Formal education in Vietnam consists of twelve years of basic education. Like many school systems in the United States, it is divided into five levels: pre-school, primary, lower secondary, upper secondary, and higher education. To meet the demands of its ever-changing and rapidly growing economic landscape, Vietnam has made efforts to overhaul its education system. In the summer of 2005, the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Legislature XI approved the country’s new education law stating that learning is the right and obligation of every citizen and that every citizen has equal rights of access to learning opportunities. Further, compulsory education will include primary and lower secondary levels and that priority in resource allocation (i.e. teachers, infrastructure, equipment and budget) is given to schools and classes that support the learning of students with disabilities. As a result of this policy that outlines inclusive education, survey data from the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) in 2005 reported 32% of 700,000 primary school-age children with disabilities attended classes in regular schools, a significant advancement for the country given that up to just a decade ago, there was only one lower secondary school that was able to accept students with disabilities.
Opportunity for Collaboration
Despite tremendous growth in the business of education in recent years and having an impressive 94% literacy rate, Vietnam, like many countries worldwide, continues to face educational challenges such as inequity, teacher recruitment, quality instruction, and small budgets. Consequently, inclusive education is often viewed as an additional burden. As data compiled by UNESCO-IBE suggest, Vietnam is moving in a negative direction with an estimated 10% of its 1 million students with disabilities receiving schooling at all in 2007-08. To help strengthen Vietnam’s commitment to inclusive education, collaborative dialogue around the development of this framework is recommended. With Vietnam’s National Institute for Educational Strategy and Curriculum Development (NIESAC), a research arm of MOET, a council or task group made up of representatives from ministries, communities, non-governmental organizations (NGO), research, and professional service providers would focus on what it will take to systemically and successfully make inclusive education a sustained reality. This would include a look at current policy regarding school organization (i.e. people-funded, semipublic, and private schools), parent and community partnerships, professional development for those who will deliver instructional and special education related services such as diagnostic, therapy, and speech services, and program development and leadership within the schools.