Doing A Lot, With A Little: Vietnam's Effective Education System

Although Vietnam's GDP per capita is lower than some countries in the region such as Malaysia and Thailand, the children of Vietnamese families are enjoying "one of the best education systems in the world."
July 06, 2023 | 09:07
Doing A Lot, With A Little: Vietnam's Effective Education System
A class at ATK Son Duong boarding high school for ethnic minorities (Son Duong district, Tuyen Quang province).
Sputnik, a Vietnamese news site ( citing sources from the World Bank (WB), the Economist, the Stockholm School of Economics, and the Center for Global Development, declared Vietnam's education system as the best in the world.

According to the article, the quality of Vietnamese education is reflected in its excellent performance in international assessments of reading, math and science.

The success of Vietnamese education

According to the latest data from the World Bank, in terms of total academic scores, Vietnamese students not only outperform students in Malaysia and Thailand but also in the UK and Canada, countries many times richer than Vietnam.

In the country, student scores do not show widespread disparities across genders and regions.

A child's academic propensity is the result of many factors, starting with the family and the environment in which the child grows up. However, that is not enough to explain Vietnam's outstanding performance.

According to the Economist, "The secret to the difference lies in the classroom: Children learn more in school, especially in the early years."

In 2020, a study by author Abhijeet Singh (Stockholm School of Economics) assessed schools in Vietnam as more effective, by examining data from identical tests administered by students in Ethiopia, India, Peru, and Vietnam.

Abhijeet Singh found that Vietnamese children between the ages of 5 and 8 are always at the forefront of the group. An extra year of study in Vietnam will increase the ability to solve a simple multiplication problem by 21 percentage points (for India, the increase is only 6 percentage points).

In addition, the quality of Vietnamese schools, unlike in other poor countries, improved over time.

A study by the authors at the Center for Global Development (a consulting organization based in Washington, D.C) published in 2022 found that in 56/87 developing countries, the quality of education has declined since the 1960s.

However, Vietnam is one of the few countries where schools consistently go against this trend.

What is the secret of Vietnam?

The biggest reason lies with the teachers. They are not necessarily better qualified but are actually more effective in teaching.

One study comparing Indian students with Vietnamese students suggested that much of the difference in scores on math tests was due to the quality of teaching.

Vietnamese teachers do their job well because they are well managed, have regular training and are given the freedom to make the classroom atmosphere more engaging.

To address regional inequality, those who are sent to remote areas are paid higher wages. In addition, teachers are also commended and rewarded based on students' academic achievements.

According to the Economist, among the factors contributing to the success of Vietnamese education, it is necessary to mention the special attention of the Communist Party of Vietnam for education.

Provinces and cities are required to spend 20% of their budgets on education, which helps with regional equity.

"The fact that the Party devotes such profound and unwavering attention to education also ensures that policies are adjusted to update curricula and teaching standards," according to the Economist.

Doing A Lot, With A Little: Vietnam's Effective Education System
Photo: Flickr

Sputnik quoted an expert working at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) referring to the success of Vietnam's education when saying "Parents, despite being poor, still spend money to send their children to private lessons. In cities, many people look for schools with good teachers".

All of this brought Vietnamese education to an unexpected success, and as schools improve, so does the Vietnamese economy.

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