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Evaluation report

2011 Viet Nam: Evaluation of Adolescent Friendly Lower Secondary Schools



Author: Munce, K.L.

Executive summary

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Viet Nam Commitment to Quality Basic Education for All

1. That education is a fundamental right for each and every child is formally recognised in Viet Nam, inscribed in the Constitution and embedded in the revised Law on Education 2005. In Viet Nam, ‘basic education’ comprises nine years of formal schooling (or its non-formal equivalent) including five years of primary school (grades 1-5) and four years of lower secondary school (or Grades 6-9).

2. On an international level, Viet Nam signed the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1990 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2007. Viet Nam has committed to the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All agenda. Viet Nam is also a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

3. Educational development is the first national priority, including universalising primary and lower secondary school education shifting from quantity to quality. In 2008, MOET embarked upon a national emulation campaign entitled “Child-friendly Schools, Active Students”, with the aim of building a safe and effective education environment suitable to local conditions and meeting social needs.

Identifying Barriers to Lower Secondary School Education for All

4. While significant progress has been made towards realising quality basic education for all, major obstacles remain for some segments of the population, notably children living in rural remote areas, ethnic minority children especially girls, children with disabilities, homeless and street children, children in orphanages, abused children, migrant children, children affected by HIV and AIDS, children in reform schools, working children, married children and children in conflict with the law.

5. Documented barriers to lower secondary school include poverty, distance from school, poor quality of teaching and learning, health, safety and protection issues, gender-specific barriers, unconducive cultural practices and attitudes, or family circumstances.

6. Realising a child’s right to education requires removing the barriers that prevent children from not only physically accessing a LSS, but from remaining safe and protected therein, from attending regularly, from actively engaging in meaningful learning, and from successfully completing and exiting the lower secondary school cycle with confidence, self-esteem and useful knowledge, skills and attitudes.

Adolescent Friendly School Model

7. Influenced by both the Convention on the Rights of the Child (emphasising inclusion, democratic participation, child-centeredness) and positive ‘developments in an increasing number of countries globally, and in support of the Government goal of Universal Lower Secondary Education, the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) supported by UNICEF has developed an ‘Adolescent-Friendly Lower Secondary School’ (AFS) approach to school quality improvement that is specifically designed to eliminate the afore-mentioned barriers, and is responsive to specific needs in local contexts.

8. The AFS model provides a multi-dimensional definition of ‘quality’ education, where ‘quality’’ encompasses ‘inclusive’ ‘relevant’ ‘learning’ ‘for All’. The conceptual framework for the model comprises five key dimensions (inclusive of all children; effective learning for all adolescents; healthy, safe, protective for all adolescents; gender-sensitive; and promoting the participation of students, parents and community), with 17 criteria and 42 indicators, and a school self-assessment rubric.

9. Since 2007, the model was introduced to 50 lower secondary schools in 12 districts of eight provinces of Viet Nam (North, Centre, and South) with regional urban-rural and ethnic minority representation, with a methodical, bottom up and participatory process. AFS school improvement plans (SIPs) were developed on the basis of AFS school self-assessments (SSA).

10. Since the school year 2008-2009, SIP implementation commenced, SIPs have been updated annually, with one subsequent SSA conducted in 2009/10. MOET assistance provided to schools to support SIP implementation has included training in active learning and teaching methodologies and techniques, child-friendly school libraries and student club management; life skills education including prevention of HIV-AIDs and reduction of stigma and discrimination; community and parental education about adolescent learning, and monitoring and evaluation methods.

11. Planned as a pilot initiative, lessons learned from the AFS model were intended to inform decision on the integration of relevant criteria and indicators into a set of national standards for secondary schools, with subsequent application to all LSS in Viet Nam. To this end, and after four years of implementation, an evaluation of the AFS implementation experience was considered timely.

12. The overall purpose of the evaluation was “to support MOET to assess the outcomes of the UNICEF-assisted AFS model after four years of implementation.

13. The objectives of the evaluation included:

  • Assessment of the extent to which the AFS model contributed to SIP implementation
  • Identification of best practices, innovative interventions and shortcomings
  • Analysis of effectiveness of the child friendly learning environment that impact students’ performance (enrolment, completion and learning outcomes)
  • Identification of lessons learned to inform UNICEF’s sub-national work in the new cycle as well as for MOET’s revision of benchmarks of national standard schools.

14. The evaluation criteria included relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability. The UNEG Ethical Guidelines for Evaluation (2008) provided guidance for the evaluation. An AFS Development Results Framework was developed as a point of reference for the evaluation (Annex 5).

15. The evaluation team spent a day and a half in each of five LSS over a two week period. The schools, selected by MOET, were located in five districts of three provinces, namely: one school in Dong Thap province (Mekong river delta region); two schools in Kon Tum province (Central Highlands region), and 2 schools in Ho Chi Minh City (city settings). Thus, different geographical areas including urban, rural and rural/remote settings and different ethnic groups were reflected in the schools visited. The evaluation

team aimed to develop a comprehensive, balanced account of the strengths and /or weaknesses of the AFS model, by taking due account of the views of a diverse cross-section of stakeholders.

16. Data collected was validated, to the extent possible, by using multiple methods and sources. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches to data collection were employed, including creative methods with children to facilitate their contribution. At the school/community level, a range of stakeholders contributed

to the evaluation of the AFS model –including: representatives of DOET, BOET, community organisations, parents, teachers and students. Community stakeholders included representatives from the Women’s Union, the Youth Union, District Health/Social Affairs officers, Learning Encouragement Association, Fatherland Front, District and Commune People’s Committees, Veterans Association, District Party Committee, Commune Culture and Social Affairs Committee and the Farmers’ Association.

17. The evaluation team acknowledges the support provided by MOET/DOET/BOET and UNICEF for this important evaluation. Heartfelt thanks are extended to the many stakeholders at each of the five schools visited (school principals, teachers, parents, community members, students) for their cooperation, participation and open sharing of their achievements and challenges – without which this evaluation would not have been possible.

2. Key Findings

Ongoing school quality improvement processes initiated

18. The first key critical outcome of the AFS initiative has been the initiation of school quality improvement processes in all AFS schools – involving development, implementation and monitoring the results of SIPs - focused specifically on to the inclusion of all adolescents in a quality lower secondary school education process. Most importantly, it is a school improvement process involving the active participation of parents and the wider community, together with students and teachers, enabling response to the needs of specific children within specific communities. Furthermore, it is a school improvement process that is logical, structured, based on analysis of current school strengths and weaknesses, and referenced to a specific and comprehensive set of ‘adolescent-friendly’ quality standards. Despite the time and efforts required to complete the AFS school self-assessment, all schools found the AFS SSA process a very useful input to the development of SIPs.

Enhanced ‘Adolescent-Friendly’ Status of Schools

19. On the basis of comparison of AFS status in 2007 and 2009, the evaluation identified a tremendous amount of school improvement in all five schools, across the five AFS Dimensions and for the majority of the indicators. A significant number of indicators, across all five schools now score 3 or higher. On a scale of 0-4, these are indeed very positive outcomes. .

20. Across the five schools visited, however, there is variation in adolescent-friendly status, and in the scale (and in some cases, direction) of change. In some cases, despite considerable improvement that did occur, there is still some way to go before a particular standard is achieved. Details are provided in the main report.

21. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that the full achievement of AFS standards, across all dimensions, criteria and indicators, will not occur overnight. Some indicators will require more resources, taking a longer time to achieve, than others. The pace and nature of change will vary from school to school, as different contextual challenges are faced.

Outcomes for Students

22. Students were asked a number of open-ended questions which focused on things students do and do not like about school, factors contributing to learning, to learning difficulties and drop-out. Collectively, a wide range of responses were provided by students across the five schools. While student feedback validates the relevance of all existing indicators, various gaps in the current AFS indicators emerge.

23. Students identified a range of positive ‘adolescent-friendly’ practices in their own schools. Significant findings from student responses across the five schools are presented briefly below.

Inclusion

24. 100% of students responded positively to: I feel happy at school – school is fun: 97% of students agreed ‘teachers treat all students fairly and don’t discriminate ‘

Effective for All Students

25. Students were said to ‘love going to school’ because of the improved learning conditions; 98% of respondents indicated ‘My teacher helps me to learn – my teacher explains clearly; 97% students indicated positively: ‘Teachers ask our opinion and listen to our problems’; 99% of students indicated they have enough school materials (exercise books and pens/pencils).

While 91% and 95% of students indicated: ‘library has many interesting books ‘ and ‘’ There are enough books in library for all’, but only 59.5% agreed ‘I go to the library regularly’; 98% of students reported ‘Teachers assess students work fairly’; on the other hand, 62% indicated ‘My teachers are always present to teach our lessons’.

Health and Health-Promoting

26. While 78% of all students consulted (across five schools) indicated ‘There is enough clean drinking water at school’, this reflected 100% of student respondents in S1 &S2, 83% & 95% in S3 & S4, but only 22% in S4.

While 80% of total students indicated ‘toilets are clean – we use them’, this encompassed 100% of student respondents in S1 & S2 response, but 50% of respondents in S4.

6% of students indicate they are ‘often hungry at school’, while another 34% say they are ‘hungry sometimes’ (predominantly from S4 & S5). Combining ‘yes’ and’ sometimes’ responses, 20%, 30%, 29%, 60% and 75% of respondents at schools 1-5 respectively, are hungry at school at least sometimes, and in cases often.

Safe, Protective, Supportive

27. While 9% of students indicated positively they have ‘certain worries when going to school’ (predominantly at S4), another 30% indicated they have worries sometimes. By combining ‘yes’ and ‘sometimes’ responses, results in: 40%, 35%, 62.5%, 55% and 100% of respondents from schools 1,2,3,4,5 having worries at school sometimes, if not more frequently.

94% of students indicate ‘the school helps us solve our problems’.

While 96% of students indicate ‘all students at school are kind to me’, 7% of students indicate ’other students bully, humiliate, hurt me’. Combining ‘yes’ and ‘sometimes’ responses presents: 25% (S1), 5% (S2), 8%(S3), 26% (S4) and 15% (S5) of respondents who are at least sometimes bullied or hurt at school by other students.

Significantly, no cases of corporal punishment were reported in any school.

Participation

28. 99% of students across all five schools indicated their families ‘encourages me to go to school every day’ and ‘want them to finish Grade 9; 83% of respondents indicated ‘students are involved in decision-making at school’.

Enhanced LSS Participation and Learning

29. Stakeholders consulted across the five schools repeatedly referred to reductions in drop-out and repetition both areas – this was largely confirmed by examination of available school data. In all cases, AFS was described by DOET as having contributed to the universalization of LSS education.

30. Stakeholders in all schools referred to improved learning outcomes of students, although student assessment data was not available to systematically verify this. Enhanced student confidence, communication skills, expressing their own opinions, knowledge of child rights were referred to, as well as increasing numbers of ‘excellent’ students and students progressing to higher secondary education’.

Outcomes for Parents and Community

31. Parents and community representatives, in all schools, had a good understanding of the AFS concept. This resulted from participation in AFS activities (self-assessment, school improvement planning, implementation and monitoring) and school/community advocacy – as opposed to participation in specific training activities as such. Schools took active steps to engage the wider community in the implementation of the AFS initiative. Many stakeholders consulted referred repeatedly to the strengthening of the school-community relationship which has been achieved in AFS schools.

Furthermore, the nature of parent/community support was reported to have expanded from material &/or financial support alone to broader involvement in school planning, decision-making and participation in a wider range of school activities.

32. On the whole, parents and community representatives were satisfied with their involvement with AFS, with the AFS model itself, and with progress made at their school. They acknowledged that AFS is an effective way to improve schools, stressed the need to maintain the results achieved and recommended expanding AFS to other schools.

Outcomes for Teachers

33. Teachers conveyed a broad understanding of the AFS model. Teachers mentioned new practices as a result of the training, namely: organizing self-regulated classes and activities; applying active learning and teaching methods; integrating life skills education; developing healthy and safe teaching and learning environment; developing school-community relations; teaching HIV prevention in Biology; facilitating student self-regulation. Teachers feel the school environment is more democratic, open, trusted.

34. Teachers indicated AFS is a feasible model for school improvement aimed at enhancing comprehensive educational quality. Teachers are satisfied with the school improvement achieved thus far. Teachers advocated MOET to institutionalize the AFS approach in legal documents related to all school activities and in pre-service teacher training courses.

DOET Support for AFS Model

35. Every school expressed broad satisfaction with the timely guidance, training, materials, regular monitoring, motivation, supervision provided by MOET/DOET. DOET leadership and ongoing support for AFS implementation was clearly a significant factor contributing to school achievements to date.

36. In all provinces, DOET representatives were thoroughly conversant with the AFS model and specific activities and outcomes in their schools. DOET praised the efforts and time expended by teachers, staff and educational managers in AFS advocacy and promotion. The creativity of teachers in finding appropriate solutions to problems and in enabling the realization of AFS objectives was recognised and highly commended. The other significant area of considerable positive development, mentioned by DOET in all provinces, was that of school-community relations and cooperation. The common view of DOET across the provinces was that the AFS model is effective and appropriate. In most provinces, the impact of AFS has spread beyond the initial pilot schools. Specific examples are provided in the report.

37. DOET representatives in all five provinces advocated the integration of the AFS model in the national education system and collectively provided a comprehensive set of recommendations in this regard.

3. Discussion of Key Issues

Relevance

38. In broad terms, the AFS concept seeks to promote the universalisation and quality improvement of lower secondary school education in Viet Nam, for all adolescents in Viet Nam, in line with the national goal to achieve the same. This intent was understood by stakeholders and repeatedly emphasised, in all five school contexts. The existing AFS dimensions, criteria and indicators are indeed relevant. However, there are a number of gaps in the indicators, and there is both scope, and need, to enhance the clarity, meaning and measurability of indicators.

39. Certainly, the participatory approach to school improvement planning has enabled responsiveness to specific needs and priorities, as locally identified within individual school/community contexts. If ‘implementation approach’ is interpreted to include the approach to capacity building, then it could be said that training and material support has not been totally responsive to specific needs of individual schools.

Effectiveness

40. Support provided through the AFS pilot project has developed the capacities of school communities to plan and implement comprehensive school improvement that is focused on the inclusion of all adolescents in quality teaching and learning activities. A comparison of school self-assessment scores in 2007 and 2009, revealed considerable improvement in all schools for many of the AFS indicators. Thus, it can be broadly said that adolescent-friendly pilot schools have become more inclusive, more participatory, more healthy, safe, protective and more child-centred in terms of teaching and learning methods.

1. The AFS approach was widely reported to have contributed to widespread positive improvements in student learning, development of life skills and in individual self-confidence, contributing to overall improvement in the schools.

1. The enhanced collaboration between school, parents and teachers was considered by many respondents to be the most significant factor underpinning AFS development. However, the combined leadership, professionalism and commitment of MOET/DOET officers, supported by UNICEF, is without doubt are significant critical factor explaining the significant achievements over a relatively short period of time.

Efficiency

44. All five schools have been successful in mobilising resources from a range of sources, to enable implementation of school improvement plans.

45. Considerable variation was noted in the quality and/or quantity of AFS enabling quality inputs available across schools (either infrastructure, facilities, teaching learning resources, other). Furthermore, the evaluation team observed significant differences between schools in terms of infrastructure, facilities and resources. For example, S3 has approximately 20 latrines for students and staff compared to two latrines at school S5.

46. Perhaps not unexpectedly, the more remote schools were the most disadvantaged in terms of minimum resources required for a quality inclusive school. In terms of the evaluation case study schools, these coincided with high concentrations of ethnic minority student populations.

Sustainability

47. Teachers unanimously reported the AFS model had been advocated and promoted through annual MOET guidelines. Master trainers have been trained, and then provided training to teachers within schools, on a number of topics. Teachers indicated they felt the training was useful, but the time was limited. And more in-depth training is required, especially for ‘life skills education’, ‘active teaching methods’ student assessment, and adolescent psychology. Considerable teacher turn-over resulting from transfer in and out, was noted in a number of schools. Very little formal training has been provided to parents and community representatives. The provision of training courses for community members and local governments was recommended.

48. A foundation has been established upon which a sustainable future for AFS can be constructed. All stakeholder groups separately expressed commitment to the AFS model, and all advocated institutionalisation of the same.

Strengthening the AFS Development Model

49. The AFS indicators are important for several reasons. Firstly, they highlight critical issues that contribute to or constrain the active participation of students in LSS education. Indicators are an opportunity to flag an important issue. Important issues need to be named and specified. Indicators also provide direction for action and a point of reference for quality assessment, school improvement planning, resource allocation and monitoring progress. For indicators to serve these multiple functions, they need to be clear, specific, unambiguous and measurable. Examination of the existing indicators (and accompanying rubric) revealed a number of limitations. Greater definition is required. For maximum utility the indicators should be accompanied by a checklist specifying 4 (or 5) essential characteristics of practice (in relation to the indicator) that reflect the quality and appropriate quantity aspects.

50. Several indicators that appear very closely related and perhaps could be either combined, or further differentiated. On the other hand, single indicators contain several different items, which require separating. (For example, Indicator 26 includes drinking water, sanitation and school environment, without specifying the standards required for any.) In some cases, rubric levels of achievement are insufficiently distinct. Respondents requested the AFS school self-assessment process to be simplified.

Addressing Gaps in AFS Model

51. During the AFS initial development phase, there was an enthusiasm for AFS to capture as much as possible, tempered by a concern not to be over ambitious. While this reasoning is appreciated it is nevertheless felt that several critical issues are inadequately addressed in the AFS model.

These include:

    Inclusion- Children with Disabilities (CWD); Student Boarding Facilities
    Effective- Bilingual Education;
    Health- Student Nutrition/School Meals; Physical Education/ Sport; Food Hygiene
    Protection- Positive Discipline; Student Counseling
    Gender-Sensitive - Preventing Gender-based Violence, or Girls Assertiveness Training, or
    Mentoring

Girls, Including Married Students, Sex-Disaggregated Education Data 52. The whole question of effective school leadership and management is largely absent from the model. Therefore, the addition of a new dimension might be considered, with indicators related to : ‘AFS Self- Assessment, AFS School Improvement Planning; Monitoring AFS Improvement; School Information Systems’; AFS Financial Management; AFS Resource & Infrastructure Management; amongst other.

4. Lessons Learnt

53. AFS implementation has generated a number of lessons learnt, including the following:-

Firstly, it is essential to involve all key stakeholders right from the beginning in the school selfassessment and school improvement planning processes.

  • Second, effective collaboration and cooperation between school, family and community can support student learning and holistic development.
  • Third, AFS approach has been effective in mobilizing resources.
  • Fourth, the broad-based partnership promoted by AFS has resulted in a stronger culture of joint action for school improvement.
  • Fifth, local stakeholders require knowledge, skills, appropriate attitudes and motivation to develop and achieve a common AFS vision - requiring appropriate training, resources and support.
  • Sixth, additional resources are required for particularly disadvantaged schools, especially those in more remote locations, to ensure equality of access to the achievement of common AFS.
  • Seventh, a methodical approach to staff development is essential, combining training, ongoing peersupport within the school, follow-up support rand monitoring visits.
  • Eight, MOET’s leadership to promote institutional learning about AFS principles, approaches and school improvement experiences has resulted in a review of benchmarks of national school standards.
  • Finally, the AFS development process has enabled stakeholders to ‘envision a quality school for all’, and to plan and work towards its realization. This is a significant achievement.

5. Recommendations

54. Notwithstanding challenges faced, the different groups of stakeholders in five diverse contexts unanimously expressed support for the AFS concept. Therefore, the overall recommendation of this study is:-

  • That MOET support the consolidation, institutionalization and progressive expansion of the AFS Model to all Lower Secondary Schools in Vietnam

Five specific recommendations are provided in section 4.2 under the following headings:

  • Consolidate the AFS Model & Integrate into National Secondary School Standards
  • Institutionalise AFS into National Systems
  • Develop AFS Expansion Strategy
  • Redress Resource Disparities between Schools, with specific focus on Ethnic Minority Communities
  • Strengthen Ongoing Monitoring, Coordination and Further Study


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