Overview on Vietnam's Education System
This summary is to provide you general information on Vietnam’s education system.
1. Current National Education System in Vietnam
The national education system consists of formal education and continuing education and includes the following levels:
- Pre-primary education with nursery and kindergartens;
- General education with primary education, lower secondary education, and upper secondary education;
- Professional education with professional secondary education and vocational training;
- Higher education with college, undergraduate, master and doctoral degrees.
Schools in the national educational system are organized in the following forms:
- Public schools;1
- People-founded schools;2 and
- Private schools.3
2. Statistics and Legal Framework
2.1. Statistics for the period from 1999 to 2011
Source: MOET’s website
2.2. Legal framework
The first law on education was issued on December 2, 1998 (the 1998 Law) 4 to provide the legal framework for the development of the education system in Vietnam. After 5 years of implementation, the 1998 Law became out-dated and needed to be amended and supplemented. The new law on education was issued on June 27, 2005 to replace the 1998 Law (the 2005 Law).5 The 2005 Law deleted 3 articles from the 1998 Law, added 13 new articles, and amended 83 articles. Some significant changes incorporated in the 2005 Law are the following:
- The national education system consists of formal education and continuing education6 and shall be organized in the form of public schools, people-founded schools, and private schools; 7 the form of semi-public schools in the 1998 Law no longer exists;
- Universal education levels shall include primary education and lower secondary education instead of only primary education, as it was in the 1998 Law;8
- Graduation examination is not needed for pupils who complete primary education and lower secondary education. These exams were considered to be a burden for both teachers and young pupils;9
- Provides policies for the public and private schools.10
Recently, the 2005 Law was amended and supplemented by the 44/2009/QH12 Law issued on November 25, 2009 to be effective as of July 1, 2010 (the Amended Law).11 Under the Amended Law, universal education shall also apply to all 5-year-old children in pre-primary school, and the Prime Minister will make decisions for university establishment.
3. Highlights on Vietnam Education
Since the late 1990s, as committed to UNESCO’s Education for All (EFA), Vietnam has achieved remarkable progress in improving access to basic education with a net primary enrollment rate of 95% for the year 2000 and 97.5% for 200512. However, there are still challenges facing the education system. The Ministry of Education and Training, other government agencies and educational institutions are striving to address and solve the following problems.
As stated in 1.1 above, the numbers of schools, pupils/students and teachers have significantly increased over the last 10 years, which shows the optimistic result of governmental efforts to provide more basic general education to the Vietnamese population. The achievements also reflect the Vietnamese people’s increased attention to their children’s schooling. Although living standards are still generally low, almost all Vietnamese families try their best to afford enough for their children to go to school, with the hope that their children will have a better future for their lives.
Quality is one of Vietnamese education’s major issues, which is affected by many factors including a passive teaching method, a shortage of teaching staff, poor teaching materials, inadequate school infrastructure, and weak education management. However, Vietnam has made great effort to improve quality and have gained encouraging results. With continued support from the Vietnamese people, the Government will continue to work towards the country’s stated goal that “Education is the top national policy.”13
3.3. Teaching method
Most teachers in Vietnam apply the old and traditional teaching method in which the teacher is the primary speaker and the learner is the primary listener. This method creates boredom in learners and encourages a passive study habit. In order to make positive changes in such a traditional teaching method, Vietnam must provide a “revolutionary” pedagogy in universities where future teachers are trained and ensure that they apply these more active practices to their pupils once they enter the classroom to teach. On the other hand, teachers are also under high pressure to strictly follow the curricula governed by the Ministry of Education and Training, which are dense and out of date. Such a curriculum limits the creativity of teachers and constricts teaching capabilities and effectiveness. Moreover, large class sizes in schools also create challenges for teachers who are learning to apply new and modern teaching methods in the classroom. Such activities such as group work, role playing, and out-of-classroom activities are more creative ways of teaching, but may be affected by the size of the class.
3.4. Shortage of teachers
Vietnam has a serious shortage in teaching staff - in both quantity and quality. Many teachers do not meet the requirements of teaching and are usually overloaded. Teachers often do not have time to do any further research, improve their skills, or broaden their knowledge to improve their teaching skills.
3.5. Inadequate school infrastructure
Most schools in Vietnam do not have qualified labs, libraries, and playgrounds for pupils. With the cooperation of various industry sectors and the investment from society as a whole, the school infrastructure has been upgraded day by day, but it is still not enough to significantly change enrollment and the learners’ needs, especially in the remote, mountainous, and isolated areas of the country. As schools develop their infrastructure and facilities, they are better able to support their students learning and studies. In addition, reducing class size is another initiative that schools are making to reduce the pressure of teachers.
3.7. Teaching materials
Teaching materials are changing slowly and are still a long way from practical use. It is said that the Government is currently considering a “70 thousand billion Dong project” to be used for renewing teaching materials.
3.8. Education management
Education management is still a weak point in Vietnam’s overall education system. The current management system does not work properly or effectively even though it is frequently being modified. Many improvement projects have been invested, but have not brought about significant results.
Examination is really a burden to all learners. Fortunately, with the issuance of the 2005 Law, graduation examinations for pupils completing the primary and lower secondary schools have been removed. In the future, when teaching and learning quality has been improved, graduation examination required for upper secondary school students and university entrance examinations should be removed as they are extremely rigorous and costly.
4. Education Trends
4.1. The Policy of the “Socialization” of Education
The policy of the “socialization of education” has been promoted in recent years since the issuance of the 2005 Law. The State shall play the dominant role in developing the mission of education; carry out the diversification of school types and educational structures, encourage, promote and facilitate organizations and individuals to take part in the development of the mission of education. It is the responsibility of all organizations, families, and citizens to take care of education, to cooperate with schools to realize the goals of education, and to build a sound and safe educational environment.
4.2. New teaching and learning method shall be applied
Education should never be limited to memorization. An active method should gradually take the place of memorizing and rote learning. More and more people have recognized the disadvantage of the old method and are willing to make a change.
4.3. More cooperation with educational institutions in other countries
With the commitments from the open economic policy and the World Trade Organization, Vietnam is gaining more investment in education from foreign investors. With more resources, the government is making efforts to level up to international education standards.
 Public schools are established, invested for infrastructure, covered financially for regular expenditures by the State.
 People-founded schools are established, invested for infrastructure, covered financially for operating costs by local community.
 Private schools are established, invested for infrastructure, covered financially for operating costs by social organizations, social-professional organizations, economic organizations, or individuals with non-state budget funding.
 For full details of the 1998 Law, visit here.
 For full details of the 2005 Law, visit here.
 Article 4 of the 2005 Law.
 Item 1 of article 48 of the 2005 Law.
 Article 11 of the 2005 Law.
 Article 31 of the 2005 Law.
 Article 65, 66, 67 and 68 of the 2005 Law.
 For full details of the Amended Law, visit here.
 Hamano, T. (2008). Educational reform and teacher education in Vietnam. Journal of Education for Teaching, 34(4), 397-410.
 The 2005 Law.