Theory of Change: insight from the education reform in
Viet Nam | 5 Minute Read

Author: Noushin Akhter Nova

One of the major key strategies of Vietnam to achieve further economic growth was the modernization of its overall education system. In the current Socio-economic development strategy for 2011-2020 of Vietnam, major emphasis is put on the education sector. The goals are to develop the existing human capital, to boost higher education enrollment, and to modernize education in such a way that it can meet global industrialization needs of the country. Some of the goal achieved by the successful execution of this reform was part of the government directive “Comprehensive Reform of Higher Education in Vietnam, 2006–2020” in 2005.

Currently, existing secondary education in Vietnam can be categorized into two levels: Upper Secondary (USS) and Lower Secondary (LSS). Grades 10 to 12 are part of the upper secondary education level, whereas the lower secondary education comprises of grades 6 to 9.  In school year 2009-2010, Vietnam had 15,172 primary schools and 611 combined primary and lower secondary schools, whereas the situation of the upper secondary was not that remarkable.  Despite the Upper Secondary School (USS) completion rate being 92.57% in SY 2010, the average academic performance of USS students is poorer than those residing in the ASEAN region.  Since only 10.3% attained national standards in SY 2010,  it was crucial to improving the quality and relevance of USS programs so that the graduates could meet expectations of industry or higher education.  Successful reformation of this system was important for ensuring long term development. The quality of instruction being poor, the curricula having limited relevance to the world of work, the disadvantaged groups having limited access to USS, and the management and planning capacity of local authorities being weak are some of the major challenges that needed tackling to solve this issue.

The development of the necessary measures in line with the new curriculum framework proposed by e.Gen’s team of consultants, which is considered to be a future policy direction for the Vietnam Upper Secondary and Secondary School (USS)  system. A competency-based, as well as student-centred approach, were used by USEDP II for improving the teaching method and practice activities. The competency-based education (CBE) approach is a commonly used process that allows students to advance based on their capability and pace of learning to master a skill or competency regardless of environment. This method is featured in a way to be adopted by students’ of different learning abilities and can lead to more efficient student outcomes. In the mentioned project the need arises to shift to a competency-based curriculum from a knowledge-based one in case of general education. To improve the quality of Upper Secondary Education, e.Gen followed few steps as interventions. This includes but are not limited to:

  • developing new facilities at existing upper secondary schools
  • providing support to the boarding schools for ethnic minority
  • arranging an inclusive education program for students with special need
  • initiating an education program for disadvantaged groups that would ensure sustainable development for them
  • developing capacity for private sector schooling.

The project sought to improve young labour force employability in Vietnam and the successful execution of this project ensured that the Upper Secondary School (USS) graduates are better prepared for vocational career development and pursuing higher education.

Establishing new quality assurance mechanism and new accreditation, creating a  national qualifications framework, and drastically increasing higher education enrollments by 125% in a decade (to 450 students per 10,000 by 2020 from 200 students per 10,000 people in 2010) were some of the steps taken to successfully enact the reform.To meet the diverse learning needs of the society, training for various economic components was provided so that the execution of the higher education reform can be done successfully. For this, all available financial sources were mobilized and used, instead of relying on the allocated state budget. State target, as well as non-state targets, were implemented at the same time. Various diverse and flexible training programs instead of the rigid training programs were developed and implemented in order to meet the employment creation requirements as well as to find a job in the market economy with diverse and abrupt job-related changes.

Almost all higher education instructor requiring masters or doctoral degree by 2020 will ensure higher teaching quality. Investing in applied, employment-geared training on a larger scale will develop the current and future state of the labour force. Of the current student population, the enrollment rate in applied programs will be 70 to 80 per cent by 2020. In the secondary education system, high school graduation examination and university admission are mostly emphasized while reforming the system. By successfully executing the Upper Secondary Education Development Project, the diversity of the curriculum was ensured, the learning materials were improved, high-quality school facilities were developed, and teachers were trained by more innovative training methods. The goal of the project was to build 2,000 schoolrooms, which would include libraries, and computer and science laboratories. It also supported government efforts by decentralizing the education management, by examining new approaches when it comes to school finance, by initiating new programs relating to education, and by developing greater responsiveness in local needs in the disadvantaged provinces. Starting with reforming the curriculum and textbooks of Grade 10, plans were to be implemented and expanded nationwide with time.

In countries like Vietnam, where the government exercises control over socio-economic developmental strategies, changing the comprehensive education system of a country can be complex and often considered difficult. The project seeks to solve the currently exisiting limitations and inefficiency in education and training sector. According to the five year socio-economic development plan, Vietnam strives to be a modernized industrial country by 2020. Upper Secondary Education Development Project will create the environment and drive for socio-economic development, improve productivity, efficiency, and competitiveness of the economy, improve the quality of human resource and technological as well as scientific capability, and to strive for social advancement and equality. Through the successful implementation of this project, Vietnam education and training network will be expanded with upscale size and ensure higher quality, which in turn will better meet the needs of the society.  

“Establishing new quality assurance mechanism and new accreditation, creating a  national qualifications framework, and drastically increasing higher education enrollments by 125% in a decade were some of the steps taken to successfully enact the reform.”

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