Celebrating Children’s Birthdays at School in Vietnam

In Vietnam, children’s birthday celebrations at school are a significant cultural event, which often intrudes into the school day. These celebrations, though delightful for the children, place a substantial amount of responsibility on the teachers – from organizing decorations to posing for countless photographs, teachers play a pivotal role in ensuring the success of these parties, often leaving parents as mere spectators. Nonetheless, for a majority of the schools in Vietnam, the dreaded class birthday party is a regular occurrence, so this article aims to assist you with the tools that you need to get through the event with the least amount of stress and disruption!

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Working with parents to decide on the date/time

The execution of a birthday party in a Vietnamese school rests heavily on the teacher’s shoulders. Parents often give one day’s notice (or may simply tell you in the morning that they will be coming in the afternoon for the party). Parents do understand that you want the parties in the afternoon, and then you need to try to negotiate a time that will adhere to the school’s schedule and ensure minimal disruption to the academic routine.

Birthday parties are simply part of many schools routines

Birthday parties are simply part of many schools routines

Make sure that you check the school’s policy on birthday parties before agreeing to anything. The school may have a policy which will not allow microphones (as that will disturb other classes) – live animals (yes – parents don’t look into the details and you could easily end up with a magician with a pigeon or rabbit!, etc)  When negotiating with the parents relate your decision to the school policy so that they understand it is not you who is standing in the way of their children’s big day and hold a grudge against you for the rest of the school year!

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Decorations – Transforming the Classroom

Decorating the classroom is one of the most visually impactful aspects of the celebration and a task that falls squarely on the teacher’s to-do list. You will find that the parents send over a lot of decorations for the teachers to start with and then typically bring even more – these are colourful banners, balloons, and streamers as well as special extras such as lifesize cutouts of the children etc! Be aware that this takes time so make sure that you function in this section when arranging what time you will have the school party!

Decorations are a major part of the class party experience

Decorations are a major part of the class party experience

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The Photograph – Capturing the Memories

Vietnamese culture places a high value on capturing and sharing memories, leading to an excessive number of photographs being taken during these events. As a result, teachers are expected to pose for numerous pictures with the birthday child, their classmates, and sometimes even their parents. Although you may not feel that this is part of your job description as a teacher – this is what is expected so it is best to simply smile and pose and accept that although in the West a birthday party may be a packet of crisps and last for 15 minutes there are vastly different expectations in Vietnam.

Photographs are a huge part of the birthday party

Photographs are a huge part of the birthday party

This aspect of the celebration can be particularly demanding. Teachers must balance the need to be present and engaged in the party while also accommodating the endless requests for photos.

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Organizing Activities- Keeping the Fun Going

Beyond decorations and photographs, teachers are also responsible for organizing activities that keep the children entertained. Some parents go all the way and hire professional entertainers – these can range from magicians to clowns to balloon twisters. Make sure that you know of any entertainers before they arrive – as visitors to the school will need permission- so make sure that you specifically ask the parents if anyone is coming. Be prepared and make your own rules ( or if there is a detailed school policy follow this ) so that you are ready – for example, that no guns or swords are made by the balloon twister / that the magician doesn’t use a microphone etc.

If there are no entertainers then you will need to have already made backups of ideas – the important thing is to make them as simple as possible for the teacher to implement with the least amount of effort. As a result, simple games such as dance freezes or karaoke are very popular.

Party games are played at school class parties so be ready with ideas!

Party games are played at school class parties so be ready with ideas!

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The Role of Parents –  Observers and Supporters

Interestingly, the role of parents in these celebrations is often quite limited. While they may contribute financially by providing the necessary items, their involvement during the actual event is minimal. Parents typically stand by as observers, watching their children enjoy the festivities orchestrated by the teachers.

Although in the West you expect a parent to take charge of a birthday party at school with the teacher being a supporter – in Vietnam, it is the opposite. This passive role can be attributed to cultural norms where the responsibility for organizing such events lies with the teachers, who are seen as authority figures capable of managing and facilitating the celebration. Parents, meanwhile, trust that the teachers will create a memorable experience for their children and are content with capturing the moments on their phones and cameras.

Organising a birthday party at school is not without its challenges. Teachers must juggle these additional responsibilities alongside their regular teaching duties. The time and effort invested in decorating, and executing the event can be overwhelming. Additionally, the pressure to meet the expectations of both children and parents can add to the stress.

However, at the end of the day, you need to remember that this is Vietnam and not the West – so you simply need to accept that this is the way that things are done and is a requirement rather than an option. So simply relax – go with the flow and enjoy making your student feel special on their birthday!

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Vietnam Teaching Jobs (VTJ), which was founded in 2012 is a well-established platform for teachers to find their dream teaching job in Vietnam. Covering the entirety of the country, we have successfully paired thousands of happy teachers and schools. Be part of the thousands of happy teachers working in Vietnam, register and apply for your dream job today!

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Vietnam Teaching Jobs (VTJ), which was founded in 2012 is a well-established platform for teachers to find their dream teaching job in Vietnam. Covering the entirety of the country, we have successfully paired thousands of happy teachers and schools. Be part of the thousands of happy teachers working in Vietnam, register and apply for your dream job today!