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Many education reform projects fail, so who is to blame?

The first textbook replacement campaign in 1981-1992 finished just before the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) began implementing a project on compiling new textbooks for the second time in October 1993, using ODA capital.

Fifteen years ago, Nguyen Duc Dung, a National Assembly Deputy from Kon Tum province questioned the then Minister of MOET Nguyen Minh Hien about the project.

“Specialists working for education projects are paid $12,000-15,000 a month (VND200 million), while a civil servant receives VND1 million only. Do you know this?” he said.

“MOET’s major job is drawing up education projects and managing projects, not managing education? Is this right?” he said.

Dung had every reason to show his concern. The project alone cost $2 billion.

Just a short time after the second textbook replacement campaign finished, MOET initiated a project on reforming curricula and textbooks for general education.

The news about the project caused a shock among the public in June 2011 as it was estimated to cost VND70 trillion.

Amid the strong protest from the public, MOET canceled the project.

Three years later, the ministry once again submitted to the National Assembly’s Steering Committee the plan on renovating curricula and textbooks with the estimates of VND34.275 trillion.

Later, the then MOET Minister Pham Vu Luan explained that the estimates were ‘mistakenly’ reported. In fact, no final decision had been made.

In October 2014, the National Assembly approved the project on renovating curricula and textbooks, which cost VND462 billion only.

In 2008, MOET launched the project on teaching foreign languages in the national education system in 2008-2020 with estimates of VND9.7 trillion.

After 10 years of implementation, trillions of dong have been spent, but no considerable improvement has been made. Students’ exam scores from foreign language tests at high school finals are terribly low.

In January 2013, MOET began applying VNEN, introduced as the new school model for Vietnam, with the capital of $87.6 million. Just after a short period of application, parents, students and local authorities shouted for help, asking to say ‘no’ to VNEN.

VNEN’s failure was anticipated and MOET had been warned before it put the program into implementation.

Most recently, on May 22, 2018, MOET recalled the 2018-2020 project on renovating the national high school finals mechanism and the enrollment plan for full-time training pedagogical schools.

The project aimed to ‘renovate’ the current mechanism, but analysts commented it is in no way different from the mechanism implemented in 2017 and 2018.