Viet Nam: Planning for education based on sound evidence and a crisis-sensitive perspective

“No doubt, planning does not create development, but development demands planning. In addition, planning is an intellectual discipline that requires governments to think of the present in terms of the future and to think of the future in terms of deliberate choices.” – René Maheu, former Director-General of UNESCO, 1963.

Education planning is an imperative process to set out a common vision and shared priorities that guide educational development of a country. It is both visionary and pragmatic, engaging a wide range of actors in defining education’s future and mobilizing resources to reach its goals. Furthermore, in fragile and transitional contexts, a crisis-sensitive education sector plan can serve as a vehicle for harmonizing emergency or early recovery education responses with longer-term development strategies for the education sector.

Viet Nam is undergoing a rapid socio-economic transformation that brings about unprecedented opportunities and challenges in meeting the demand for high quality human resources. Besides, it is anticipated that the current COVID-19 pandemic will have far-reaching repercussions for the education system and human resource development of the country, which are likely to persist beyond the pandemic. The immediate impact of COVID-19 on learners and the education system has been gradually documented and it has triggered a growing sense of urgency to engage in strategies that reduce further risks. Concurring with the “Decade of Action” that calls for accelerated efforts to ensure quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030, Viet Nam is currently in the process of developing a thorough Education Development Strategic Plan (EDSP) that maneuvers the education sector in the 2021-2030 period. With the financial support from the Global Partnership for Education, UNESCO, in cooperation with UNICEF and other development partners, is providing technical assistance to the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) in this important planning process. UNESCO is also well-positioned to collaborate with MOET and other partners to assess the multilayered impact of COVID-19 on education in both short and long terms in order to formulate appropriate policies to ensure that #LearningNeverStops in any context, especially among the most vulnerable groups.

In Viet Nam, education is a top priority of the country’s political and development agendas. The Government’s strong commitment to education and unwavering cultural and social support for education have resulted in remarkable progress in the sector. At the national level, Viet Nam has high completion rates in primary education, strong gender parity, low student-teacher ratios and relatively low out-of-school rate. However, it is pivotal to look further into education-related equity issues that need to be addressed, e.g. disparities between geographical areas, populations, etc. COVID-19 resulting in school closures and disrupted schooling has shed light on existing inequalities among learners, notably the digital divide that has hindered many disadvantaged learners from learning through online platforms. Understanding the intersectionality of vulnerabilities is key to identifying the most left behind populations and taking suitable measures to accommodate their specific needs and protect their right to education.

Over the past months, UNESCO and its International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) have worked closely with national experts from MOET to sketch out an Education Sector Analysis (ESA) report. The ESA report aims to present a close snapshot of the national education system and existing disparities in the country and to provide sound evidence for the development of the EDSP 2021-2030. A crisis-sensitive perspective will also be employed throughout the entire process, from education sector diagnosis to education sector planning, to strengthen the resilience of the national education system to future crises or disasters as well as contribute to the safety and social cohesion of communities and education institutions in Viet Nam.

In the forthcoming period, UNESCO will continue mobilizing its long-standing technical expertise in education sector diagnosis, education planning as well as crisis-sensitive planning techniques to support MOET in methodically studying the education sector and then formulating well-argued education policy options for the next 10 years. At the same time, UNESCO will capitalize on its convening power to bring together relevant education stakeholders and development partners during this process to achieve sustainable results.

By Toshiyuki Matsumoto, Education Programme Specialist, and Nhat Linh Nguyen, Education Project Officer, at UNESCO Ha Noi Office.