Hundreds of parents lined up overnight and pushed each other out of the way to get their children a spot in a coveted public school.
Van Bao Elementary School, the only high-quality elementary school in Ha Dong District, was packed with parents overnight on Monday.
Among them was a man named Tuan, 34.
“Way too exhausted!” Tuan said after spending a night waiting in line in the Hanoi summer heat and then spending the morning trying to elbow other parents out of the way to submit an enrollment file for his child on Tuesday morning.
Tuan said when he drove past the school around 7 p.m. on Monday, there were lines of parents already queuing on the street in front of the school, many of whom had brought their own plastic stools and other supplies.
He knew they were there to submit first-grade applications for their children the next morning.
Tuan also wanted his child to have a chance at Van Bao, so he rushed home to grab his completed application and other provisions before returning to camp out at the school with his wife.
When they arrived at 8 p.m., other parents had already written down tickets with ordinal numbers and spread those tickets around. He got No. 93.
By 9 p.m., more than 200 parents had reached the school, which was only opening enrollment to a total of 210 first graders for six classes the next school year.
But many more parents continued arriving throughout the night.
All of them waited as midnight passed and the heat refused to let up, even during brief bouts of light rain the in dead of the evening.
Tuan said everyone sat in an orderly fashion and respected an officer who was there to oversee the affair. Everyone behaved themselves initially, he said.
However, once the school gate opened at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, everyone tried to jump in at once, with parents doing everything they could to squeeze past each other and beat the crowd to submit their files first.
“It was lucky that the school eventually decided to receive the applications according to the ordinal numbers, so my wife got the chance to submit my kid’s file,” Tuan said.
The school will only admit applications for children born in 2017 who are registered citizens of Ha Dong District.
At 9:45 a.m. on Tuesday, 200 parents had been let inside the school building, while around 30 others were still waiting outside while the mercury reached 32 degrees Celsius. Plastic stools and garbage were scattered all around them.
Nghiem Phan Thu Trang, 30, was one of the parents who was still hoping against hope outside. She was waiting with her husband and her daughter, who’s about to enter first grade.
“What if some of them are rejected because they are not official citizens of Ha Dong?” she asked rhetorically.
Established only a few years ago in 2020, Van Bao has quickly earned a reputation as a distinguished school.
Trang said other schools have 50 students in one class while Van Bao keeps the number at just more than 30.
Tuan’s first child is currently enrolled in third grade at Van Bao. The father said he is satisfied with the quality of teachers and facilities at the school, so he wants his second child to study there too.
“It was easy [to enroll] the first year, but since last year, the lines of parents queuing have become more difficult,” he said.
A school representative told VnExpress that the school does not under any circumstances encourage parents to line up for applications.
Hanoi parents jostle to get kids into schoolHanoi parents jostle to get kids into school
Pham Thi Le Hang, head of Ha Dong’s Education and Training Department, called it “surprising” that so many parents flock to the school.
“We will learn from this. The department will work with the school to have students take tests next year instead of just submitting the application files.”
She assured that Ha Dong District still has other primary schools with qualities as good as Van Bao and by July 1, parents can start applying for their kids and there would be enough classes for all first graders.
Hanoi now has around 20 high-quality public schools of different levels and as regulated by the city, those school must cap their tuition fee at VND5.5 million (US$234) per month.
Hanoi has 2.3 million preschool to high school students enrolled for the 2023-2024 school year.
According to official statistics, by 2022, Hanoi had more than 2,800 preschool to high-school level schools, of which 550 were non-public schools, 13 were international schools and 21 were preschools with foreign investments.
The capital city on May enrolled a plan to build seven new public schools to teach students from first to 12th grades.