• Theme: Education
  • Key donors: SCHK various donors, Bvlgari, Ferrari, KOICA CPP funding, Hansol and Sungroup and SCUS through Child Sponsorship Program
  • Local partners: Education authorities at all levels
  • Locations: Hanoi, Lao Cai, Yen Bai, Quang Nam, Dien Bien, Hai Phong, Quang Ninh, Quang Binh, Da Nang, Tien Giang, Can Tho, Dong Nai
  • Key beneficiaries: Ethnic minority children, migrant and poor children from 3-11 years old

Vietnam is home to 54 ethnic groups and 53 of which are minority groups, accounting for approximately 15% of the country’s population. Nevertheless, ethnic minorities make up a staggering 47% of the poor population of Vietnam[1]. One of the factors contributing to the increasing number of poor ethnic minorities is that ethnic minority children face challenges in accessing a quality education.

According to the Vietnam's Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) in 2014, the enrolment rate at primary school level among the majority Kinh population is 97.9%. This drops to 86.6% among ethnic minority children group. Similarly, only 87.7 percent of ethnic minority children completed primary school versus 97.6 percent of Kinh children. And, 70.2% of ethnic minority children completed secondary education, while the rate for Kinh/Hoa children was 94.4%. Amongst those children completing primary school, ethnic minority children again prove to be at a disadvantage to their Kinh peers, achieving lower educational outcomes, specifically lower performance in Vietnamese and Maths. According to the national standard for children aged 3-5, they are supposed to know 40% of the 29 letters in the alphabet. However, ethnic minority preschool children can only recognize up to 20% of the letters at best. Consequently, only 6-10% of these children could answer a question using full sentences in Vietnamese by the end of Grade 3 according to a baseline survey that Save the Children conducted in 2010. They are also struggling with abstract concepts such as addition, subtraction, division, counting and directions like left-right, etc. As a result, many ethnic minority children fail to read and write fluently when they are at the last grades of primary schools as our above mentioned survey suggests.

The challenges for these children are increased by the fact that most of their parents have never had the opportunity to go to school and are not literate themselves, either in their mother tongue or in Vietnamese. On arrival to school, ethnic minority children, who are used to only being in their mother tongue environment, find themselves surrounded by an unfamiliar language, Vietnamese is the language of instruction in school, the one that the teacher uses, and the one of learning materials. They hardly understand what their teacher is saying so this language barrier is one of the biggest obstacles that prevent ethnic minority children from receiving a quality education as their peers in the majority groups.

Poor hygiene and sanitation also contribute to poor education outcomes among ethnic minority children. High rates of worm infection, anaemia and malnutrition in school-age children are evident, affecting their school attendance and concentration to school lessons. According to the survey conducted by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in 2006, about 70% of schools in Vietnam had toilets but only 11.7% met the hygiene requirements and the remaining 30% of schools have no hygienic toilets/latrines, particularly in most remote areas. In schools where toilets are available, 20% of them do not have access to water and most of them have no soap for hand-washing. In addition, 30% of schools do not have sufficient safe drinking water and clean water for washing. Less than 3% of children in school practice proper hand-washing and 95% of sanitation systems in schools do not met the hygiene criteria identified by MOH and Ministry of Education and Training. In the big cities, the situation is more alarming due to classroom overcrowding. Poor hygiene and sanitation contributes to high rates of worm infection (30 - 60%); anaemia (more than 50%) and malnutrition (more than 50%) in school-age children. Furthermore, the data on nutrition in schools also point to a worrying picture in which 40% of schools with kitchens and canteens do not meet the hygienic requirement, according to the National Institute of Nutrition reports.

In a different context, migrant children who live with their parents in industrial zones also have challenges accessing quality preschool services. Due to their low and unstable economic status, most young migrant couples have to send their children to either cheap private kindergartens and home based childcare groups, which mostly do not provide any or no teaching activities or just leave them at their rented house. Thus, those migrant children do not receive quality early childhood development services and are not well prepared for primary school.


To improve access to quality early childhood and basic education of deprived children from 3-11 years old in Vietnam, especially ethnic minority children.


To achieve the objective and improve the situation of targeted group, four approaches have been applied, including: (1) Emergent Literacy and Math, (2) Literacy Boost, (3) Mother Tongue Based Multi Lingual Education, and (4) Cross-cutting interventions as follows:

  1. Emergent Literacy and Math (ELM) is a proven approach which provides parents, carers and learning centres with training, guidance and understanding of how to give children aged 3-6 years the foundational skills they need to learn through ‘play’.
  2. Literacy Boost (LB) is designed to reach boys and girls in the early primary grades of school by training teachers, parents and community members to better support children’s reading and writing skills in and outside of schools. This focuses on five core skills that have been proven central to literacy education as well as writing skills.
  3. Mother Tongue Based Multi Lingual Education (MTBMLE) is an approach which uses the support of teaching assistants to overcome the language barrier and culturally appropriate learning materials which reflect the child’s experiences.
  4. Cross-cutting interventions include School Health and Nutrition, Child Protection, WASH and Disasters Risk Reduction, Gender Equality.

[1] Report of Vietnam Poverty reduction program, 2015