After 15 years of operating and guiding ILA to become Vietnam’s top English academy, Tran Xuan Dzu, its CEO, is planning the next steps for the organization.
On a mid-July afternoon, summertime for children, at 146 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, students were lining up for a school bus preparing for a field trip. This is one of many activities included in the “Summer of Game Changers” program in 2022 organized by ILA. This seven-week course was designed by ILA to not only let students experience different summer activities, but also help them reignite their passion for learning and discovering, and build the foundation of an active leader, with other important aspects that will prepare them to become the guiding generation.
“ILA’s education method is to encourage confidence and natural growth. That they’ve done well, and we encourage them to do even better. They have improved themselves, understood their core values, matured, eventually left school, and helped change the world,” said Tran Xuan Dzu, CEO of ILA.
Under Dzu’s leadership, ILA has set up more than 50 English centers across 13 cities in Vietnam, teaching over 1 million students to become excellent at English, and helping thousands of students to achieve their dream to study abroad.
Dzu continues to challenge herself with even greater ambitions for ILA.
Tran Xuan Dzu, CEO of ILA. Photo courtesy of ILA
“Education changed my life”
Starting at ILA in 1997, with a part-time job as a writer, Du’s salary was only $1 per hour. Afterward, Dzu decided to stay with ILA and one by one, got to experience different positions from enrollment counselor, to head of operation office, to manager of overseas education consultants, to manager of human resource and projects.
“I didn’t stay long in any of those positions because I had to move constantly from one department to another,” Dzu recalled. In 2007, she was appointed vice president of ILA and became CEO in 2011.
Dzu has been with ILA ever since it was only a 25-meter-square box office. She has brought the organization to new heights, with over 50 centers around the country. “The people of ILA create the core of ILA. Together, we create the story of ILA. We have been with ILA all our lives; we have grown with ILA,” Dzu said.
Admitting that ILA has changed her life, yet through ILA, Dzu and its core members have changed millions of lives all over the country for the past 20 years. Under Dzu’s guidance, ILA has focused on its responsibility as an education provider, finding economically effective and efficient way to allow many students to experience a good education. What makes ILA special in the hearts of millions of students, and parents, is its method of encouraging personal growth.
“I feel proud that ILA has built a good standard for the Vietnamese private education sector, from infrastructure to course curriculums, all are built to a high standard for students and parents to use. I am the happiest when I see ILA students standing on the podium, confidently talking about the future, about their dreams, and their goals.”
“Education needs to formulate the values of an ethical person, a contented person,” Dzu said. In order to actualize her beliefs, Dzu has gone and studied education models around the world.
Dzu was appointed vice president of ILA and became CEO in 2011. Photo courtesy of ILA
After participating in many global education conferences, Dzu understood that in the following decades, millions of jobs will be gone, and in the future, children will not know what their future jobs will be because of the constant changes in technology. The education system cannot afford to wait for the future to come to prepare students for their careers.
With this knowledge, ever since 2014, ILA has pioneered the application of the Project-Based Learning model (PBL) in its courses. This model not only helps students get better at English but also teaches them the six groups of soft skills that can help them become global citizens in the future. However, this is still not enough for Dzu.
The years of 2020 and 2021 were the most difficult for Vietnam’s economy due to the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in the field of education due to social distancing. While many investors in the field chose to downsize their operations, from cutting jobs to closing an entire center, Dzu’s leadership kept ILA’s entire organization intact.
To adapt to the new norm, ILA is starting to integrate the use of technology into its lessons, starting with online classes for students during lockdowns and social distancing. This could be seen as the start of Dzu’s plan for an education platform technology (EduTech) for ILA.
After the pandemic, ILA has come back strong with activities planned to help students all over the country reinforce their knowledge and rise to the top. ILA is investing in better facilities as well as better curriculums, and building more centers over the country to keep their vow of a better education to parents and students.
Instilling happiness in Vietnamese children
In 2020, ILA founded a kindergarten system named ILO (which means “happiness” in Finnish) with development driven by the combination between ILA – a highly regarded institution that teaches English and other fundamental skills with over 20 years of communicating and understanding children’s lives and the complex, modern Vietnamese society – and HEI Schools kindergarten education system founded by the University of Helsinki, the oldest and largest university in Finland.
Unlike other kindergartens with colorful and crowded classes, ILO was designed with a Scandinavian style and classic music to nourish student minds. Classrooms are designed with simplicity in mind, filled with natural light to fuel positive energy.
“I was born during a hard time, with a lack of opportunities for schooling, but by enduring these struggles, appreciating these struggles, an ambition for a good education system for children was born,” Dzu said.
Students participate in an exciting outdoor activity at ILA. Photo courtesy of ILA
The dream of promoting happiness at ILA serves to turn the school into a home, to fully take care of each student. With the ILO model, Dzu wants to establish a separate education environment for the age of kindergarten, so that children are perfectly cared for, tended to, and can fully enjoy the best learning conditions. “The learning space has to feel like home, natural and at one with nature so students can feel relaxed, entertained, and suddenly, learning becomes living, which will follow the child for the rest of their lives,” said Dzu.
At ILO, there are many creative-play activities, encouraging kids to “play to learn, learn to play”, teaching them critical thinking skills, creativeness, communication skills and cooperation skills, which then enhance their potential, helping them define themselves and actively follow their passion. The goal of ILO is to assist children in getting a joyful start, and a strong foundation for a bright future.
When discussing the serious investment and high cost of classes while many ILO centers only have eight to 12 classes and a limited number of students, Dzu said: “Compared to what’s being invested in ILO, tuition alone isn’t enough to support it. However, when you’re committed to education, the most important thing is to do it right, slowly gaining the trust of parents. The profits will come eventually. There are many challenges to overcome but still, it is a dream worth chasing.”
“It isn’t just about continuing ILA’s mission to bring a good start to millions of Vietnamese children in their early years, ILO also nourishes their personality and their heart to ignite passion for learning for children at the age of 0 to 6. At ILO, we want to accompany parents on the journey to educate their child, to teach them the values of inner-peace and morality, and to cultivate their dreams so they are ready for a bright future,” the ILO CEO said.
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