“Socialization” of education during the period of Rennovation in Vietnam

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Economic reforms have been carried out in Vietnam, aiming at developing a socialist-oriented multi-sector economy. As a component in the superstructure, therefore, the educational system has been affected by the economic mechanism, from the perspective of both welfare and investment. For the purpose of educational development, the “socialization” policy in education, which is aimed at mobilising resources from non-State sectors and encouraging the sharing of costs and responsibilities for education provision, is considered focal in this period. Based on the qualitative approach and secondary data, in combination with observation, in-depth interviews, and assessments made by the author, the paper provides a broad overview of the educational system in Vietnam under the impact of the “socialization” policy in the socialist-oriented market economy. It highlights the values as well as emerging problems resulting from the “socialization” policy in education in Vietnam at present.

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Introduction After the 6-th National Congress of the Communist Party in December 1986 Vietnam started to carry out a transition from the centrally planned economy to the socialist-oriented market economy. Socialist-oriented market economy is a general economic model in the period of transition to socialism in Vietnam. It is elaborated fully and unanimously in accordance with the rules of market economy, while fulfilling the socialist-oriented requirements set up appropriately for each specific period of national development [Political Economy Textbook 2019]. In the socialist-oriented market economy, therefore, economic development must be attached closely to the improvement of social issues; economic development provides material conditions for the implementation of social policies. The new economic mechanism created a great motivation for recovering the national economy, which had been in decline due to the earlier crisis. As productive forces were liberated and development potential of the country was promoted, significant achievements were gained. Based on the comparative data issued by the World Bank, the GDP per capita in Vietnam was US$ 98 in 1990 and amounted to US$ 2,500 US$ in 2018. Corresponding to the new economic mechanism, the “socialization” policy is viewed as the key to development of education in the period. Accordingly, the mobilization of resources for education has been accelerated. The non-State educational and training sector has contributed significantly to the development of the general educational and training system for the entire society [Đảng Cộng sản Việt Nam 2013]. The “socialization” policy has led to positive changes in education; “the educational and training system has received quite sufficient investment; educational and training facilities and equipment have been obviously improved and increasingly modernised; the quality of education and training has been enhanced in order to meet the needs of society” [Đảng Cộng sản Việt Nam 2016: 228]. However, since many types of ownership and competition are accepted, the educational system has changed and caused “new issues”, different from those of the centrally planned and subsidised system in the past. This is also a gap that many previous research works have not clarified. This paper, therefore, focuses on analysing the above-mentioned issues. Research Works Conducted Previously on Education and “Socialization” of Education Education is a topic, which many researchers have paid attention to, especially in the context of the economic reforms in Vietnam. Apart from the research works done at the macro level, such as the works on the educational philosophy or the measures to build an advanced educational system such as Phạm Minh Hạc [2017], Nguyen Xuan Han & Hoang Tuy [Nhiều tác giả 2008] etc. There have been research works focusing deeply on specific issues and making assessments of various segments of the educational system. They analysed both internal elements and influential factors, aiming at providing a general evaluation of the existing educational system in Vietnam such as Nguyen Van Tuan [Nguyễn Văn Tuấn 2011], Phạm Đỗ Nhật Tiến, Phạm Lan Hương [2014], etc. “Socialization” of education is also a topic attracting a lot of attention from researchers and authorities, as well. It is argued that the “socialization” policy has resulted in obviously positive changes; various potentials and resources have been mobilised [Phạm Đỗ Nhật Tiến 2014: 284-285]. There are, however, shortcomings; for example, the administration of schools has not been transparent yet; the educational legal regulations have not been consistent. Meanwhile, a different point of view is expressed too [Nhiều tác giả 2008: 314-315]. In the market economy, individuals take part in the management of schools, based on their own investment, while the role of the State is getting increasingly insignificant. He, therefore, argues that “the burden of education” should not be transferred to the people due to lack of budget. Pham Chi Dung [Nhiều tác giả 2008] worries that educational justice will not be maintained, when tuition fees are far different. In addition, there have been some reports on the “socialization” of education made by local authorities and schools, which mainly focus on evaluating the efficiency related to the attraction of social resources. As mentioned above, various research works on education and the “socialization” policy in the educational sector have been carried out, but they have not clarified the main cause of the socialization of education that rouses new factors compared to traditional education (before the period of Renovation) such as the subjects, objects, content and educational activities, which have emerged from the market economy. This is a gap, on which the author would like to focus in this article. “Socialization” of education in form of “the sharing of responsibilities between the state and the people” In 1986, for the first time the sharing of responsibilities and investment in education between the State and the people was discussed: “the contribution made by collective economic organizations and individuals to the facilities of the educational sector in form of the sharing between the State and the people” [Đảng Cộng sản Việt Nam 1986]. The principles in performing the encouragement of “socialization” and the mobilization of investment in education were, consequently, regulated at Terms 6 of Article 4 and Article 10 [Đảng Cộng sản Việt Nam 2013]. According to the principles, the educational institutions, which are allowed to carry out “socialization”, can have a merger or cooperate with local and international organizations/individuals appropriate to the functions and duties of the institutions, in order to mobilise fund, human resources, and technology to enhance the quality of service. Therefore, Pham Van Thanh [Phạm Văn Thanh 2010] considers “socialization” of education to be a process, in which the State role is getting more significant in giving orientations, directions, management, and increasingly higher investment. Although the State and the people together share the costs and responsibilities, the State plays a key role in mobilizing both intellectual and material resources of society for educational development. Thus, the State encourages and provides favourable conditions for organizations and individuals to contribute and invest effort, knowledge, and property in education. The financial sources for investment in education include the receipts from educational support and service activities. In 2013, due to the demand for a fundamental and comprehensive reform in the educational sector, the necessity of “socialization” of education was reconfirmed in Resolution No. 8 of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party as follows: “Socialization” must be promoted for the purpose of increasing investment in high-quality schools at all grades and training levels; the proportion of non-public schools should increase among the establishments of vocational training and higher education, heading towards the foundation of community investment-based schools” [Đảng Cộng sản Việt Nam 2013]. In order to implement successfully “socialization” of education, the State should play a decisive role and the fundraising for education should account for at least by 20% of the total State spending; it is essential to ensure step by step fundraising for professional activities at the public institutions of education and training [Đảng Cộng sản Việt Nam 2013]. Aiming at promoting the resources from the people and strengthening international cooperation for the “socialization” of education, the 2019 Education Law [National Assembly 2019] has recently been issued, promoting public private partnership, joint venture, and association in the educational sector. “Socialization” of education with types of schools and educational effectivenes “Socialization” of education in form of “the sharing of responsibilities between the State and the people” is reflected through the organization of different types of schools. It can be generalized (relatively) through 3 stages of establishment of various types of schools: (i) right after the renovation, non-public schools (people-founded and private schools) started to be founded; (ii) further, semi-public and ‘partially’ financed self-sufficient public schools were established in 1993-1997; (iii) and from 2012 up to now, ‘fully’ financed self-sufficient public schools and ‘self-sufficient university’ have been targeted and applied. Thus, non-public schools can compete freely with each other for the quality of service, the tuition fee, the teaching quality, and the recruitment of teachers etc., but they all have to comply with the content, curricula, and some other criteria regulated by the Ministry of Education and Training. Meanwhile, public schools, especially semi-public and financially self-sufficient public schools, can enjoy an opener mechanism relating to finance, recruitment, admission, human resource management, and organization of educational activities. Public schools, semi-public and financially self-sufficient public schools are provided with infrastructure, facilities, wages, and other funding for educational activities from the State budget. However, the scale of State investment in these schools varies. Accordingly, semi-public and financially self-sufficient public schools do not have many teachers, who get wages from the State budget like those of public schools do. The former schools recruit teachers on short-term and long-term contracts. The main source of funding to pay to teachers for their educational activities come from students and is based on the financial scheme of revenue and expenditure approved by the Ministry of Education. Public schools can also make contracts with visiting teachers and pay for them with additional income such as: teachers are arranged to provide extra classes, for which students have to pay fees; transnational education programmes are held in addition to regular ones; campuses are exploited etc. Those activities help to increase the income of teachers and staff, depending on their contribution of time and effort as well as the working effectiveness. Thus, the motivation and efficiency for the school’s members is created. Basically, private schools (or non-public schools) are different from public and financially partly self-sufficient public schools in terms of the ownership of facilities and the financial mechanism. Non-public schools are seen to be 100 % socialized establishments in terms of financial resources and facilities, which are mobilized from organizations, enterprises, and individuals, students have to pay all the fees corresponding to the service of education. In addition, the association with local and overseas educational institutions can be set up in various forms of training or research cooperation, such as: cooperation in providing educational support and cooperation in taking advantage of educational service etc., depending on the goals of the schools and complying with the law on education in Vietnam. Organizational forms of education (through types of schools with defined operational mechanisms) are adapted to each stage of the renewal period. Overall, Vietnam with more than 30 years implementating “socialization” of education has made a significant change in the scale, form, content and effectiveness of education. In 2017-2018 school year, the proportions of non-public schools/universities, lecturers/ teachers, and students/pupils were 27.5 %/2.6 %, 21 %/3 %, and 15.7 %/2.2 % respectively (Table 1). The above-mentioned data show that, in the non-State educational sector, higher education was attached with greater importance and received more investment, compared with general education (preschool, primary, secondary, and high schools). Table 1.Statistics of universities/schools, lecturers/teachers, and students/pupils in the public and non-public sectors in Vietnam in school year 2017-2018 (thousand persons) Total Public Proportion (%) Non-public Proportion (%) Higher education Universities/ colleges 236 171 72.5 65 27.5 Lecturers 74.9 59.2 79.0 15.7 21.0 Students 1,707.0 1,439.4 84.3 267.5 15.7 General education Schools 28.7 27.9 97.4 735 2.6 Teachers 852.9 827.5 97.0 25,4 3.0 Pupils 5,923.7 15,583.1 97.8 340,5 2.2 Source: Statistical data of the Ministry of Education and Training (2020). A vigorous change in Vietnam’s education is carrying out today by the “socialization” of education in form of “the sharing of responsibilities between the state and the people”. In regard to the size of the educational system at the level of general education (primary, secondary, and high schools), in school year 1995-1996, there were 21,049 schools all over the country. In school year 2017-2018, the number of schools rose to 28,710. At the level of higher education, the number of universities and colleges rose from 96 in 1996 to 263 in school year 2017-2018 (higher education only). At the same time, the number of teachers at the level of general education grew from 492.7 thousand in school year 1995-1996 to 852.9 thousand in school year 2017-2018. Regarding lecturers at universities and colleges, the corresponding number was 23.5 thousand and 74.9 thousand in 1996, and in school year 2017-2018 respectively [GSO 2019 and Ministry of Education and Training 2020]. In addition to the growth in quantity, the quality and qualifications of the teaching force in both the public and non-public sectors have been obviously improved. In the context of “competition”, the teachers’ qualifications, willingly or not, are considered to be a crucial factor. This has promoted the improvement of qualifications and skills among teachers. Due to the competition, furthermore, all teachers are required to enhance their qualifications, as an absolute necessity. Based on the statistical data of the Ministry of Education and Training, the number of university lecturers with a PhD or Master’s degree, grew rapidly, from 9,653 PhDs and 34,152 Masters in school year 2013-2014 to 20,198 PhDs and 44,634 Masters in school year 2017-2018 [MET 2020]. Besides the investment made by organizations, enterprises, and individuals in the foundation and organization of schools, the amount of money paid directly by parents of pupils has increased considerably. As there are various forms of education with different tuition fees, people can choose the most appropriate “channel of investment” to ensure their children’s right to education. Moreover, apart from public schools, people can send children to non-public schools, international schools located in Vietnam or abroad, and other educational institutions as well. In 2006, the financial amount contributed by people to the education for children at public and non-public schools accounts for roughly 25.% of the total budget for education [Viện Khoa học Giáo dục Việt Nam 2010]. According to statistical data, the number of school pupils has grown insignificantly over 20 years, from school year 1995-1996 to school year 2017-2018; whereas, the number of university students and postgraduates has grown rapidly over the same period. At the same time, the ratio of pupils to teachers decreased much, from 31.6 pupils/a teacher to 17.9 pupils/a teacher (Table 2). The decrease in the ratio of pupils to teachers and the increase in the number of university and college students demonstrate a positive change in the educational system. Table 2. Quantity of learners General education School year 1995-1996 2017-2018 School pupils (thousand persons) 15,561.0 15,923.7 Ratio of pupils to teachers (%) 31.6 18.6 Colleges and universities (thousand persons) Year 1996 2017-2018 (colleges not included) Students (thousand persons) 509,3 1,707.0 Postgraduates (person) Year 2000 2017-2018 (colleges not included) Master’s and PhD students (thousand persons) 12,6 121,2 Source: General Statistics Office of Vietnam (2019) & Ministry of Education and Training (2020). The training scope has been expanded and the competition between schools, including both public and non-public ones, for educational quality and services tends to grow higher, leading to certain changes in education, whereby people benefit more from “extra educational services”. The positive change among pupils is an important criterion for assessing the quality of education. According to the results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) held by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) every three years, of half million students aged 15, representing over 28 million students in 72 countries and economies in the world to take the test in 2015, Vietnamese students were ranked 8th in the category of science, following those from Singapore, Japan, Estonia, Taiwan, Finland, Macau, and Canada [PISA 2015]. At the same time, education quality accreditation is carried out, the financial self-sufficiency is promoted and improved in the establishments of higher education. The stratification and ranking of universities are carried out step by step. Recently, universities have paid special attention to scientific research. The training model at universities, colleges, and postgraduate establishments is being revised towards the credit systems, aiming at enhancing the educational quality. The training programmes for “gifted bachelors” and “talented engineers” have gained remarkable results (the quality of the graduates satisfies international standards; after having been sent abroad to study, most of the students, who have taken the programmes, get outstanding educational attainments as the top students). “Socialization” of education has created conditions for students to have many opportunities for learning and development. With an open learning environment (teachers, schools - both public and non-public, domestic and international) students are exposed to a diversity of civilization and culture; with many educational programs and types of training suitable for students. This has contributed to educating the student as the Vietnamese personality in the renewal period.Motivated by ambitions, a majority of university and college graduates are dedicated to labour, proactive and self-reliant in developing their career [Viện Khoa học Giáo dục Việt Nam 2010]. The students, who have got a job after graduation from universities, account for a large proportion, approximating 90% (the graduates, who have not got a job yet, account for 4%, while the corresponding proportion in other countries is higher). “Socialization” of education and emerging issues It is possible to affirm that the “socialization” policy has created comprehensive synergy for development of education, when the State investment in education still remains limited. The “socialization” of education, however, has resulted in “internal” issues due to the impact of the economic mechanism with new types of ownership in the educational sector. The issues encountered by the educational system at present are enumerated as follows: Firstly, students and people in society attach too much importance to educational service but do not pay sufficient attention to home education In practice, during school year 2017-2018, 735 non-public schools, founded by local or international investment, attracted 340,523 pupils (Table 1). Those pupils mainly belong to two groups, including: (i) those who did not satisfy the requirements for the enrolment at public schools; and, (ii) those who satisfied the requirements for the enrolment at public schools, but their parents decided to choose non-public educational service that they highly appreciated (often foreign-invested or locally prestigious non-public schools). They even do not have time to be with their children, when the children come home from school. Meanwhile, there are too many restraints at public schools. As a result, they have decided to send children to the schools in the latter group. In regard to children in the former group, a large proportion is made up by the children, who have little care from parents due to economic conditions (in both poor and quite rich households) as well as the parents’ free time and awareness. Not only parents of the children going to non-public schools but also parents of the children going to public schools would like the schools to undertake fully the task of education for their children. At least, they want their children to spend at school as much time as possible. This evidences that people do not pay sufficient attention to home education. In another case, it is not rare that parents choose educational services, which they think to be convenient (especially under the impact of advertisements in the market) and favourable for the study results of their children. And, pupils sometimes assume that teachers and schools have a responsibility to provide an educational service equivalent to the amount of the tuition fee. The tendency of attaching too much importance to educational service, while home education is neglected, consequently, will result in “defective products”, because mental development and knowledge depend greatly on the awareness and effort of students, but not on the business-based convenience of educational service. Secondly, educational quality and workforce It is quite typical that teachers of public schools also give extra lessons at home and take part in teaching at educational centres or non-public schools, apart from giving lessons at the school, where they are regularly employed. This is especially typical of the teachers, who give lessons on the subjects considered to be the key ones or those determined to be the subjects of examinations. It is not easy to deal with this problem. When the salary of teachers at public schools has not been improved yet, the educational efficiency is certainly impacted, as income and living conditions of the teachers are mostly attached to their teaching. At the same time, the investment in education cannot be considered effective, if teachers are overwhelmed with giving lessons. Meanwhile, non-public schools are granted more power to employ and use teachers flexibly, and seasonally contract teachers account for a majority. Most of the contract teachers are those, who are not sufficiently qualified to give lessons at public schools, and those, who are regular teachers at public schools and would like to give more lessons at non-public schools. Thirdly, some corollaries of the competition in education Due to the goals of inputs, profits, and interests of each school, market-based intense competitions have been taking place among public schools as well as among non-public ones. Although public schools are understood to be non-profit establishments according to the State welfare policy, they no longer provide 100 % free-of-charge education as those in the period before the economic reforms; various “types of service” have been added, showing the flexibility adopted by school managers for the purpose of adaptation to the market economic mechanism and improvement of the teachers’ income in addition to the salary provided from the State budget. For immediate benefits, public schools have decided to increase teaching hours and programmes, aiming at generating more income for teachers. This has caused pressures on both teachers and students. Meanwhile, the goals of profits and competitions are obviously severer among investors. The competition between non-public schools has also affected public schools, making them by some way fall into the market-based recruitment and training patterns. For the sake of benefits at non-public schools, a number of investors have implemented strategies to build the image of the schools, focusing on some criteria such as: the professional administration, the innovative organization, and the “outputs” of the students. At many non-public schools, however, benefits are valued above the criteria addressed to students. For example, (i) cutting down on the study subjects or programmes regulated by the Ministry of Education and Training; (ii) intensive training courses are held for the sake of scores at exams; (iii) the image of the school/university has been advertised exaggeratedly and incorrectly for the purpose of attracting students; as a result, a number of students have enrolled on the wrong place with inappropriate training; and (iv) teachers under pressure. This more or less negatively impacts the physical and mental state of the students and leads the people to doubt about the educational system. Unlike other social activities, the output product of the educational system consists of those who have been educated and trained. The production process is evaluated and verified by quality of the very product. It will be, therefore, very harmful, if there are faults and problems in the production process. Besides, the ‘competitive’ environment is brought about by “socialization” of education, in which students’ personalities are directly affected by teachers, the school and even their parents. Given the negative impact of the market mechanism, in which educational socialization is not outside this mechanism, it is not surprising that students are tending to be selfish, emotionless and disrespectful towards adults; graduates participating in social labor are pragmatic and persistent; ideals and ambitions of the younger generation answer their own purposes. Conclusion It will not be objective, if the role of the “socialization” policy is underestimated in educational development during the period of renovation in Vietnam. As the State investment in education still remains limited in comparison with other countries, while the local education is required to reach the international standards in the process of international integration, it is absolutely necessary to carry out “socialization” in education for the purpose of mobilizing all resources from the people. The “socialization”, however, will result in certain problems, such as: great importance attached to educational services; insufficient attention to home education; teachers under pressure of employment and income; unfair competition in education etc. These are bad for the quality of education. Recognising fully the emerging issues caused by the competition in the educational sector will provide a more comprehensive picture of the educational system in the period of renovation. The paper has suggested the necessity of carrying out a follow-up in-depth study which will provide recommendations on appropriate measures in educational management and policy-making, aiming at achieving educational development in Vietnam in coming years.

About the authors

Thi Luyen Nguyen

Southern Institute of Social Sciences

Email: luyennt.rss.hcm.vn@gmail.com
PhD, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Social Sciences Review (HCMC), Southern Institute of Social Sciences Ho Chi Minh City


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