Research on Vietnam’s high performing education system, carried out by UK based Education Development Trust, was welcomed by the Vietnamese Education Minister at the Education World Forum yesterday (21 Jan).

The forum, held in London, brings together education experts from around the world to share research, ideas and good practice.   Researchers from Education Development Trust presented the findings of their two year study into education in Vietnam, which sought to identify the key factors driving success.

Speaking on Monday, the Minister of Education for Vietnam, Professor Phùng Xuân Nhạ, identified key factors responsible for Vietnamese success which echoed Education Development Trust research. While recognising that there is still much to do in Vietnam, Professor Nhạ highlighted government policies including levels of investment, governance and attention to equity, including the needs of ethnic minority students, as key to the impressive performance of the Vietnamese system.

The PISA education international league table, places Vietnam as one of the best performing education systems, with attainment higher than in far more affluent nations, including the UK, Germany, France and the US.   Although the economy of Vietnam ranks as 49th in the world, results in science surpass even countries including China and South Korea, who are recognised for their high performing education systems.

Education Development Trust research has identified factors including purposeful policy, high levels of accountability, the quality of teachers, school leadership, and effective partnerships between schools and parents.    These issues were discussed on Monday in dialogue between UK and Vietnamese representatives.  

Patrick Brazier, CEO of Education Development Trust said:


“The world has a lot to learn from Vietnam. Whilst it is no surprise that the causes of the Vietnamese success story are complex, cultural factors are not solely responsible. The government has made smart decisions and the achievements of the school system are the result of good policymaking.


At Education Development Trust we are interested in exploring how we can translate this success to other contexts and countries around the world, including here in the UK”.

The research for this in-depth report which was carried out over two years, and in partnership with the Viet Nam Institute of Education Sciences, examined the drivers of educational performance in four contrasting provinces in the country, revealing a number of key factors that appear to underpin Vietnam’s surprisingly good performance in the global league table.

The key drivers of success were identified as:

Parental engagement is a distinctive feature of the Vietnamese education system. Parents are expected to take a very active role in school life, so much so that every class must have its own parent committee, which reviews educational activities and partnership working with parents. The regulations also mandate an overall Parent Board, with membership drawn from the class committees. Vietnamese parents are also far more likely to volunteer in their school than the average for OECD countries, headteachers report 41% of parents volunteer each year, compared to the OECD average of 5%.

School Leaders are leaders of teaching and learning, and are freed from the day-to-day management of finances, HR and estates that we typically see in the UK, and are 100% focused on ensuring educational quality. Heads are required to teach a minimum of two lessons every week, with the rest of their time largely focused on monitoring and evaluating the quality of teaching across their schools. Many headteachers are also paid less than their most experienced teacher colleagues. Heads do not typically apply for their roles, but are invited to take up post by the authorities and there is a five-year period of tenure.

The priority given to education as a policy area, with spending on education relatively high compared to other public policy areas, with a long-standing commitment to at least 20% of public spending directed to education. [This is also supplemented by the concept of “socialisation” – contributions to the state education system by businesses and parents]

Continuity in how public money should be spent on education – since 2000 there has been a twin track approach addressing both access to school and the quality of learning. In access terms, just 72% of eligible children were enrolled in lower secondary schools in 1992. By 2014, this had increased to 95%.
Quality of teaching and teachers – teaching is highly respected as a profession in Vietnam, although teachers are badly paid and so a high proportion supplement their income with private tuition. Teachers are also well-qualified to teach their subject area: in science lessons, Vietnamese students are more likely to be taught by a teacher with a degree and major in science than students in OECD countries on average: 92.4% of science teachers have a science degree, compared to the OECD average of 73.8%
Teachers required to take responsibility for their own professional development – under the national regulations, teachers are required to improve their capacity and the quality of their teaching, and are expected to design and implement an annual personal professional development plan. The vast majority of teachers also have a mentor.


About Education Development Trust: We have been transforming lives around the world by improving education for 50 years. Whether we are working with governments on national educational reform or directly with clusters of schools to effect positive change, our specialist knowledge means we design and deliver effective, far-reaching, sustainable education solutions tailored to the local context.

We invest annually in our programme of educational research because it matters to us that policymakers make informed decisions and that teachers benefit from the latest best practice. Our research underpins our work and we are passionate about being part of the education debate.

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