Before we can explore the recruitment potential from Vietnam, it’s important to understand the education system and enrolment picture in-country.
Below we walk you through Vietnam’s capacity covering state schools, international schools, language institutions, vocational providers and universities.
Read on to learn more about Vietnam’s own education market, and contact us for help or advice when recruiting in southeast Asia.
K-12 schools in Vietnam
Children in Vietnam generally start preschool at the age of 3 and finish kindergarten by the time they are 5 or 6 years old.
They then move on to primary school for Grades 1 – 5.
These are the only compulsory years Vietnamese children must attend, however, by 2020 the government is moving to increase this to include up to Grade 9.
In 2017, the MOET announced that it would introduce foreign language and computer training starting in Grade 3.
Students either continue to Grade 6 or enrol in vocational training programmes.
Lower secondary school (trung học cơ sở)
Students either continue to Grade 10 or enrol in vocational training programmes.
Upper secondary school (trung học phổ thông)
Admission depends on rigorous entrance exams.
Students who don’t score high enough on the entrance exams or who choose an alternative path can enter private schools or upper vocational programmes instead.
K-12 enrolment – Fast facts
The school week in Vietnam is six days, beginning on Monday and ending on Saturday; children usually only attend school for half the day.
The MOET’s Preschool Education Development Project in 2018–2025 aims to reinforce and expand preschools:
By 2020, at least 98.5% of pre-schoolers will attend school 7 days a week.
By 2020, 70% of teachers must be college graduates.
Vietnam's PISA Scores
Vietnamese students are among the best academic performers in Southeast Asia, and even join their Chinese peers to surpass students from OECD member countries, including the U.S., the U.K. and France.
Average scores in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test between 2010 and 2015:
OECD members: 497
Vietnam surpassed the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand to stand only behind Singapore in terms of scores on PISA and TIMSS tests, as revealed in the World Bank report “Growing Smarter: Learning and Equitable Development in East Asia and the Pacific”. The report ranks students according to a weighted average of scores from tests that students have taken since 2000 for PISA and since 2003 for Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).
School enrolments in Vietnam
Literacy rates in Vietnam have been climbing however, the net enrolment rate in secondary education is slipping, down five percentage points in ten years, as the corresponding visual illustrates.
We’ve also included statistics from Vietnam’s MOET with enrolments in country for the 2018/19 school year covering all levels including pre-primary, primary, lower and upper secondary schools through to colleges and universities. Moreover, the General Statistics Office of Vietnam has released figures for the 2016/17 school year with the number of K-12 schools, average number of pupils per class, and upper-secondary school graduation rates, which have been improving since 2001.
News Flash! MOET limiting enrolments in state-owned upper secondary schools in HCMC
More than 100,000 students in Ho Chi Minh City will finish lower secondary school in the academic year 2018/19, however, about 30% will not be admitted to public schools the following school year.
State-owned high schools throughout HCMC will only receive around 70,000 Grade 10 students for the 2019/20 school year.
Deputy Director of the Department of Training and Education of HCMC, Nguyen Van Hieu said that the municipal educational sector will cut down the number of students entering state schools, towards reaching the 2020 target number of 60%.
This means that in HCMC alone, 30,000 students (Grade 10, age 15) will need to find an alternative, such as vocational school, private school, continuing education centres, or schools overseas. Read more.
National exams in Vietnam
In 2015, the high school graduation and university entrance exams in Vietnam were combined to create the National High School Graduation Examination (Kỳ thi Trung học phổ thông quốc gia). It is administered by the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), and all high school students in Vietnam are required to take it at the end of Grade 12 to get a diploma called the High School Graduation Certificate (Bằng tốt nghiệp Trung học phổ thông).
Each year in June, about 900,000 Vietnamese students take the exam.
Three papers are mandatory for the graduation examination:
Foreign Language (English, French, German, Chinese, Japanese, or Russian)
In addition, students must choose either Natural Sciences (a combination of Physics, Chemistry, and Biology) or Social Sciences (including History, Geography, and Civic Education). In some cases, students can take both the Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and will choose the paper with the higher result to be evaluated.
Students still have to take their regular end-of-term examinations before taking the High School Graduation Examination, however, the importance of it is shifting. In 2019, a student’s score in the National High School Examination will account for 70% of their high school graduation score while their average performance score in Grade 12 accounts for 30%. Last year, the proportion was 50-50.
News Flash! Universities in Vietnam adding new exams to admissions process
Several universities in Vietnam are adding ‘General ability’ tests in addition to the results of national high school examinations when selecting students.
The move is said to help institutions choose students with sufficient talent to master their training programmes since the universities design specific tests by themselves. Candidates can voluntarily apply for the tests, which are usually taken before or after the national high school examination.
Education Minister Phung Xuan Nha told the National Assembly session in Hanoi that its total state budget was VND 1,300 trillion (or USD 57 billion) in 2017, up 18.8% over 2016, and that Vietnam allocates 20% of it for education. For comparison, the World Bank cited the global education average was 14.1% in 2013.
According to the World Bank, Vietnam's education expenditure as a percentage of GDP was:
3.57% in 2000
5.18% in 2006
4.82% in 2009
5.65% in 2013
For comparison, the global average education expenditure as a percentage of GDP was:
3.91% in 2000
4.17% in 2006
4.68% in 2013
4.81% in 2015
International K-12 schools in Vietnam
Fast facts – According to the Independent Schools Council (Oct 2018)
English-medium schools: 123 (more than 50 of them are in HCMC)
Teaching staff: 6,535
Total annual tuition fee income: USD 633.9 million
Need to know – Decree 86
Came into effect on 1 August 2018 at the request of the Ministry of Education and Training.
Encourages foreign investors in education in order to increase the number of international schools in Vietnam.
Relaxed former limitations which restricted local enrolment within foreign-owned schools.
Raised the ceiling for the rate of Vietnamese students at kindergartens, primary, secondary and high schools to 50% of total enrolments.
ELT market in Vietnam
Vietnam’s National Foreign Languages 2020 project reveals that the government’s goal is to have all students in primary and secondary schools proficient in English by 2020.
In November 2018, Education First (EF) released its English Proficiency Index, which ranked Vietnam 41st out of 88 countries and territories in English-language proficiency.
English Language Schools in Vietnam
According to the Foreign Investment Agency under the Ministry of Planning and Investment:
To date, Vietnam has attracted 437 foreign-funded projects in the education training sector, with total registered capital amounting to USD 4.3 billion.
Most of the investments have been channelled into the area of foreign language education, particularly English.
Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City now have about 450 English language centres.
According to the city’s Department of Education and Training’s statistic, the number of established foreign language and computer teaching centres in HCMC has surged to 1,250 as of 31 January 2019. Of them, only 2% are by foreign-invested facilities.
Vocational sector in Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City has 48 vocational facilities teaching 18 skills.
Vo Xuan Tam, director of Tan Binh Vocational Center, said the city aims to have 70% of its workers classified as “skilled labour” by 2020. “However, it would be difficult to reach this target as most centres do not have sufficient and modern equipment for training,” he said.
A 2011 Labour Force Survey indicated that the proportion of the labour force that had received technical and vocational training remains low.
In a total of over 50.35 million people aged 15+ employed in Vietnam, only around 7.8 million workers have completed formal vocational training (15.5% of the labour force).
The government has set a target that 55% of workers will have skills training (with one-third completing advanced vocational training) by 2020.
The difference in training rates of employees in urban areas (30.9%) and rural areas (9.0%) is significant.
Foreign investment in Vietnamese education
Opened in 2001, Quang Trung Software Park (Vietnamese: Công viên phần mềm Quang Trung) is a business park in District 12 of Ho Chi Minh City. The park, also known as Quang Trung Software City, hosts a number of software companies and schools. Its 32 investment projects received a total capital of USD 150 million by 2008. That same year, there were 78 enterprises (46 from overseas) employing 3,100 engineers at the park and educating 4,500 students who were pursing an education with foreign programmes.
Government regulatory environment for FDI in education
Decree No.15/2019 – Info you need to know
Took effect from 20 March 2019.
Stipulates criteria for the establishment of educational facilities receiving foreign investment.
The minimum capital for setting up a vocational centre, a secondary school and a college are VND 5 billion, VND 50 billion and VND 100 billion, respectively.
In urban districts, land for building a vocational centre, a secondary school or a college must be at least 1,000 square metres, 10,000 square metres and 20,000 square metres, respectively.
In outlying districts, this rises to 20,000 square metres for building a secondary school and 40,000 for a college.
Higher education in Vietnam
Currently, Vietnam’s universities only take in 1.7 million of the approximately 2 million students who sit for the university entrance exams. This leaves 300,000 students who have to look for other academic institutes either in Vietnam (such as community colleges or international universities) or abroad.
MOET stats for 2018/19 school year enrolments in country are as follows:
236 total institutions
171 public higher education institutions, 65 private (27.6%)
1,707,025 students enrolled
244,000 students in private education institutions (14% of the total)
The number of students enrolling in private universities has been declining for years
74,991 faculty members
2010 higher education enrolments:
414 total institutions
334 public higher education institutions, 80 private (19.3%)
2,162,100 students enrolled
333,900 private (15.4% of the total)
74,600 faculty members
11,300 at private institutions (15% of the total)
Between 2001 and 2011, an average of 8 new universities and 12 colleges were established each year.
2000 higher education enrolments:
178 total institutions
148 public higher education institutions, 30 private (16.9%)
899,500 students enrolled
103,900 private (11.5% of total)
32,200 faculty members
4,500 at private institutions (14% of total)
Looking even further back, in the academic year of 1992/93, Vietnam had approximately 162,000 university and college students at around 110 higher education institutions.
News Flash! Importance of English growing at Vietnamese universities
In 2016, the government directed 61 public universities, academies and colleges to introduce English as a second language of instruction.
A number of universities in Vietnam are making the following types of changes with regards to English medium instruction and enrolment requirements:
Teaching in English.
Requiring all applicants for certain degree programmes (e.g. STEM) to have a certain level of English.
Allocating a certain percentage of enrolment quotes to applicants with strong English exam scores.
Awarding scholarships to students with high IELTS or TOEFL scores.
Making English a graduation requirement.
“This shows that Vietnam’s higher education is gradually integrating with the world, which will also improve recognition of our degrees in other countries and prepare for worker mobility internationally,” said Dr. Nguyễn Thị Kim Phụng, Head of the Higher Education Department at the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET). See more details at Vietnam News.
TNE in Vietnam
The number of government-approved transnational education programmes grew by 45% between 2010 and 2011.
The minister said as of the end of 2018, Vietnam had attracted 455 foreign invested projects in education with total capital of more than USD 4 billion. It had also approved 530 joint training programmes between local and foreign universities, including more than 80 programmes with British schools.
Online education first appeared in Vietnam around 2007, with demand rising remarkably over the past several years. It was formally recognised by the Ministry of Education and Training in 2012.
Quality assurance: The new accreditation system
One of the reforms currently enacted in higher education is the implementation of new quality assurance mechanisms for higher education institutions, as outlined by credential evaluators World Education Services (WES).
In 2004, the MOET initiated a new accreditation process based on institutional self-assessments and internal quality assurance mechanisms that are externally evaluated by accreditation agencies.
Four years later, a National Accreditation Council was established under the MOET.
By 2009, 110 Vietnamese universities had established internal quality assurance centres and 20 universities had received accreditation.
The process has since undergone various changes. At present, accreditation is conducted by four accreditation centres under the guidance of the MOET’s General Department of Education Testing and Accreditation (GDETA):
The Center for Education Accreditation – VNU-Hanoi
The Center for Education Accreditation – VNU-HCMC
The Center for Education Accreditation – Da Nang University
The Center for Education Accreditation of the Association of Vietnam Universities and Colleges.
These four agencies are tasked with accrediting higher education institutions as well as vocational schools in the VET sector.
Accreditation is granted for 5-year periods and is mandatory for all HE institutions in Vietnam.
To boost quality, more than 90% of Vietnamese institutions have established internal quality assurance centres.
In March 2017, the MOET promised that 35% of universities and 10% of junior colleges would be evaluated and accredited until the end of the year. Programme accreditation has also been introduced but is still relatively uncommon as of 2017. The government’s goal is to have up to 150 programmes accredited by international accreditation agencies between 2016 and 2020.
Recruiting in Vietnam
BMI runs more than 80 events in over a dozen countries each year. Join these events in Vietnam to recruit students directly via our fairs and attend our peer-to-peer events to build connections with high school counsellors and recruitment agents.
BMI's biannual Vietnamese student recruitment fairs consistently draw in thousands of academically-oriented students and their parents to bring them in direct contact with institutions from around the world. BMI also takes a limited number of accredited institutions on chauffeured visits to top-rated private high schools in both cities.