Viet Nam to Overhaul Secondary Education to Meet Changing Labor Needs

News Release | 25 November 2009

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Viet Nam is planning a major overhaul of its secondary education system to reflect the changing needs of the labor market and to keep its economy competitive and robust.

To support that goal, Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Board of Directors today approved a financing plan for the Secondary Education Sector Development Program which includes a sector development program loan of $20 million, and a project loan of $40 million. It is the first education sector development program in the country, and is targeted at providing students with the skills to succeed in an increasingly knowledge-based, market-driven global economy.

Viet Nam has grown strongly over the past decade, driven by high farm output, domestic demand and exports. At the same time, the composition of the economy has been changing with a shift away from agriculture, towards industry, technology and services. This change has created a growing need for graduates with skills matched to the new needs of the economy, and a good secondary education is regarded as key to achieving this.

"Viet Nam needs to improve the quality of its labor force to stay competitive in the region and to sustain growth, and this program will increase the skills and performance of secondary school graduates in the labor market, improve participation and completion rates, and make schooling more accessible and affordable," said Eiko K. Izawa, Senior Education Specialist in ADB's Southeast Asia Department.

Enrollment levels for secondary schools have grown sharply in recent years, reaching over 90% at the lower level, but there have been widespread inconsistencies in the quality of education across the country, as well as persistent inequalities in access.

The program will address these concerns by updating Viet Nam's Secondary Education Sector Master Plan, developing new national standards for secondary schools, upgrading the curriculum, improving the quality of secondary teachers, establishing a national accreditation board and new learning assessment system, and expanding continuing education.

It will also pilot test a conditional cash transfer program to provide financial support to poor families in a bid to encourage them to send, and keep their children in school. Previously, only scholarships have been available to disadvantaged students and this scheme will help ensure all groups who may have missed out on secondary schooling in the past will be able to participate. More emphasis will also be given on assisting physically disabled students.

The total financing costs are $71 million, with ADB providing a combined $60 million from its concessional Asian Development Fund, and the government contributing counterpart funds of $11 million.

The program loan, which will be released in two tranches, has a term of 24 years, including a grace period of eight years, with an interest rate of 1% per year during the grace period, and 1.5% for the rest of the term. The project loan has a term of 32 years, with a grace period of eight years and the same interest rates schedule. It will be used to aid the rollout of the program, including providing advisory, training and other capacity building support for the implementing units.

The Ministry of Education and Training is the executing agency, with the program loan component due for completion in December 2012, and the project by June 2015.