In recent years Vietnam has achieved high levels of enrolment in basic education and undertaken important reforms intended to improve school quality. To understand home background and school-level influences on pupil achievement and progress and on the effectiveness of schools, classes and teachers, Young Lives conducted a survey of 3,284 Grade 5 pupils in 20 sites across the country in 2011-12.
Our findings show that most pupils are in the age-appropriate school grade, that pupil and teacher attendance is high, and that the majority of schools, classes and pupils have access to key basic facilities, resources and materials. And while it is not possible to make robust international comparisons, most pupils show mastery of basic skills in numeracy and reading comprehension. In maths in particular, learning levels for many pupils are high.
Attainment in Vietnamese reading and in mathematics is notably lower in disadvantaged areas such as rural Lao Cai when compared to urban Da Nang and among ethnic minorities when compared to Kinh, yet learning progress in Grade 5 among disadvantaged pupils and in disadvantaged areas is not notably lower.
Nor is there strong evidence that more advantaged pupils benefit from substantially more effective schooling during Grade 5, although their schools, classes and teachers are found to be slightly better equipped. Advantaged pupils also often receive longer hours of instruction ("full-day schooling") and attend more "extra classes".
Finally, there is considerable variation in the "value-added" to pupils' learning between schools in the sample. However, although the least effective schools are found to have fewer facilities and resources than the most effective, some of the most effective schools are found to serve relatively disadvantaged pupils.