Vietnam: Helping Academic Dreams Come True

February 12, 2014

  • Not all poor students can be accommodated in public high schools in Vietnam.
  • Poor students are likely to drop out of school due to high tuition fees at private schools.
  • A World Bank-supported project provided grants to 8,000 students in order to continue their studies at private high schools and vocational schools.

Hanoi, Vietnam - For 18-year-old Cao Thi Phuong Huyen, getting accepted to college has taken her one step closer to her dream of becoming a teacher.

Now in her freshman year at Hung Vuong University in Phu Tho Pronvince in Vietnam, Huyen is majoring in teaching English as a second language.

But her dream would not have come true if she had dropped out of school some three years earlier, when school became unaffordable for Huyen and her family.

“After finishing secondary school, I didn’t pass the exam to enter public high school,” Huyen said. “I thought about getting a job, because I thought I couldn’t go to private school. It was partly because I felt discouraged, but primarily because we could not afford it.”

In Vietnam, about one million students finish secondary school every year. But public high schools can only accommodate 80 per cent of the number of students to continue their studies.

An estimated 200,000 students, who failed one single high school entry exam, have no other choice but to enroll in private schools. For students with economic difficulties, the high cost of tuition fees become a challenge.

But an education project, supported by the World Bank and implemented by the East Meets West Foundation, gave Huyen the opportunity to enter Vu The Lang, a private high school in her hometown.

Funded by the Global Partnership on Output-Based Aid Program, the project helped students like Huyen, who contemplated dropping out of school, by providing them with financial aid to continue their studies in private schools.

From 2010 to 2013, the project has helped over 8,000 disadvantaged students in 12 of the poorest provinces in northern and central Vietnam to finish either upper secondary or professional secondary schools.

" Finishing 10th grade, my GPA was good, but by the 11th and 12th grades, I was getting excellent. The project not only helped me financially, but also encouraged me a lot. I felt that I was cared for. "

Cao Thi Phuong Huyen

Student, Phu Tho Province

An output-based approach: first of its kind in Vietnam

The project is the first of its kind in Vietnam. Using an output-based approach, those eligible for financial aid were selected based on their performance at school, as well as their economic status.

For Huyen, the grant of $90 dollars per year was more than just a much-needed financial lifeline.

“Finishing 10th grade, my GPA was good, but by the 11th and 12th grades, I was getting excellent,” said Huyen. “The project not only helped me financially, but also encouraged me a lot. I felt that I was cared for.”

The fund is not just designed to help those with academic dreams. It is also intended to help others with more vocational aspirations.

Luong Tien was born into a poor family in Danang city in central Vietnam. He also received a grant to study for three years at Duc Minh private professional secondary school, where he learned the skills to become an electrical engineer.

“My family is poor. My father is a construction worker. My mother stays at home. My father’s income is not stable so I cannot afford the school fees,” Tien said.

For Tien, the eldest of four siblings, expectations are high. He has to take care of his brothers and sister. The only way he can do that is by getting a well-paid job.

Higher level of education = higher chance of success

It is this two-pronged approach that has proved most beneficial. By supporting the students, their financial worries are addressed. As a result, they are more able to focus on their studies and perform well at school.

“When students are given opportunities to study, and achieve higher levels in their education, they have even more chances of success in their lives,” said Nguyen Thu Huyen, Deputy Director, Department of Education, Phu Tho Province.

During the past three years, with a total budget of 3 million US dollars, the project has altered the course of the lives of 8,000 students.

“I hope the project continues to reach out to more students, like it has helped me pursue my dream,” Huyen said.