Education in Vietnam: Earning a Degree Both Locally and Abroad


Education in Vietnam is becoming more important for the country and its population. Here is everything students need to know about earning a degree.

Vietnam, the tiny coastal country in Southeast Asia has a population of a whopping 92.7 million. With an increasing population, education in Vietnam is becoming a growing concern, and one the government is taking seriously. Despite the issues in the system (which we will explain), there are real initiatives being made to make an education for Vietnamese students a priority as well as a feasible option. Let’s take a look in to the background, the issues in the educational system, and the options Vietnamese students have in gaining a higher education.



The Vietnamese Education System: A Background


The Types of Education


There are four types of education in the Vietnamese educational system, and within these types are all the levels of schooling — from preschool to PhD.


Public: Public education is established and monitored by the government, which means the state chooses the administrators and staff, along with the quota.


Semi-public: Semi-public education is set up by the government by using organizations and individuals in the society to invest together.


People-founded: Social or economic organizations, with permission from the government, establish institutions with non-State budget funding.


Private: Individuals or groups invest and establish institutions with the permission of the government. There may be a rise in private education, yet students from private schools still represent a clear minority of those who apply to higher education institutions abroad.



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Some Quick Stats


To get an idea of what the Vietnamese education system is dealing with, here are some statistics on each school level.



  • The country’s literacy rate is over 90% among primary school students (Vietnam as a country also has one of the world’s highest literacy rates, at 94.5%)
  • As of 2010, Vietnam has 15,172 primary schools and 611 combined primary and lower secondary schools
  • 7.02 million students are in primary education, 46% are girls, 54% boys



  • There are 10,321 lower-secondary schools (grades 6 to 9) and 2,399 upper-secondary schools (grades 10 to 12)
  • As of 2016, there is a 95% graduation rate among high school students



  • There are 445 universities and colleges in Vietnam. 357 of them are public
  • In 2012, only 30% passed the entrance exams required to be accepted to universities
  • 2.2 millions students are enrolled in higher education
  • The average tuition fees are between USD $262 and USD $385 per year as of 2016



Issues in Education

Like all education systems, regardless of their location in the world, education in Vietnam has its issues. Teaching quality, accessibility, and style of education are some areas that can be improved. Here’s an explanation on each issue.



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Teaching Quality


The higher education system as a whole is dealing with a number of major issues, such as an outdated curriculum, a weak link between what’s taught and research activities, and a large gap between theory and practical training which means many graduates are left with degrees but without a job. According to recent Vietnamese media reports, most new university graduates are unable to find work, often due to a lack of skills.


Despite being taught a lot during their studies, Vietnamese graduates are left without practical knowledge due to the issue that the main purpose of studying hard is to pass exams. And of those who are employed, 61% said they lacked sufficient working skill, 42% lacked experience and 32% reported insecure professional expertise.



Style of Education


Another main issue in the Vietnamese education system is the fact that the system is built upon a teacher-centered method of learning. Class discussions are rare, and students are expected to be passively attentive in the classroom. This is definitely a sharp contrast to the American learning style where classroom interaction is more highly valued and considered an important feature of learning.



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Although the international schools generally utilize a more western model, students at public and private high schools in the country receive what can be called ‘passive education.’ The emphasis in this type of education is placed on knowledge acquisition by means of memorization. Rather than critical thinking and experiential learning, Vietnamese students are more focused on studying for exams. Even STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) students spend very little time in a lab environment.


When it comes to high school graduates looking to become college students, they’re challenged by the fact that they have little writing experience upon graduating. And since test scores determine placement in higher education, students spend an excess amount of time outside of school in private classes. That means important things like elective classes, school clubs, arts and hobbies are all devalued.





There are issues of accessibility in which the the education system in Vietnam isn’t absorbing the amount of youth that is increasing every year. 37% of the population is under the age of 25, yet Vietnamese universities only have capacity for one third of the applicants. With an ever-growing population in the last few decades, the education system is having trouble keeping up and the quality of education is being compromised. The universities are becoming overcrowded which leads to ‘mushrooming’ of low-quality private providers.


All these issues in the education system are motivating aspiring Vietnamese students to seek international education, whether in the country or abroad. The government is keen on the idea of internationalization, providing scholarship programs and funding for studying abroad, some programs offering up to $15,000 annually per student. But despite the government’s initiatives, most Vietnamese students are self-funded which is a deep burden considering the cost of international education. Of the students that do head abroad for an education, more than 60% prefer to study in English-speaking Western countries.



Higher Education is on the Rise

The good news is that the Vietnamese government acknowledges its shortcomings in the education system and are taking real initiatives to make improvements. Currently, the country is going through a major transition as government policy is moving toward increased liberalization. Education is the largest priority on the government’s agenda, at 20% (USD $10 billion) as of 2015. Compare that to the global average of 14.1%.


Education is of high importance to the Vietnamese, with enrollment in higher education increasing dramatically every year. Take the fact that the amount of students at the college and university level increased from 133,000 in 1987 to 2.12 million by 2015 which account for 28% of the population.



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There is an increasing demand for more vocational and job training options. Industrial employment opportunities are growing in Vietnam and so in May 2017, the World Bank approved $155 million in financing to support research, teaching and the quantity of higher education institutions. There is an understanding recently that test scores and literacy are not sufficient in the workforce and that graduates need real skills, such as cognitive, behavioral, and technical skills — skills that have been rare up until recently.


The country’s citizens are relatively young and eager to learn and succeed, which is why there are real demands on the education system. As more Vietnamese families are reaching middle-income status, there is more willingness and opportunity to invest in higher education. That means there is a higher demand for international, high-quality education, either in accredited schools in Vietnam or abroad.



Study Destinations

There are lots of options for Vietnamese students to study in their country, but when it comes to college-bound students, there seems to be a trend. They tend to end up in the national university system by means of placement tests, studying at private foreign universities with a local campus, or studying abroad in the United States, Canada, Australia, or Europe.


The US is the most popular choice among Vietnamese students, with Australia coming in second, followed by Japan, France, and Canada.



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English is actually a mandatory subject in most Vietnamese schools, and thus English fluency has risen dramatically. Speaking English is a major advantage for Vietnamese students due to the fact that many are well-versed in English as a second language. This reduces the real problem of having a language barrier when studying abroad.



Top Choices for International Students

Vietnamese students should be aware of online education as a viable option in getting an education, be it at the undergraduate or graduate level. And with costs always increasing in higher education, tuition-free education is in high demand and highly valued among aspiring students.


University of the People offers tuition-free quality education that is 100% online. International students are among the majority of the students enrolled. With degrees in Health Science, Computer Science, Education, and Business Administration, students have options within those areas to study at the Associate, Bachelor’s, or Master’s level.


Getting a degree in the US is a popular choice among international students. Check out our article on the secrets of getting a Master’s in the US, and our article on getting into American universities can give you a better idea on what it takes to become an international student.


Among the most popular American colleges as of 2018, the following reported the highest percentages of international students:


Florida Institute of Technology (Melbourne, Florida)


32% international students


The New School (New York, New York)


32% international students


University of Rochester (Rochester, New York)


24% international students


Boston University (Boston, Massachusetts)


22% international students


Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)


22% international students




A Guide to Studying in Vietnam

Vietnam is also a popular destination for tourists, including students who want to study abroad. The popular cities that students choose to study in include Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi as well as Da Nang, Nha Trang, and Hue, which have scenic and cultural attractions. The following are universities listed among the top 20 in Vietnam.


Ho Chi Minh City, formerly called Saigon, is a bustling and international city. The city is home to the following universities in the list of the top 20:

  • Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology
  • Ho Chi Minh City International University
  • University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City
  • HUTECH University
  • Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology and Education
  • Ho Chi Minh City University of Science
  • Ho Chi Minh City University of Information Technology
  • Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities
  • Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City


Da Nang is a larger coastal city, but it’s more of a quieter escape. The universities among the top 20 include:

  • The University of Da nang
  • Duy Tan University


Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and it’s been ranked as one of the world’s top ten destinations by TripAdvisor in the last couple of years. Of the top 20 universities, those in Hanoi include:

  • Vietnam National University, Hanoi
  • Hanoi University of Science and Technology
  • Vietnam National University of Agriculture
  • National Economics University
  • FPT University
  • Foreign Trade University
  • Hanoi National University of Education



Popular Subjects to Study in Vietnamese Universities


The following subjects are among the popular fields of study that students in Vietnam tend to study:


Business. For those who want to search for international business perspectives, Vietnam can give you a chance to visit its companies and learn about working with other cultures.


Vietnamese. For those interested in learning languages, Vietnam is one language you can learn and immerse yourself in the culture which is always a surefire way to learn a language. There are intensive language classes, tutors, and a great learning environment.


Asian Studies. Vietnam is an ideal place to learn about urbanization, tourism, economic development and how it affects Southeast Asia.



How Much it Costs to Study in Vietnam


There are private and public universities in Vietnam and the tuition costs vary greatly between the two types. The tuition for public universities is low due to being heavily subsidized by the government. Tuition at a public university is about $200 per year. Private universities, on the other hand, are a lot pricer. Some private colleges have tuition ranging from $2000 to $10,000 a year.


Whether you’re a Vietnamese citizen or an international student looking to study in Vietnam, the country is full of opportunities. While it has its shortcomings, Vietnam is becoming increasingly ready to provide quality education that’s worth the experience.