percentile on either the SAT, you’ll have a really tough time getting accepted to an Ivy League school.  Unfortunately, you just won’t measure up to all the other highly qualified applicants who have extremely impressive SAT scores.

Clearly, these are very high standards.  In fact, all 75th percentile scores for Ivy League schools are in the 99th percentile nationwide.  To be at the top of the Ivy League application pool, you will need to be one of the top 1% of test-takers in the country!

While these SAT scores for the Ivy League can be used as standard guidelines, everyone has a different target score.  This means that you’ll need to know the SAT/ACT score target that’s right for you.  But how do you figure this out?

Your target SAT score will be based on the colleges you’re applying to.  You’ll need to find the average SAT scores of admitted students for all the schools you’re interested in attending, specifically their 75th percentile scores.  Aiming for the 75th percentile will give you the best chance of getting into all the schools on your list.

9 amazing summer camps in Ho Chi Minh city 2020

Summer is almost with us.  Kids are looking forward to their holiday’s and parents are wondering how to occupy their little darlings during the long break.  The easiest answer, of course, is to give them an iPad and lock them in their room as you get on with your daily life.

But if you’re thinking something a little more constructive, a little more creative, perhaps even a little more educational, it’s time for you to take a look at some of the summer camps available in your living area.  Camps are a good option to keep your children active and learning over the summertime.  Summer camps offer a structured opportunity for children to grow.  Kids go from home to school to extracurriculars, with each environment contributing to their development.  Summer camp, then, is another unique venue for growth, allowing kids to become independent and self-confident, while socializing and making new friends, and even learning new skills.

So, where do you start?  The good news is, with today’s overabundance of camps, there’s literally a type of camp for every child.  On the flip side, with so many options, choosing can make you feel a lot like Goldilocks on the hunt for a camp that’s just right.  To give you some good suggestions, let’s explore our picks of 9 amazing summer camps in Ho Chi Minh city that your kids will love. 

1. BIS HCMC Summer Camp 2020

The British International School HCMC, one of the most popular international schools in Sai Gon, offers a super-sized Summer Holiday Camp with a wide range of activities for students to enjoy over the summer holidays.  The camp will be held for five weeks starting on Monday 29th June and ending on Friday 31st July, taught by the school’s very own teaching and TA teams.  BIS also cooperates with other external providers such as Rising Star Football Academy to offer sports, swimming, judo, and other active activities.  Additionally, Summer Camp Holiday at BIS includes arts and crafts, cooking, STEAM-focused on LEGO and robotics, and wellbeing lessons.

2. ISHCMC Summer Camp 2020

Being one of the oldest, most expensive and fanciest international schools in Ho Chi Minh City,
International School Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC) has been well-known for their five-star services.  The school has great facilities, high-quality teachers and staff, and years of experience in teaching International Baccalaureate.  

This summer, ISHCMC offers a five-week (25 days) Summer Camp, divided into weekly themes.  Each theme stands alone as a unique project-based learning experience.  Students will interact with the weekly theme through a fun mix of sports, team-building, activities, cooking classes, weekly projects, and life-skills.

3. ISSP Summer Camp 2020

This summer, the International School Saigon Pearl, together with Camp Asia – the leading holiday camp provider in Singapore, offers Fun for global innovators – ISSP Camp Asia 2020 for all children from 18 months to 11 years of age. Fun for global innovators is a 4-week camp that provides a fun mix of STEAM, sports, team-building activities, outdoor games, art classes, and weekly projects.   Through literacy, hands-on projects, and daily activities, your child will look through the lens of scientists, explorers, engineers, and philosophers as they navigate concepts such as Flight, Culture, and Mindfulness.

  • Available ages: students from 18 months – 11 years old
  • Length of course: 4 weeks
  • Location: 92 Nguyen Huu Canh street, ward 22, Binh Thanh District, HCMC
  • Pricing: 6,500,000 – 7,000,000 VND/ week 
  • Contact:

4. AIS Summer Camp 2020

Summer Camp at Australia International School this year features English Language Program with collaborative learning.  AIS Summer Camp is a five-week program with a strong focus on English language development, structured to address speaking, listening, reading, and writing across a variety of text types including academic language, and expressing ideas.  ICT, sports, arts & crafts, music, and cooking are also included as part of the program.  The activities also help children develop skills such as communication, expressing ideas while having fun doing mini projects to consolidate their learning.

5. VAS Summer Camp 2020

VAS Summer Camp provides domestic and overseas exploratory trips to take campers outside of the city.  Abroad trips are also a great chance for students to discover new cultures, history, and people from other countries.  This is also a great opportunity for high school students to do college tours and orient their future study and career plan, as they take students to visit prestigious universities in Australia and America.  The plan may have to change due to the unexpected pandemic.  However, students are still able to join team Building camp for 3 days and 2 nights in Lagi, Binh Thuan, Da Nang, Hoi An, and other domestic destinations. Aside from intensive English curriculums, VAS Summer Camp offers Drama, Sports, Arts, and STEAM activities. They also partner with local institutions such as Happy Land, Kizcity and Idecaf to provide field trips for children – where they can explore Vietnamese culture, miniature career city, and enjoy the art of theatre at IDECAF Stage.

  • Available ages: students from 6 – 16 years old
  • Length of course: 6 weeks
  • Location: 7 campuses of VAS
  • Pricing: contact for inquiries
  • Contact:
  • Website:

6. Explorer Squad by Everest Education

Everest Education has been a trusted camp partner and provider for over 9 years.  We’ve worked with great international and bilingual schools such as SSIS, ISHCMC, AIS, TAS, and VAS.  This year, Everest Education is looking to recruit young members for Explorers Squad who will undertake an exciting, memorable, and fun journey together.  Explorers Squad is a STEAM – SPORTS – ENGLISH camp which provides amazing opportunities for your kids to learn and play in curious ways through many stimulating lessons: hands-on science, technology, engineering, art, drama, sport, and math activities in a 100% all-English environment.  Activities include exciting projects, sports field trips, among other fun activities.  Each week lessons will be designed under a theme of exploration, such as Architecture, Environment, Transportation, and Community Safety.  The camp provides an excellent place for kids to develop, interact, and socialize with other friends, together create solutions for the current issues and grow as responsible citizens.

  • Available ages: students from 7 – 15 years old
  • Length of course: 6 weeks
  • Location: Everest Education’s learning center in District 2,7, 10 and Tan Binh
  • Pricing: 6,000,000 VND/ week
  • Contact: (+84) 85 832 3232
  • Website:

7. Teky Technology Summer Camp

If your child is tech-savvy or interested in learning about computers, Teky Technology Summer Camp would be a good option for her.  Teky Technology Summer Camp is designed for students from 6 to 15 to unleash their creativity with the hottest courses in coding, computer sciences, astronomy, and robotics.  Teky Summer Camp also partners with many well-known international media and technology organizations such as Minecraft, Lego Education, Arduino, Python, WordPress…

  • Available ages: students from 6 – 15 years old
  • Length of course: 10 days
  • Location: available in district 2, 7, Binh Thanh, Cong Hoa, Cao Thang, Phu Nhuan, Binh Tan, and Go Vap
  • Pricing: 10,000,000 VND/ 10 days
  • Contact:
  • Website:

8. Summer of Super Heroes by Apollo

Apart from summer camps provided by international schools, which might be more suitable for their own students, there are many interesting camps hosted by other after-school and English learning centers in Ho Chi Minh city. This year, Apollo – one of the most well-known learning centers in Sai Gon, organize their camp under the theme of “Superhero”.  Joining this camp, your child will have the chance to become a hero to “save the world”. Summer of Super-Heroes is a combination of English enrichment, outdoor activities, creative projects, and soft skills development that enables your kids to discover their inner superpower and sharpens the skills they need for 21st-century survival.

9. Emasi

EMASI, stands for English – Mathematics – Art – Science – Information Technology, is a group of international bilingual schools with American standard facilities that deliver the Vietnamese national curriculum adopting modern teaching methods from developed countries.  The EMASI Summer School Program has been structured around four key aspects: English Literacy, Skills Development, the Arts, Health Education & Sport. The camp is divided into weekly themes, which provides an opportunity for your child to apply their learning from a broad range of curricular subjects. The extensive facilities at the school provide the opportunity for students to enjoy a wide range of activities including swimming, football, art, craft, STEAM, and ICT (Information and Communication Technology).. 

To find a “just right” summer camp for your child, regardless of how old she is,  it’s important to include her in the decision to go to camp.  So what we suggest is let’s go through brochures and websites together, and encourage your kids to ask questions and find out what appeals to them.  If you can, ask to bring your child to join a demo class, go to an open house or camp fair.  And again, no matter what you choose, make sure to find a camp that can balance out the academic and non-academic activities, provide campers chances to discover new interests, and stay intellectually engaged.

How to talk to your kids about race and racism?

How to talk to your kids about race and racism?

The past few weeks have been riddled with unconscionable incidents of anti-Black racism and police brutality against Black people in America.  Most notably, George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed Black man, died after being arrested by police outside a store in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the U.S.  The incident was caught on video and circulated online, sparking protests in major cities across the U.S. and Canada. George’s last words “I can’t breathe” have been well-known around the world, darkening our news feeds and escalating our anxiety. 

If you have a child, they’ve probably seen some of this coverage – and they probably have questions.  Talking about race can be sensitive, and yes, even a bit messy.  Choosing whether or not to talk to your kids about race is an option for many parents, but kids are learning and hearing about race regardless of whether parents are talking to them about it.  As a parent, how can you shield your children from – and shepherd them through – a world that seems hell-bent on hate.  How can you use this as an opportunity to teach your children about anti-Black racism and empower them to be forces for good?

We believe that not shying away from those conversations is the first step in raising an anti-racist child.  But how should parents talk with their children about all they’re seeing and experiencing right now?  This article will get you some good advice.

Age-appropriate, open and ongoing discussion

For some families, especially Asian families, talking about race is a subject that can be difficult to discuss.  But for everyone, it’s an incredibly important conversation and shouldn’t be avoided. “Why is Amy’s hair in braids and frizzy and not long and smooth like everyone else?” Why is that man in a wheelchair?” “How did Harry get two mommies?” 

As early as age 2, according to research, children begin to take note of differences in other people.  These preschool years mark your child’s first introduction to the characteristics that have long grouped and divided humans: race, ethnicity, gender, and physical ability. 

From the curl in her hair to the color of her eyes and skin to the games she prefers during playtime, your child is discovering the similarities and differences she shares with others in her world. 

During the preschool years, parents have perhaps the greatest impact on your child’s perceptions and attitudes about difference than at any other time in her childhood.  The manner in which you treat and discuss others based on similarity and difference – and the manner in which you respond to your child’s natural curiosity about these matters – provides the blueprint for her reactions to them. 

Seizing these moments as learning opportunities, rather than embarrassing moments to be hushed or ignored, can help your child get past stereotypes and prejudicial images and into a deeper understanding of the world around her. 

Experts say honest and age-appropriate dialogue about these issues is the best approach.  There are ways to make these discussions about racism appropriate for your child’s age.  However, only offer the amount of information they will be able to understand for their age.  If they’re younger, start simple.  For example, when discussing Floyd’s death with a young child, leave the violence out of the discussion and stick to the facts: Floyd was mistreated because of the color of his skin.  

Use the concept of fairness

If you spend time with young children on a regular basis, then you know that they are very into what is fair and what is not fair!  You can harness this keen sense of justice to help explain that the patterns that they see are absolutely unfair, as well as to engage your children in seeking to correct these wrongs.  Children are already noticing patterns in the world around them and this is your opportunity to help them think critically about what they’re seeing, rather than accepting those things as “rules.”

You can say, for example, “there are people who are not liked just because of what they look like”.  This is a very simple concept for a five- or six-year-olds to understand. Kids understand fairness.  Start by appealing to your child’s sense of right and wrong, and go from there.  As your children grow older, add in the historical context.  Your child’s understanding of race will continually evolve, so leave the conversation open as they age.  Ultimately, this is only the beginning of what should be a lifelong education about race relations and anti-Black racism, experts say.

Set yourself as an example

As parents, we are our kids’ first teachers.  Talking to your child about the importance of embracing difference and treating others with respect is essential, but it’s not enough. Your actions, both subtle and overt, are what she will emulate.  If you want to raise socially aware children, keep the phrase “actions speak louder than words” in mind.

If you say something is important, but your children don’t see you behaving in a way that matches your assertion, they know it’s not actually very important to you.  For example, if you say it’s important to have a diverse group of friends but your children don’t see a diverse group of people coming over to your home, they know you are not making it a priority in your life, so why should they?  This also holds true for things like choosing to consume media that counter racial stereotypes or speaking out against racial inequities.  We can tell children that these things are important, but we must also model that behavior for them.  One way to do that is acknowledging issues of race and racism in forthright, thoughtful, and respectful ways.

You can also show them that it’s OK to not have all of the answers all of the time; if they bring a question to you about race, racism or racialized inequities that you are not sure how to answer, tell them you think it is an excellent question and is something you wish you understood better, too.  Then, depending upon their age, you may wish to research the question and come back with your findings later, or you can even research together.  Either way, you are modeling an open, thoughtful, and respectful engagement of difficult issues, rather than shutting down the conversation.

If your child says or does something indicating bias or prejudice, don’t meet the action with silence.  Silence indicates acceptance, and a simple command – “Don’t say that” – is not enough. First try to find the root of the action or comment: “What made you say that about Sam?”  Then, explain why the action or comment was unacceptable.  After all, while conversations are crucial, our children will inevitably learn most from the examples we set for them. 

Introduce diversity to different aspects of your life

In order for kids to embrace antiracist ideas, they need to be exposed to people who are different from them.  If their friend group looks a little too similar, it might be time to encourage a little diversity at those playdates. Your kids are already thinking about race, even if you’ve never talked to them about it.  “From an early age, children are making sense of the world around them.  People have a meaning of what different skin colour means based on what they see at home, on TV”, said York University professor Carl James.  If your child has little exposure to people who don’t look or live like her, experts advise bringing the world home: Study other cultures together by eating their foods and watching their films.  Look for everyday activities that can serve as springboards for discussion.  School-age children respond better to lessons that involve real-life examples than artificial or staged discussions about issues. 

Discuss differences openly and highlight diversity by choosing picture books, toys, games and videos that feature diverse characters in positive, non stereotypical roles. Make sure your home library has books with black people, tolerance, fairness and kindness at the center of the stories. You can refer to our list of The Best Books to Teach Our Kids to be Kind. Encouraging your child to study another language is also a good option to help kids learn how to embrace differences.  A 2014 University of Chicago study revealed that children who hear multiple languages in daily life are more accepting of people whose language differs from their own – which is a stepping-stone toward a broader spirit of acceptance.

Don’t make talking about race a one-time event

You don’t have to set up a time to have a “race talk.”  Conversations can naturally occur if you’re paying attention to your child’s statements and staying aware of ways that unconscious bias can slip in.  Don’t wait for an incident of racism or bias to occur before discussing such issues with kids.  Look critically at stereotypes and race issues in the media and in everyday life.  Use current issues from the news, such as the immigration debate or same-sex marriage, as a springboard for discussion.  Ask your child what she thinks about the issues.  Incorporate discussions about such issues in day-to-day conversations.   Racism can be difficult to explain to children, no matter how old they are.  Some parents may worry that introducing the concept of racism could be damaging, or scary, especially if that child could be the target of racism, or if the parent has experienced racism themselves.  But, instead of staying silent, it’s crucial to empower children.  What we do have is time, patience, and the desire to help our children grow into adults who value and honor diversity.  “Even though there is unfairness, there have always been people working to change it, and we can be a part of it, too.”  This way, you are showing your child racism is possible to untangle, and they can be a part of that solution.


5 Things Students Should Do Before Leaving School for the Summer

5 Things Students Should Do Before Leaving School for the Summer

The school year is coming to a close and summer is just weeks away.  Before students empty out their lockers and embrace vacation, there are a few important steps to take to prepare for the next school year, especially for high school students who are going through the college admission process.  The end of the school year should be a time of review, reflection, and celebration.

Before you completely check out for summer, try these following action items that will help you reflect, unwind, and even get a little bit of prep done before back to school.  Then when August does roll around, your gigantic to-do list will already have a few items crossed off.  This article provides students with a handy end-of-school checklist that will help you get on track and make getting into the next school year a bit more manageable.

1. Grab a notebook and reflect on what went really well this year

As the school year draws to a close, it is an important time to stop and reflect on this past year.  It’s also an opportunity to take a deep breath and think about how to best direct your energies in the coming year.  Research shows that reflection is an essential part of learning.  That means that we need time to think about – and talk about – the ways we have processed and applied new information, concepts, and ideas.  When we reflect on what we have learned, ownership of that new knowledge increases – and with ownership comes more application and use of that new skill or knowledge.  Reflection is also a great way to consolidate learning, process our feelings, and share about ourselves.

So, grab a notebook and try to list at least five things that were amazing this school year. You can do this any way you want, perhaps in some writing or artworks if you are so inclined. You can consider these guiding questions:

  • What has been some of your most important learning this year?  
  • What have been some of your favorite experiences this year? 
  • How might you be able to apply what you learned this year in the future?
  • What was the most difficult challenge (or series of challenges) you faced this year? Who or what helped you address those challenges? What opportunities did those challenges create? 

2. Ask yourself what you want to focus on improving next year

The end of the school year is a perfect time to think about implementing new strategies.  Think of the end of the school year as the time to map out your training schedule.  Is there anything you need to improve?  A skill or content you want to learn more about?  Maybe it’s about joining a community service to give your college application a boost? Or developing soft skills, like delivering a great speech in front of the public?  Add it to the list.  This will also set you up for a productive summer vacation while still having time to enjoy, distress, and relax.

With extra daytime hours, summer is also the chance for you to narrow the “achievement gap”.  If you’ve got gaps in your knowledge from the material you’ve already covered, this is going to make it even more challenging to stay up to date, prevent yourself from falling behind, and help you prepare for your first lot of assessments.  On the contrary, continuing good learning habits over the summer positions students to succeed in the coming school year and can even put them ahead of your peers.

If you are a rising junior or senior about to study abroad, summer offers an opportunity for a slow and steady approach to test preparation.  Spending your summer solely preparing for standardized tests, such as SAT or IELTS, is not impactful in terms of strengthening your application, but interspersing some test prep in between your regular summer activities can go a long way toward helping you reach your goal score.

3. Compile a summer reading list

During the school year, most of the books students read may be assigned for class –  now’s the time to choose something you truly enjoy.  Summer gives you the chance to spice things up by reading that is more fun and tailored to your own interests.  Long hazy days of summer provide the perfect reading conditions.  It is also the perfect time to strengthen your reading skills, retain knowledge and skills learned in the previous school year. 

Researches show that students who don’t read are at risk of falling behind their classmates.  Just like exercising keeps muscles in shape, reading keeps the brain in shape.  If you don’t exercise, you lose muscle, and if you don’t read, you will lose literacy skills.  Reading over the summer is not a suggestion to keep students busy; it’s a critical requirement to help you stay on track for their entire educational career and beyond. It goes without saying that a few simple strategies help set you up for success:


  • Start early: Twenty minutes per day for 25 days sure beats 500 minutes in three days.
  • Schedule it: If you make time for reading, you’ll have time for reading.
  • Challenge yourself: A reading challenge journal will help you stay on track all summer long.  Students can also join the Scholastic Summer Reading-a-Palooza  to earn digital rewards for summer reading, or participate in the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program, you’ll earn a free English book after reading eight books.

The local library is always a good place to start looking for book recommendations that might surprise you.  Most libraries sponsor summer reading programs that can be hacked to meet your needs.  Check the library calendar for special summer reading activities and events. Libraries also provide age-appropriate lists for summer reading.  Don’t limit yourself to books, either.  Include professional books, newspapers, magazines, graphic novels, audiobooks, or even emails, social media accounts, and blogs you want to read. 

4. Dream up your summer bucket list

Summer has always been about embracing a new challenge and then pushing yourself to overcome that challenge in a condensed period of time.  Let’s create a fabulous big summer bucket list.  Telling yourself, “This summer, I’m going to…” isn’t enough.  Instead, take an afternoon or an evening and really think about what project you want to get done, what skill you want to practice, what goal you want to achieve – and then write it down.  Write it somewhere you can see it.  Write it somewhere that’s part of your daily routine (like on your desk, or on your bathroom mirror).

Ensure that your summer has at least one sustained and meaningful activity on the calendar, so that your summer goals won’t be the same as the ones you have been set all throughout the year.  This can be a summer job, athletic training, or even a hobby with a goal in mind.  If your school offers a summer internship, jump on the opportunity! Otherwise, call some local companies that interest you and see if they are open to hiring a summer intern.  There’s no better way to figure out what you want to study in college or what career path you want to strive towards than participating in an internship.

There’s no right or wrong summer activity, just as long as you get something out of the experience.  You can even share your summer goals with your friends, your parents, or publish it on social media.  This positive reinforcement from your social network can motivate you forward to excel.  Find an accountability buddy if possible, having someone to check in with you no matter what your goals are, not only makes you more accountable, but it fills a need for social connection.  A text to your friend saying, “Hey, how’s your summer reading list coming?” or a call from one of your gal pals saying “Hey, I heard you wanted to do yoga this summer! Wanna go with me this week?” can be just what you need to push you towards reaching your goals.

5. Write a letter to your future self

A letter to your future self is a meaningful activity as a celebration of the way things were and the way things might be in the future in your own lives.  No matter how old, you are going to see significant changes in themselves over the next year.  The end of the year is a great time writing to our future selves, setting goals, making predictions, talking about family, dreams, and expectations. 

Write a letter to your future self, with encouragement about why you do what you do.  The little note might go a long way next winter when you need some extra encouragement.  You can record some memories and important learning from the experiences in your class.  You can also write their hopes, fears, and expectations for the next year.  If you have to write a letter to yourself next year’s class, what advice would you give to “him”, or “her?  What should the student do in order to be successful in class?  How about in life? What do you hope to learn in the next school year?

Seal it up in an envelope, and one year from now, deliver it to yourself next grade.  The feeling you get from that delivery from the past is one you will never forget.  Some sentence starters to get you going: One year from now I hope to be… Next year, I will… Right now, I feel…

The end of a school year could be a festive event – a celebration of learning. The end of every school year, even this “special” year of the outbreak, should be climatic and exciting.  We hope you can take this time as a time of review, reflection, and celebration, and get ready for the happiest summer to come!

Whether you spend your summer working, taking summer classes, or attending a summer program, odds are that your summer schedule varies dramatically from the one you keep during the school year.  So choose your plan wisely, set SMART goals with measurable outcomes, and find for yourself an accountability partner if possible.  Last but not least, no matter what your plans are, don’t forget to get out and soak in the sun, find your summertime groove, and enjoy.