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Vietnam Education Facts


Compared to many other developing countries, Vietnam has a well-developed school system, with roots in Confucian educational tradition. The school is twelve years old, but compulsory schooling only prevails during the first five year stage.

Almost all children start school at the age of six, but around a third do not lose the equivalent of high school. Among those who fall away, the minority people are over-represented.

Formally, the first stage should be completely free of charge but fees are usually charged for textbooks and other school materials. From the sixth grade a school money is taken out. Poor families get the fee reduced.

  • COUNTRYAAH: Country facts of Vietnam, including geography profile, population statistics, and business data.

The government has prioritized education despite financial difficulties and long wars. Critics, however, point out that education is too focused on measurable knowledge and practice prior to graduation, and that many well-educated Vietnamese lack the habit of applying knowledge and thinking critically.

Despite the success, especially in rural areas, the school is often of low quality. In the highlands where many minority people live there is a teacher shortage.

Just over one in four students who leave high school continue to study. There are over 430 universities and colleges in the country.

  • Educationvv: Provides school and education information in Vietnam, covering middle school, high school and college education.


Proportion of children starting primary school

98.0 percent (2013)

Number of pupils per teacher in primary school

20 (2017)

Reading and writing skills

93.5 percent (2009)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP

18.5 percent (2013)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget

18.5 percent (2013)



The new president takes office

22 October

The National Assembly elects the Communist Party general secretary Nguyen Phu Trong as new president with 476 yes votes to 1 no vote. As both president and party secretary general, he becomes the country’s most powerful person.

Mother Mushroom flies to the United States

October 17

Internationally renowned Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, best known as Mother Mushroom, is released from prison and flown directly to the United States. In June 2017, Mother Mushroom was sentenced to ten years in prison for propagating propaganda against the state. She started her blog in 2006 and writes about social injustices in Vietnam and about political and environmental problems.

The party leader is nominated for new president

October 3

Communist Party Secretary-General Nguyen Phu Trong is nominated by the party’s Central Committee as Vietnam’s new president. (Formally, he is elected by the National Assembly on October 22). Nguyen thus became the first person since the 1960s to hold the presidential and party leadership at the same time (Ho Chi Minh was in both positions). Vietnam is usually ruled by the president, the party’s secretary general, the prime minister and the national assembly president, and the posts are usually held by four different people. However, the election of Nguyen Phu Trong is not expected to significantly change the balance of power, as he is already a very influential politician. He is described as a conservative party veteran and is best known for his fight against corruption and dissent. Nguyen Phu Trong is the only candidate in the October 22 presidential election.


The President dies

September 21

President Tran Dai Quang dies after a period of illness. Vice President Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh becomes Acting President.


Dozens of bankers are convicted of corruption

August 6th

Forty-six former bank officials and businessmen are convicted of corruption in connection with extensive bank loan fraud. The sentence for those convicted will be imprisoned for up to 20 years. This is corruption worth more than $ 257 million. The government is trying to eradicate corruption and nepotism in Vietnam’s banking and finance world, but critics say that power holders at the same time take the opportunity to remove political opponents. Despite major anti-corruption campaigns, Vietnam still belongs to the countries of the world that are pervaded by corruption.


Control is strengthened over social media

June 12

The National Assembly adopts a new law on cyber security. The law means that internet companies such as Facebook and Google can be ordered to remove regime-critical posts within 24 hours if they are deemed by the authorities to be a “national threat”. Companies must also store personal information about users in Vietnam inland rather than now in Singapore and Hong Kong. The new law also makes it prohibited to call for a general gathering or to dishonor the Vietnamese flag, the country’s leader or national “heroes”. Media freedom is already heavily circumscribed in Vietnam today, but the debate has been relatively open on social media compared to traditional Vietnamese media. It is unclear what punishments violate the new law. The law comes into force on January 1, 2019.


More opposites are imprisoned

April 12

A further three people, including at least two members of the Brotherhood for Democracy, are sentenced to up to nine years in prison for social destruction.

Democracy advocates are sentenced to prison

April 10

Another member of the network The Brotherhood for Democracy, 53-year-old Nguyen Van Tuc, is sentenced to 13 years in prison for community outrage. According to the human rights organization Amnesty International, at least 97 prisoners of conscience are behind bars in Vietnam, including advocates for democracy, environmental activists, bloggers and human rights lawyers. Nguyen Van Tuc was sentenced in 2008 to four years in prison for distributing leaflets in support of multi-party democracy.

Six democracy activists are imprisoned

April 5

Six democracy activists are sentenced to between 7 and 15 years in prison for social destruction. Among those convicted are the lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison following a one-day trial. All convicted are linked to the Brotherhood of Democracy, a Vietnamese network of democracy supporters.

Former top politicians are retaliated for bribery

April 5

Dinh La Thang, a former member of the Politburo, is sentenced to 18 years in prison for bribery. This is the second time Thang has been convicted of corruption (see January 2018). Thang, who was formerly head of the state-run oil company PetroVietnam, is one of the highest-ranking Communist Party convicted of corruption.


Pacific free trade agreement clear

March 8th

Vietnam, together with ten other countries, sign the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Parthership) free trade agreement. The agreement is also called TPP-11 and is a slightly revised version of TPP (see Foreign Trade). The changes are a result of the US withdrawing from the TPP before it came into force. The CPTPP is presented as a counter to the anti-free-trade policy pursued by US President Donald Trump.

American aircraft carriers visit the country

March 5th

The US aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson adds to the port of Danang. It is the first visit by an American aircraft carrier in Vietnam since the Vietnam War in the 1970s.


Long prison sentences for environmental protests

6th of February

A Vietnamese environmental activist is sentenced to 14 years in prison for participating in protests against the Taiwanese steel mill Formosa, which in 2016 dumped toxic waste off central Vietnam’s coast and caused extensive fish deaths and other environmental degradation. The spill caused the fishing families in the affected area to see their incomes fall sharply. A co-accused is sentenced for the same crime to two years in prison.

The top manager receives a second lifetime sentence

February 5

Former chief executive of the state oil company PetroVietnam, Trinh Xuan Thanh, is sentenced to a second life imprisonment for embezzlement (see also January 2018). The latest verdict concerns the theft of $ 620,000 from a state construction project.


Four are jailed for state hostile propaganda

January 23

Four members of the Buddhist group hoa hao (see Religion) are sentenced to prison for between six and twelve years for spreading state-hostile propaganda by hoisting the flag of southern Vietnam in April 2016, that is, the flag used by the US-backed regime in southern Vietnam which was defeated by the communists in the civil war. The Conservative government that took office in 2016 has increased its stance against dissent. In 2017, at least 24 people were convicted of hostile activities according to the individual organization Human Rights Watch.

Top politicians are sentenced to prison for corruption

January 19

Twenty-two former politicians or government officials are sentenced to prison for corruption of various kinds in a Hanoi court. Dinh La Thang, who was fired from the Communist Party’s Politburo in May 2017, receives 13 years in prison for financial mismanagement which led to the state oil company PetroVietnam making huge losses. Another high-ranking chief of PetroVietnam, Trinh Xuan Thanh, is sentenced to life imprisonment for embezzlement. His case gained international attention in 2017 when Germany accused Vietnam of illegally removing the suspect in Berlin, seeking political asylum. Back in Vietnam, Trinh Xuan Thanh said he returned voluntarily, but his lawyer said his client was forced by the regime to say so. The lawsuits against Dinh La Thang and Trinh Xuan Thanh are considered by many analysts as a way for the Communist Party to show that it takes the fight against corruption within the state seriously. Other judges believe it is a disguised way for the new Conservative party leadership to get rid of political opponents who have been influential within the party under the former reform-friendly Prime Minister Dung. Twenty defendants are sentenced at the same time to between 3 and 9 years in prison.

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