In the southern hub of Ho Chi Minh City, where demand for skilled workers never seems to cease, the problem is particularly acute: In the 2017 enrollment season, only 13,000 applied for 66 vocational schools in HCM City, approximately half of the number the schools could accommodate, according to the city's Department of Education and Training.
One school could only admit two dozen students for every major it offered.
The low number of students means a shortage of funding for operational costs and teachers’ salaries, putting these schools in a financial crisis.
“It hurts when we have to consider closing down. We have greatly invested money, time and efforts and poured our hearts into education, but without sufficient students, we are doomed,” Phương Nam post-secondary vocational school deputy rector Dao Thi Ngoc told Thanh nien (Young People) newspaper.
Some schools refused to idly wait for the end to come.
Tay Sai Gon school has opened an English-Computer Centre to teach both its vocational students and outside learners in an effort to generate more income for the school.
“The school also opened short courses on electricity engineering or tailoring, of which the tuition fees could cover about 60 percent of the school’s operational costs,” Tay Sai Gon school rector Nguyen Khac Thuong said.
Nguyen Huu Canh Economic and Technical Vocational School also resorted to opening evening courses at the school and contracted firms to teach tailoring-fashion design, computer engineering or motorbike repair, said deputy rector Vo Thanh Liem.
He added that the school earned an extra 500 million VND (22,000 USD) from those short-term courses, supporting the school through difficult times to maintain its vocational training in the long-term.
HCM City authorities, in the meantime, were encouraging educational institutions, from kindergartens to vocational schools, to make interest-free loans under the support of the city budget to improve their educational quality.
Such loan is an opportunity for the struggling vocational schools to renovate themselves in order to attract more students.
Phuong Nam school deputy rector Dao Thi Ngoc said that the school planned to borrow some money to buy equipment for the nursery course and to build new facilities.
HCM City Science and Technology Vocational School rector Dang Van Sang also considered borrowing the money to expand the school and better equip the school’s nursery and cooking courses.
“When the students can access good educational conditions and learn skills which are in high demand, they will be able to find jobs very quickly after graduation. It will help the school attract more students,” Sang said.
“In order to survive, we must change," he stressed.