Vietnam - Constitutional & Legal Foundations
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CONSTITUTIONAL & LEGAL FOUNDATIONS
The Constitution of 1946, proclaimed soon after the birth of the DRV, included free and compulsory education in the national language, Vietnamese. It also provided for educational rights to all its citizens, specifically guaranteeing equal access to it for women and minorities. The same principles were reiterated in the Constitutions of 1960 and 1976. The DRV noted that 90 percent of the population was illiterate. In the first Cabinet meeting held the day after the proclamation of the DRV, Ho Chi Minh said: "An ignorant nation is a weak nation. That's just why I propose that we should start an anti-illiteracy campaign considering illiteracy an enemy as dangerous as foreign aggressions and famine and the improvement of the people's intellectual level an urgent task of the time." Despite the preoccupation with the First Indochina War (1946-1954), the DRV or the Viet Minh made 8,000,000 people in the territories under its control literate before the French pull-out in 1954. During the conflict, the Viet Minh made every effort to keep the schools running; plans were prepared for scientific and technical education to meet the reconstruction needs of the country after the French left. By the end of the l950s, the DRV claimed that 94 percent of the population of North Vietnam was literate, thus completely reversing the dubious French legacy in the ability of the people to read and write. In the period before 1954, in the Viet Minh-held territories, the education system was changed from the French system of 12 years to a system of 9 years.
In August 1956, two years after the partition of the country, the DRV promulgated its "general education" policy. It announced a unified school system consisting of 3 levels totaling 10 years of general education: level I of 4 years from grades 1 to 4; level 2 of 3 years from grades 5 to 7; and level 3 of 3 years from grades 8 to 10. The teaching periods per week in level 1 remained at 17 to 19, the same as before; they were extended at levels 2 and 3 from 20 to 29 and from 21 to 30, respectively. After completing lower middle school, students could enter vocational secondary schools or they could go on to regular upper middle school and receive the secondary school leaving certificate.
The government then linked education to the demands of the economy, which required skilled workers in large numbers. Therefore, it gave special attention to training of teachers and technicians through short-term courses. It established the Hanoi Polytechnic Institute and encouraged students to take up short-term vocational and technical courses leading to diplomas in mechanical, civil and electrical engineering, and industrial food technology. The government also reorganized the Franco-Vietnamese University into the University of Hanoi and, between 1954 and 1975, the DRV opened 20 technical and professional schools to cater to a variety of fields such as agriculture, communications, construction, fine arts, geology, hydraulic engineering, international relations, mining, music, and physical education and sport. It also established 5 pedagogical institutes (three in Hanoi and one each in Vinh and Viet Ba) for teacher-training.
The minimum requirement for admission to all of these institutions of higher education was the secondary school leaving certificate. Some institutions had their own competitive entrance tests; those who did not show high merit could compensate by producing evidence of civilian or military work experience. Only about 35 to 40 percent of those eligible to apply would get admission.