6 Achieve universal primary education

Where we are?

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© United Nations Viet Nam\2010\Aidan Dockery


Viet Nam has made significant progress in achieving universal primary education. In 2009, the net enrolment rate in primary school was 95.5 percent, the primary school completion rate was 88.2 percent and the literacy rate of people aged 15-24 years was 97.1 percent. The difference between boys and girls in primary school net enrolment rates was as little as one percent.


To build on these achievements and ensure that the progress is maintained, several areas need attention, particularly relating to equity and the quality of education.

Equity in education

Despite the progress made, disadvantaged groups, especially the poorest households, ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities, still lag behind in their education attainment. For example, the rate for primary school net enrolment among the poorest households was 88.9 percent, while the rate for the richest was 98.3 percent. The rates among the Mong and Khmer ethnic minority groups are even lower: 72.6 percent and 86.4 percent respectively. The literacy rate of the Kinh majority is 95.9 percent while that of the Mong is 37.7 percent (2009 Census). The literacy rate among 15-24 year olds living with disabilities is 69.1 percent.

Some of the reasons for these inequities include poverty, remoteness and distance (such as schools located too far away), poor infrastructure (such as poor road conditions leading to concerns about children’s safety, poor classroom buildings, poor water and sanitation facilities) and negative practices (such as discouraging girls to continue their education).

Quality of education

Viet Nam has been implementing a number of pedagogical innovations to promote active teaching and learning. However, poor education quality still remains a problem. During the 2006-2007 school year, it was found that only 61 percent of grade 5 students reached a level of reading Vietnamese that enabled independent learning in grade 6. One of the reasons for the insufficient quality of education is the limitation in learning opportunities that are flexible and responsive to the needs of different groups of disadvantaged children. For example, many ethnic minority children face language challenges in school as they have little or no ability to understand and speak Vietnamese. Related to this is the imbalanced deployment of teachers, particularly the lack of ethnic minority teachers in ethnic minority areas. In addition, although the Government is moving towards full day schooling, the current instruction time of less than 700 hours a year for primary school also contributes to the poor quality of education.

Another reason for poor quality education is the lack of independent, critical, creative and innovative thinking and learning for all, which limits the development of problem solving skills. Assessment systems still focus heavily on academic knowledge, instead of competencies. Education managers also lack sufficient capacity to take up the new responsibilities transferred under decentralisation, and to deal with the new requirements of the education and training system.

In order for all children, girls and boys, to exercise their right to quality education and to fully meet MDG 2 and sustain achievements, Viet Nam needs to improve the education system to provide more diverse, relevant and flexible learning opportunities to better respond to all learners. More informed education planning, supported by updated, reliable and disaggregated data, is also required.

Targets for MDG2
  1. Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling
    • Net enrolment ratio in primary education
    • Proportion of pupils starting grade 1 who reach last grade of primary
    • Literacy rate of 15-24 year-olds, women and men