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Vietnam - Secondary Education

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceVietnam - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education


At the secondary school level, those who repeat the class are charged twice the "fee" as the regular entrants. Each secondary school is permitted to enroll 25 percent of repeating students. The difference in fee is used to increase teachers' salaries, clearly an incentive to teachers to allow more students in their classes. A teacher is permitted to add up to 300,000 Dongs (about US$300) per month in this way to his/her income. There are some secondary schools in the private sector that justify the high fees they charge on grounds that they prepare the students better for entrance to universities and to other institutions of higher learning.

In 1996, there were 4,312,074 students at the lower secondary level, of whom a little less than 50 percent, or 2,016,094, were females. The annual intake dropped from 1,066,259 in 1987-1988 to a low of 842,242 in 1991-1992 increasing steadily to 1,476,130 in 1995-1996. There were 2,093 combined primary/lower secondary level schools, while there were 701 schools where the junior and senior level facilities were combined.

Because of paucity of funds available for construction of school buildings, many schools operate two or even three shifts. In 1996, there were 154,416 teachers at the lower secondary level, of whom 106,953 were women, with an overall student-teacher ratio of about 29:1. The effectiveness of teaching and the growing socio-economic importance of education was reflected in the percentage of repeating and dropout students falling dramatically from 5.08 percent in 1986 to a meager 0.50 percent in 1996. In 1996, there were 701 senior secondary schools, which included junior secondary schools, and an additional 644 senior secondary schools exclusively for tenth through twelfth grade, with a total of 1,019,480 students, of whom 457,793 were females. There was an increase of 10 percent over the previous decade.

However, just as at the lower secondary level, the number of students at the senior secondary level also dropped: from 917,593 to 522,735 in 1991-1992, rising steadily thereafter to 1,0l9,480 in l995-1996. In the latter year, there were 39,398 teachers at the senior secondary school level, of whom 19,663 were women, with a student-teacher ratio of 25:1. The percentage of repeaters as well as dropouts at the senior secondary level dropped dramatically in the 1990s: repeaters dropped from 4.55 percent in 1985-1986 to 1.35 percent in 1993-1994 while dropouts declined from 10.07 percent over the same period.

At the time of the end of the French rule in 1954, Vietnam was very weak in the study of technology. The French colonial masters had opened only four applied technology schools in the country. After 1945, in the areas under the control of the Viet Minh or DRV, eight secondary schools provided vocational education. After 1954, the DRV energetically pursued training technicians and workers through two kinds of facilities: regular secondary vocational schools and "craft-teaching" schools. The Second Indochina War (1964-1975) spurred a demand for skilled workers both in North Vietnam and in the areas controlled by the Viet Cong in the South. By 1975 before the reunification of the country, the communist-controlled Vietnam had 186 secondary vocational schools with about 70,000 students with an almost equal number of craft-teaching schools.

Vocational/technical training has been very crucial for the reconstruction of Vietnam. Since 1975, there has been a growing need, never adequately met, of skilled workers and technicians in numerous government enterprises and, since the economic liberalization of 1986, in private sectors as well. Besides the regular vocational/technical secondary schools, in-service training programs are conducted by state farms, regional centers, government enterprises, and a variety of government agencies including the military. Three-year courses as well as evening and correspondence classes are offered to working people—including qualified workers, Communist Party personnel, and members of mass organizations. After the completion of such three-year programs, they may be admitted to higher level technical schools. The experience with in-service programs was found wanting and, therefore, the trend since l986 has been to increase the short-term, six-month programs in regular vocational schools.

Before the reunification of the country, North Vietnam had entered into a number of agreements with socialist countries such as the Soviet Union (up to the late 1980s), China, and Eastern European countries for technical and scientific cooperation. Before 1975, some selected workers from the North and, after 1975, from all of Vietnam were sent to these countries for training in factories, technical schools, and universities. Some of them worked in those countries for periods of time in lieu of payment of debts incurred by Vietnam mostly during the war. Under the same programs, experts from the socialist countries spent periods of time in Vietnamese facilities to train workers.

The secondary vocational schools as well craft-teaching schools/centers have prospered. In 1995-1996, there were 253 regular secondary vocational schools with an enrollment of 69,057 while the craft-teaching schools/centers numbered 174 with an enrollment of 79,488. The vocational schools have focused on training in economics, education, culture, and health and art, while the craft-teaching schools train students in "practical" arts.

Basic general school graduates, who after 3.0 to 3.5 years of education receive a diploma that is considered on par with non-vocation secondary school graduates, receive education in four "Groups": general knowledge group, comprised of politics, foreign languages, physical education, military education, economics, production organization, mathematics, and informatics; basic technical knowledge group, comprised mainly of electrical technology; professional technical knowledge group, involving more advanced education in electrical systems like power plants and transformers and industrial electrical equipment; and practice group, involving hands-on experience.

Before 1990, when a major reorganization of vocational education was undertaken by the Ministry of Education, there were some 390 crafts taught by an unaccounted number of vocational schools and craft-teaching centers. In that year, the Ministry ordered many of these closed and ordered many others to merge to make them viable units, in terms of physical facilities, equipment, and funding. In 1990, there remained 242 craft teaching schools, 119 of them under the central government and 123 under provincial and municipal management. The process of integration of schools continued bringing the total number of craft-teaching schools further down to 174 by 1995-1996. The craft-teaching schools were divided into six categories: industry, agriculture/forestry/fisheries, construction, mechanics/driving, commercial services or business, and others. Most of these schools offer a diploma after two to three years of training. Students in these schools are admitted at two levels: those who have completed the ninth grade general education and those who have completed the senior secondary education (twelfth grade). The former group takes two years for completion of a course in simple crafts and an additional year for complicated ones; the latter group takes one year for simple crafts and an additional year for the complicated ones. All students in the craft schools go through an integrated program that includes Vietnamese language and literature, a foreign language, mathematics, physics, chemistry, politics, ethics, physical education, technology, and craftsmanship. The details of the curriculum are adjusted to suit the craft "as required by the society at a specific stage of socioeconomic development."

Besides the regular network intended to train workers in the different crafts, some 200 centers were opened in the 1990s in the district capitals throughout the country to provide short-term courses for those who were already holding jobs in the general labor category but who wanted to qualify themselves in a specific craft. The government has indicated that such centers will grow in size and numbers to add large numbers of semi-qualified workers to fill the burgeoning demand for such labor from the industry.

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