World Bank director discusses the role of teachers in Vietnam

VietNamNet Bridge – Ms. Victoria Kwakwa, Country Director of World Bank in Vietnam, said that teachers are an important determinant of the quality of education and the future reform should be built on this property.

World Bank director, teachers' day

Students present flowers to a teacher on the Teachers' Day.

On the occasion of Vietnam’s Teachers’ Day 2013, I join students in wishing all teachers in Vietnam a very happy Teachers’ Day.  I hope your celebrations today give teachers some sense of the important role they play in shaping the life chances of several millions of Vietnamese children.  Thank you for your dedication and hard work.  Growing up in Ghana, my mother was a teacher.  I remember how hard she worked for her students and the sense of fulfillment she had when her students succeeded.  

Research from around the world shows that teachers are an important determinant of the quality of education and the skills that our children acquire. The competencies of teachers and their actions in the classroom matter more than equipment or the quality of infrastructure. This is true for Vietnam as well.

Education has played an important role in Vietnam’s development success over the last two decades. Vietnam’s rapid economic growth in the 1990s was driven predominantly by increases in labor productivity that came with the rapid shift of employment out of low productivity agriculture into higher productivity non-farm jobs. In this process, education has played an enabling role in providing Vietnamese workers with the basic skills necessary for non-farm employment. Today, literacy and numeracy among Vietnam’s students and adult workforce is widespread and more so than in other countries, including wealthier ones. Deservedly, Vietnam has gained a reputation for having a well-educated, young work force – thanks to Vietnam’s teachers.

However, Vietnam cannot rest on these laurels as it wants to advance and become a modern, industrialized economy. Economic modernization will mean that firms will produce fewer manual and elementary jobs and more and more skill-intensive non-manual jobs. These new types of jobs will involve non-routine tasks which require new skills, for example the ability to think critically, solve problems and work well in teams. A new World Bank report to be launched next week, titled “Skilling up Vietnam: Preparing Vietnam’s workforce for a modern market economy,” shows that some employers find that that hiring new workers is difficult either because of inadequate skills of job applicants or because of a scarcity of workers in some occupations. The education system needs to adjust to help graduates acquire these new skills.

Recognizing the challenges, earlier this year, the Prime Minister approved the Proposal “Developing the Learning Society 2012 – 2020” with a clear goal of building a learning society, connecting both the formal and informal education systems and place attention to out-of-school education. In this framework, early childhood development and lifelong learning are increasingly important and enable people to be better preparation for schooling and regular updates of knowledge and skills relevant for changing labor markets.   

The recent Party’s Resolution has identified nine solutions to address existing problems and meet future demands, one of which is to focus on the development of the teachers and educators. Under the Resolution, the quality of teachers will be upgraded and standardized, along with the system of teachers’ education. Focus will be given to renewing the objectives, content, approaches and evaluation of teachers training and re-training to improve their quality, responsibilities, ethics and professional ability.  Attention also needs to be given to designing a proper compensation policy, housing and hardship support for teachers and educators.

Looking to other countries in the region, Korea can provide a good example of educational reforms. Korea regularly comes out at the top five countries in international education rankings. There are several factors that make Korea successful, including a strong political leadership and consensus across society to continuously improve the education system. One driver of Korea’s success is the quality of its teachers. In Korea the teaching profession attracts the best and brightest individuals, and they are well remunerated. Teaching is a very prestigious profession.

In Vietnam, the quality of teachers is already one of the education system’s assets. Future reforms should build on this asset and invest in the teaching profession to attract and retain good teachers and to strengthen their capability to help produce graduates who are not just good readers and writers, but also good problem-solvers and critical thinkers. Creative teachers with good communications skills can impart these abilities to the children through example and inspiration. It also helps if the teaching method is specifically tailored for children to learn actively in groups. The Vietnam New School model, which adapts modern techniques from international experience, is currently being applied in nearly 1,500 schools throughout Vietnam.  The New School model can provide a very useful learning for Vietnam's upcoming system wide curricular reform.  We encourage all teachers to embrace this new approach to teaching that will bring much needed skills for their future success of their students.

Vietnam’s teachers do a very good job, every day, and often in challenging circumstances. Teachers are as critically important in Vietnam’s future development as they have been in the past. I wish all teachers the best on this special day of the year.

Victoria Kwakwa

World Bank director, teachers' day