Though HCM City leads the country in privatising education, it needs to do much to speed up the process at all levels of education and improve quality, officials have said.

A Government resolution on pre-school education targets having 80 percent of nursery schools for children aged below three and 70 percent of kindergartens for children aged up to five privately owned by the end of this year.

The city has only crossed the halfway mark yet but is already facing problems in monitoring their quality.

However, Tran Thi Ngoc Anh, head of the People's Council's Culture and Social Affairs Division, said around 50 percent was a reasonable number in the current situation. If this rate increased now, facilities and teaching staff would fall below required standards, affecting the schools' quality, she told Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) newspaper without offering an explanation.

Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh, head of the city Department of Education and Training's Pre-school Education Division, said it was a contradiction that private pre-education schools have helped reduce the overload at public schools but have got no tax breaks.

At the high school level, the quality of students admitted to private schools remains a concern in the absence of entrance exams unlike at public schools.

The fees at private schools, many times higher than at public schools, are the biggest obstacle to privatising education since poor students can hardly afford them.

The process of privatisation has, however, widened the choice of schools for children from high-income families. Many quality private schools at all levels have been set up, some even of international standards, but they are affordable only for wealthy children.

Experts say privatising education has not helped reduce poor students' expenses for studies as expected though the city has exempted fees for them since tuition fees account for only a small part of the costs. They also call on authorities to review the working of self-financing public schools since they collect higher fees than other public schools./.