Focus: Bridging an educational gap in Viet Nam
An experiment in inclusive education in Viet Nam that was started in 2007 – the year the country signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – is being expanded to promote equity in access to schooling for children with and without disabilities.
The need for expansion is clear from the significant gap in access: Although an impressive 97 per cent of all primary-school-aged children had places in the classroom in 2009, the rate among children with disabilities was just 67 per cent. Policymakers and practitioners have reasoned that children with disabilities would benefit if they were better prepared for mainstream schooling, and that narrowing the gap would necessitate making schools more conducive to participation and learning for children with a broad range of disabilities. Actions required would include eliminating physical barriers, revising curricula and providing teachers with specific training.
And so, an Inclusive Education Resource Centre was established in Da Nang Province to provide educational support to children with disabilities and strengthen teachers’ capacities to work with them. Close ties to the local teacher training college provide learning opportunities and pre-service placements for trainee educators. The centre also serves as a setting to develop appropriate curricula, and its staff – which is drawn from a variety of specialties – delivers health and other community services under one roof.
Children referred to the centre by a doctor are evaluated and services tailored to their individual needs. The centre’s staff assesses children to determine whether their needs can best be met within the existing network of inclusive mainstream schools or through such alternatives as special schooling or vocational training at the centre.
The number of children helped at the Da Nang centre has increased steadily every year and reached 164 in 2011–2012. About 30 per cent of the children obtain early intervention services for such conditions as autism, and about one in four receive support in preparation for inclusive mainstream education. Since 2007, some 15–20 per cent of the children seen at the centre have successfully entered mainstream schools.
Viet Nam’s National Law on Persons with Disabilities, which took effect in 2011, calls for the establishment of more Inclusive Education Resource Centres. Plans developed by the Ministry of Education and Training envisage at least one centre in each of the country’s provinces by 2020. The course of action currently entails ensuring that eight centres – one in each of the country’s regions – are developed to full operational capacity. Progress thus far has been constrained by, among other things, a shortage of teachers and staff qualified to work with children with disabilities.
Experience at the Da Nang centre suggests that the crucial elements of success will include firm commitment and coordination on the part of national and local authorities and their international partners, a multi-sectoral approach to avoid fragmented programmes and services, and technical as well as career-development support for teachers and staff.
United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘An Analysis of the Situation of Children in Viet Nam 2010’, UNICEF, 2010.
Viet Nam Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) and United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘Creating a Protective Environment for Children in Viet Nam: An assessment of child protection laws and policies, especially children in special circumstances in Viet Nam’, MOLISA and UNICEF, Hanoi, 2009.