Summer camp across the seven seas

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Parents are forking out big money to send their kids abroad for the summer in increasing numbers

Participants at one of the summer camps in the UK offered by ILA Vietnam. Many Vietnamese parents are willing to spend thousands of dollars to send their kids to overseas summer camps.

Thirteen-year-old Mai Anh Duc is going to a summer camp this year, to study English and visit some local attractions like museums.

It is not a cheap camp, because he has to travel across the seven seas from Vietnam to reach Florida.

The three-week summer camp costs around US$4,435. Duc's mother, Thu Hien, says this is the third summer he is spending overseas after visiting the UK and Singapore earlier.

"I want him to learn how to live independently. His English has improved quite a lot after the trips, and he has passed many levels at his English study centers," she said. "I will send him to study overseas in the long term and these summer camps are like practice sessions."

Many Vietnamese parents are willing to spend thousands of US dollars to send their children to overseas summer camps.

The most popular destination is Singapore, but a growing number of companies are offering summer study tours to destinations such as the US and the UK.

According to Loc Nguyen, director of ILA in Hanoi, a foreign-owned education and training company, said the company has recruited enough students for its summer camps program. About 200 students will head to destinations in the US, the UK, Singapore, Canada and Australia for two to four weeks between June and July.

"I think more parents are willing to spend big bucks this year since the economic conditions have been much better," Loc said. "The cost for these summer study tours can be quite high, much higher than normal tours."

Though it varies, each student typically pays between $3,500 and $5,000 for three to four week summer camps in the US or the UK. Other destinations like Singapore cost much less.

According to Kieu Anh, who oversees the summer camp programs for Language Link, about 200 students have signed up this year.

"From my discussion with parents, I think that most of them who invest in their child from an early age are very open-minded. They want their children to get the best out of a western-style classroom and an English speaking environment."

Loc said ILA tries to balance the English study time and attaches other entertainment and sightseeing activities to the students' summer schedules.

"I think children these days are under great pressure to live up to their parents' expectations. Most of the parents signing their children up for these trips plan to send their kids abroad for longterm studies," he said.

Pham Thi Phuong Mai, an education consultant with Sunrise Vietnam, which has been offering overseas summer tours since 2004, said parents care mostly about their children having a chance to practice their English. That does not have to be in classrooms.

Le Thi Thuy, who will send her 14-year-old daughter to attend Language Link's summer camp in Singapore, along with other activities in Hong Kong and Malaysia, hopes that the trip will motivate her daughter to get back to her normal studies and do well.

"I expect her to understand more about life in many different parts of the world," she said.

Tommy Nguyen, marketing officer for Ho Chi Minh City-based DTU Co. Ltd, said his company currently runs summer study tours only to Singapore but plans to expand to other markets.

"The number of students we have received this year is about three times higher than previous years," Nguyen said. "This means there is a growing sense among parents who feel they need to give their children an international environment. And Vietnamese children now are much more global-minded than their previous generations. "

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