US Helps Vietnam Improve Quality of Higher Education

USAID and Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training signed the first MOU to expand cooperation on improving quality of higher education

US Helps Improve Quality of Vietnamese Higher Education
At the signing ceremony. Source: USAID Vietnam

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that it has signed its first-ever Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) to improve the quality of Vietnamese higher education.

MOET Minister Nguyen Kim Son and USAID/Vietnam Mission Director Aler Grubbs signed the MOU at a ceremony hosted in Hanoi.

The MOU builds upon USAID’s decade-long cooperation with Vietnam on higher education partnership programs. The MOU expands USAID’s support to MOET to advance Vietnam’s higher education to be even more innovative and competitive.

“We applaud the Government of Vietnam on its reforms to build a globally-competitive higher education system,” said Mission Director Grubbs during remarks delivered at the ceremony. “This first-ever MOU between USAID and the Ministry of Education and Training marks our ongoing commitment to collaborate on a wide range of higher education partnership programs that will directly support MOET’s ambitious higher education reform goals.”

Vietnam’s 2018 Revised Law on Higher Education is prompting significant changes to move the country toward a more open higher education system.

USAID supports Vietnam’s efforts to modernize its higher education system. In partnership with US higher education institutions and the private sector, USAID is helping Vietnamese universities to improve academic quality and enhance institutional governance to serve as modern models of higher education and drive Vietnam’s socio-economic development.

US Helps Improve Quality of Vietnamese Higher Education
The headquarters of the Vietnam National University – Hanoi. Photo:

Many of these programs have connected Vietnamese Universities with leading US higher education institutions and private sector companies to develop innovations in teaching and learning, accreditation, curriculum reform, research, and university and industry linkages.

With the signing of the MOU, USAID will support MOET with a new project that will provide direct technical assistance to review and improve higher education policies. Improving policies will advance university autonomy, quality assurance, digital transformation and innovations in key sectors that are critical to Vietnam’s continued economic growth and development.

Investment in education in Vietnam tended to increase steadily over the past decade, VNA citied a report annalysing the education sector during 2011-2020 released by the Vietnam National Institute of Educational Sciences (VNIES) in August.

According to the report, the investment in the education sector accounted for more than 18% of the total state budget expenditure, but was still lower than the set rate of 20%.

Talking about the outcomes of the analysis at the event, VNIES head, Prof. Dr. Le Anh Vinh, said Vietnam achieved impressive results in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international study that was launched by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1997. It now covers over 80 countries, the PISA survey provides comparative data on 15-year-olds’ performance in reading, mathematics and science every three years.

Vinh said, in the 2012’s and 2015’s editions of the survey, the average score of Vietnamese students outperforms their OECD peers in all subjects, except reading comprehension.

On the quality of general education in Vietnam, the expert said primary education has been successful in equipping 5th graders with basic reading, writing and math skills. Specifically, 70-84% of grade 5 students met the minimum standards in mathematics (multiple choice test) and Vietnamese in the 2013-2014 academic year.

However, secondary and high school students failed to maintain this ratio. In the same school year, only 45% of 9th graders met the math standards, with the rate being 53% for English. The rates for 12th graders in the 2014-2015 academic year were 52% and 40%, respectively.

At the undergraduate level, the number of students grew strongly in 2014, decreased slightly in 2018 and bounced back in 2019. In 2018, there were more than 108,000 students studying abroad, equal to 3.6% of Vietnam’s total. The percentage of university graduates also increased sharply in 2015 and 2016 and declined slightly in 2019.

In 2018, 65.5% students from 181 universities and 40 colleges secured jobs after graduation.

Hannah Nguyen