Vietnam Outperforms Western Countries in Education

Education - Saigon/HCMC: Sept. 22, 2016

Not long ago, Vietnam left the education world aghast after PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) released its official test results ranking Vietnam as 17th, well above the United States in all subjects - which ranked 23rd in reading, 36th in math, and 28th in science. Vietnam’s 15-year olds participated for the first time in this international assessment in 2015, which includes 65 countries and tests student’s academic abilities in three primary subjects. These facts have left many Western countries dumbfounded as to how Vietnam managed to gain such breakneck academic success, despite holding such a low economic status. Out of Vietnam’s poorest 15-year-olds, nearly 17% scored in the top 25% on the international assessment. These results force us to rethink our perspective that economic development is so heavily influential on the educational progress of students.

So what is Vietnam doing differently with their academic framework, and is there a clear explanation as to why they have managed to achieve this with such limited resources? According to a recent BBC publication, and data from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) there might actually be three key factors to this academic phenomenon. Let’s have a look at some of Vietnam’s rigorous and effective educational manoeuvres that have led them into the international spotlight.

Years of Financial Investment in Education

Compared to other countries in the world, Vietnam spends significantly more money on its educational system than its Western counterparts, dedicating 21% of all government funds to academia. According to OECD, this is the highest of all 65 countries that participate in the PISA assessments. Vietnam’s government has inarguably made education a top priority and its leaders have created a firm focus on growth in this area.

Photo by: University of Social Sciences and Humanities

A Strict and Focused Curriculum

One unique aspect of Vietnam’s curriculum is its traditional and pedagogical nature. As most developed countries have moved away from this dogmatic style of learning, Vietnam has clung on to its past methodology and opted not to mimic modern academic systems. This results in a highly strict learning environment, which provides students with the discipline to fully grasp the content they are immersed in. Unlike Western countries, whose academic styles aim wide in order to model well-rounded students, Vietnam shoots straight at its target. This precision and singularity of direction allows students to fully grasp the required content with a deep and thorough understanding in many contexts.

Photo by: University of Social Sciences and Humanities

Social Awareness in the Power of Education

In Vietnam, parental pressure in regards to academic achievement is widespread and children are expected to study for long hours as the vast majority of parents view education, and the potential to study abroad, as a clear cut key to future success. Out of the 65 countries that participate in PISA, Vietnam ranked 8th in this category. Firm pressure from parents, coupled with a demanding curriculum and a high rate of accountability helps motivate the students to study, and understand the importance of such institutions.

Photo by: University of Social Sciences and Humanities

1.The Diplomat