Viet Nam: Transforming education through innovative partnerships

GPE is partnering with the Nippon Foundation through a Multiplier grant to support Viet Nam’s efforts to improve inclusive education and make sure children from ethnic minorities and those with disabilities have a better access to a quality education.

June 11, 2024 by Hiyona Otake
5 minutes read
Students in a boarding school in Lao Cai Province, Viet Nam. Credit: The Nippon Foundation
Students in a boarding school in Lao Cai Province, Viet Nam.
Credit: The Nippon Foundation

Viet Nam has high primary school completion rates, strong gender parity, low student-teacher ratios and a low out-of-school rate. However, there are educational challenges. Children with disabilities are often left behind in class, and only 1 in 7 teachers have training in teaching children with disabilities.

A further challenge is that too many children from ethnic minorities are not learning essential skills. Data shows that comprehension scores are low and reading fluency lags behind among children from ethnic minority groups. In Viet Nam, 90 languages are spoken, and with the widespread use of mainstream Vietnamese, the use of several minority languages and dialects is declining.

Research done in multilingual contexts around the world has shown that overall language development and the ability to learn in other languages is often linked to the mastering of a mother tongue, particularly in the early years.

Partners in Viet Nam have agreed on the need to focus efforts in supporting learning for those at the margins of the country’s education success story—including children from ethnic minorities and children with disabilities.

With this objective in mind, the Ministry of Education and Training officially launched the “Ramping up Education for all” program in 2024. This program was designed by Save the Children in close collaboration with the partners of the Education Sector Group and is cofunded by GPE and the Nippon Foundation.

To support Viet Nam in improving inclusive education, GPE is partnering with the Nippon Foundation through the GPE Multiplier. A total of US$2.6 million in cofinancing from the Nippon Foundation has allowed Viet Nam to unlock a $2.6 million GPE Multiplier grant. This allows Viet Nam to benefit of a total of $5.2 million to support children from ethnic minorities and children with disabilities.

I spoke with Masako Matsuo (Numata) and Sosuke Katsumata of the Nippon Foundation about their thoughts on partnering with GPE through the Multiplier.

Please tell me briefly about this program in Viet Nam

The program supports inclusive education for ethnic minority children and children with disabilities.

By 2026, the program aims to achieve the following outcomes:

  • The Ministry of Education and Training will have released Early Learning and Development Standards (ELDS) for 5-year-old children;
  • 20 schools in disadvantaged provinces will be selected for training in the use of these standards; in these schools, 75% of the teachers will have received training in inclusive education; and
  • 8 training materials for the innovative teaching of ethnic minority language teaching methods and assessment will have been developed and provided to the responsible teachers.

In the first stage of our program, we focused on the ethnic minorities in a mountainous area in the northeast and northwest of Viet Nam. Local partners, and Save the Children in particular, developed the materials for the children as well as materials and training for teachers.

Ethnic minority students learning at a primary school in Lao Cai Province. Viet Nam. Credit: The Nippon Foundation
Ethnic minority students learning at a primary school in Lao Cai Province. Viet Nam.
The Nippon Foundation

How did the project start?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nippon Foundation staff and GPE staff had been talking about the possibility of doing something together. In 2023, the option to support a new program in Viet Nam, which Save the Children had drafted, emerged.

The idea of cofunding was supported by discussions between our Chairman and GPE’s CEO. And this marked the start of our collaboration with GPE. From there, we travelled to Viet Nam for a joint exploratory mission alongside Save the Children and UNICEF and we worked to align our funding processes.

Can you tell us about any advantages of cofunding with an international organization?

Usually, the Nippon Foundation provides grants themselves; this collaboration with GPE was a first as cofinancing is new to us.

A project of this size would take more than 6 months to design if we do it only by ourselves, but this collaboration with GPE and in partnership with Save the Children and the Ministry of Education and Training ensured that it was designed more quickly.

In addition to the speed of implementation of the project to improve inclusive education for ethnic minorities and children with disabilities, GPE’s results-based data orientation, focusing investments where they’re needed most in a given country and within that, carefully considering the needs of marginalized children, could be a great value-add for Nippon Foundation.

We also see this collaboration as an opportunity to learn from GPE as a major global funder of education. For example, in terms of collecting and analyzing data and understanding impacts pre- and post-project implementation so that the analysis of results is based on measurable data points.

What kind of education projects has Nippon Foundation been involved in in Viet Nam?

We have experience in school construction projects and have been working on this in the mountainous areas of Viet Nam. Between 2005 and 2014, we partnered with a Japanese nongovernmental organization called “Asian Education and Friendship Association” to support the construction of 88 schools in mountainous areas.

In addition to building the schools, we conducted cultural exchange activities between Vietnamese children enrolled in the schools and Japanese elementary and junior high school students.

The Nippon Foundation also provided support for the visually impaired and has provided support in 7 Asian countries. In Viet Nam, since around 2006, through Sao Mai Center (an organization that supports the visually impaired), Nippon Foundation has been providing support to Vietnamese universities, such as supplying Braille teaching materials, training for university teachers when they give classes to visually impaired students and information technology education for students.

A kindergarten where ethnic minorities and the Kinh majority learn together. Viet Nam. Credit: The Nippon Foundation
A kindergarten where ethnic minorities and the Kinh majority learn together. Viet Nam.
The Nippon Foundation

What are your hopes for your activities in Viet Nam?

As a result of our joint visit with GPE and Save the Children to Viet Nam last year, we understood that there is a definite need for children from ethnic minorities to receive mother tongue education because this is a more effective way to engage younger learners with reading and learning. The shortage of teachers of minority languages makes this challenging.

Our hope is that after implementation of the joint project, the situation will improve so that children from ethnic minorities can start their basic education on an equal footing to children who speak mainstream Vietnamese. This language barrier for ethnic minorities exists in several other countries, so we hope that this project in Viet Nam will be a model case for such countries as well.

How do you foresee the collaboration with GPE growing and how important is it for the Foundation to invest in education-related cooperation?

Without education, children from poor backgrounds cannot escape the cycle of poverty. They often work from a very early age for low wages, with little prospect of increasing their earnings to the level of their better educated peers.

In terms of cooperation, since we are in the international relations department, we are active not only in Viet Nam but also in Southeast Asia and Central Asia. We hope to work with GPE if there are opportunities in other countries as well.

Related blogs

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Plain text

  • Global and entity tokens are replaced with their values. Browse available tokens.
  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.