Viet Nam has made impressive strides toward ensuring all children have access to a quality education. With 96 per cent of six to 11-year-olds enrolled in primary school, the Government is hoping to do the same for lower secondary education in 2010.
These overall achievements are limited however by concerns about disparities in access, completion rates and in the overall quality of education Vietnamese children are receiving. Linguistically diverse ethnic minority populations struggle with mandatory instruction in Vietnamese by mainly Vietnamese (Kinh) teachers. This contributes to a far lower education attainment among ethnic minority children. For example, primary completion rate for Kinh students was 86 per cent, while the rate for ethnic minority children was only 61 per cent1. Beyond ethnic minorities, girls, children with disabilities, migrants and children affected by HIV have fewer opportunities to attend and stay in school.
Training for teachers is a high priority to improve the quality of education at all levels, but this also means producing age-appropriate, appealing learning materials and building school facilities that promote not only academic achievement, but also physical, psychological, social and emotional growth.
UNICEF has been assisting the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) to address disparities in the education system and improve the quality of education at preschool, primary and lower secondary education.
Early Learning and Development Standards for preschool education have been drafted with MOET to contribute to the improvement of quality of care for young children. Over 1,100 village kindergartens and 1,000 primary schools have been set up following UNICEF’s five dimensions of child-friendly learning environments; an additional 50 adolescent-friendly schools are now being piloted to improve schools for older children. With an emphasis on student and community participation, monitoring tools have been developed to better measure how schools are improving. Student participation has already led to a child-friendly library, student clubs and students attending school management board meetings.
UNICEF has been supporting the MOET to pilot Mother Tongue-based Bilingual Education activities in three provinces: Lao Cai, Gia Lai and Tra Vinh, in the languages of H’mong, Jrai and Khmer respectively. Bilingual education materials like textbooks, teaching tools and toys have been produced in ethnic minority languages, and preschool and primary teachers have been trained in mother tongue-based bilingual education techniques.
UNICEF has joined other UN agencies in supporting HIV education by providing technical assistance for teachers and curriculum writers in how to engage children of all ages in sexual and reproductive health issues. This has included confronting stigma and discrimination to ensure children and adolescents affected by HIV and AIDS have their right to education protected and free from intolerance.
UNICEF has been supporting the MOET to improve the quality of inclusive education for children with disabilities. A separate chapter focusing on the assessment of students with disabilities within the primary education system has been developed within the revised Guidance notes on primary school students' learning achievement assessment. Technical support has been provided at the sub-national level for the establishment and functioning of resource centers for inclusive education, which will inform the development of a comprehensive legal framework for inclusive education nationwide.
Working with Viet Nam on policies and on developing a reliable legal framework is helping ensure these often overlooked groups of children will have their rights protected. Mother Tongue-based Bilingual Education will support all children to overcome language barriers, and enhance teachers’ ability to provide quality bilingual education to ethnic minority students.
UNICEF’s research and results will be fed back into national programmes and policies for application at all schools across the country. This includes not only national Mother Tongue-based Bilingual Education strategies, but also sharing the pilot experiences of adolescent-friendly schools to provide enough solid evidence of success to roll this out nationally.
Overall strengthening of Viet Nam’s institutions to plan and coordinate across the educational sector will further help the Government’s ability to integrate HIV education on a national level, combating the debilitating effects of stigma and discrimination in the process.