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Inclusive Education in Viet Nam: their Right, our Responsibility

By Sandra Bisin

Four year-old Nguyen Van Quy was born with autism and follows classes specifically tailored for his needs at the Da Nang Inclusive Education Resource Centre. But there is hope he will soon be able to join an inclusive school and attend regular education classes with a mixed group of children. © UNICEF/Viet Nam/2012/Bisin

Da Nang, Viet Nam, 13 December 2012 – It is 9 am and four year-old Nguyen Van Quy is sitting at a table, facing his favourite teacher, Nguyen Xuan Viet. On the table are six cards, each one spelling out different body parts: “NOSE”, “MOUTH” or “EYES”.

“Where is the NOSE?”, asks Viet. Quy takes a quick look at the cards, gives a big smile and points a finger at one of them.

“Well done! Gimme five!”. Viet and Quy clap hands with one another, Quy’s face beaming with pride. Quy was diagnosed with autism from birth, though he looks like any other child. He was referred to Da Nang’s Inclusive Education Resource Centre over a year ago and was enrolled in a kindergarten providing special education. There, together with twelve other intellectually disabled children, he follows classes specifically tailored to his needs. But there is hope he will soon be able to integrate an inclusive school and attend regular education classes with a mixed group of children.

“Quy has made tremendous progress in a very short time. Three months ago, it was another story. His language skills were very limited: he was not able to make full sentences or recognize names and numbers. Now he cannot only read words, but he can also associate them with real-life items”, says Viet. Viet graduated from the Ho Chi Minh City-based Special Education Faculty seven years ago. He meets with Quy on individual sessions four times per week, 45 minutes at a time. He has developed an individual learning plan for Quy in order to monitor the child’s progress on a regular basis. He also meets with Quy’s parents once a month to discuss Quy’s development.

“Quy is only four years old and looking at the pace of his development, I am confident he will be able to join  regular education within the next two years”, adds Viet.

Misconceptions fuelling stigma against children with disabilities

According to the Vietnamese government, there are around 1.3 million children with disabilities in Viet Nam. These children face significant challenges in their daily life including discrimination, limited access to basic health care and other public services. There is often a lack of clear understanding of children with disabilities’ needs.

“Misconceptions fuel stigma and discrimination against children with disabilities and result in their marginalization within the family, community, at school, and in the wider society. As a result, they are likely to be out of school and among those most vulnerable to neglect, abuse and exploitation”, says Mitsue Uemura, UNICEF Viet Nam Chief of Education department.

© UNICEF/Viet Nam/2012/Bisin

A study conducted by the government and UNICEF a few years ago found that more than half of children with disabilities did not have access to education.  It also found that the vast majority of children with disabilities in Viet Nam did not finish primary school.  Additional reports show that only six per cent of children with disabilities have completed upper secondary school.

Inclusive education: their right, our responsibility

“Children with disabilities in Viet Nam should have access to inclusive and quality primary and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live. It is the government’s obligation to ensure that they enjoy this right to the fullest and it is our collective responsibility to support this”, adds Mitsue Uemura.

Over the past few years, UNICEF has promoted inclusive education for children with disabilities by providing technical support to Viet Nam’s National Action Plan on Education for Children with Disabilities and to the development and implementation of the law on persons with disabilities. As a result, children that were initially oriented towards special education will now have an increased opportunity to join regular education, and socialise in their immediate community. 

In 2010, UNICEF helped develop manuals with teams of experts that support education professionals identify childhood disabilities; provide of early intervention, care and protection services; and the provision of inclusive education for children with disabilities. In addition, over 850 teachers and school managers throughout Viet Nam were trained on inclusive education and now have improved knowledge and skills on the issue. Through the training, they gained understanding of the different forms of disabilities and how to work with children with different needs in addressing their individual needs in schools and classrooms. 

Research shows that inclusive education can lead to better learning outcomes for all children, not just children with disabilities. Inclusive education promotes tolerance and enables social cohesion as it fosters a cohesive social culture and promotes equal participation in society.



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