Teaching Quality Issues

The entire higher education system is facing several crises, such as outdated curricula, a lecturer-centered method of teaching and learning, a lack of linkage between teaching and research activities, and a large discord between theory and practical training, that leads to a large number of graduates being unable to find a job, while skills shortages drive inflation to double-digit levels. Vietnamese students have a lack of knowledge despite being taught a lot due to the fact that the main purpose of studying hard is to pass exams. According to the survey on graduate employment in 2009-2010 conducted by Center for Policy Studies and Analysis- University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University, Hanoi, among 3000 respondents, 26.2% are still unemployed with the majority unable to find a job. Among those employed, 61% said they lacked sufficient working skill, 42% lacked experience and 32% cited insecure professional expertise.

Aside from degrees offered by foreign universities, qualifications from Vietnamese universities are not recognized worldwide.

Teaching methods delivered in the public system are teacher-oriented. Class discussions are uncommon, and students are expected to be studious and passively attentive in the classroom. This method is a manifestation of Confucian culture, and is a sharp contrast to American and British pedagogy, where interaction and debate are more prominent.

Advanced and specialized high school students are generally expected to study additional courses, which can amount to a total of nine periods a day. Parents also enroll their children into extensive tutoring sessions, which is not to be confused with cram schools, because the tutoring sessions are taken regardless of any upcoming tests or exams. The average monthly salary of local Vietnamese public teachers is between 60USD and 100USD, so many supplement their income by moonlighting, working in the private sector or teaching in these tutoring sessions. Students who do not attend these sessions are always at a disadvantage, as materials appearing on tests and exams are often covered only in tutoring sessions.

Public schools are underfunded. Currently, only primary schools are subsidized by the government, to 50% of the total tuition cost. Enrollment rates may be high; however, primary education quality, particularly in poor areas, is below the required standard. Moreover, the drop-out rate after fifth grade is also high, especially in rural and mountainous area since most students cannot afford to attend secondary school or university, due to poverty. Participatory Poverty Assessments (PPAs) found that for many poor households, child labor is considered much more valuable than school attendance. Regular school absenteeism also leads to poor academic performance. For poor families, the opportunity cost of sending their children to school is perceived to be high and the long-term benefit of education cannot outweigh the short-term economic losses.

Private language centers offering English as a Second Language are in high demand in the larger cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Students flock to these schools to increase their employment opportunities. These classes are usually taught by foreign expatriates who are generally paid between 10 and 20 US dollars per hour, depending both on their qualifications, and on the quality of the school. Lower standards in some of the lower paying schools have resulted in a proliferation of low-quality teachers (known to the community as "backpacker teachers", who are typically travelers hired for teaching, hence "backpacker"). Those teachers are often only hired for being blond, white and 'foreign'. Many flock to Vietnam for the promise of a high salary for easy work. As their job is usually just showing the children flashcards and playing games with them. Many centers are only there to make money for the owners and hire foreigners to keep the parents of the students happy enough to keep them sending their children to those schools. The costs can be very high, 12 euro per lesson of 1.5h is not uncommon.