The Newsletter 56 Spring 2011

A bird’s-eye view of the private tutoring phenomenon in Vietnam

Hai-Anh Dang

Lan – a 9th grader in Ho Chi Minh city, the largest metropolitan area in Vietnam – has a busy working schedule. After her formal classes at school during the daytime, she has to attend private tutoring classes in the evening every day except on Sundays. When she comes home, if her parents think she can manage it, she usually has to put in some more study hours. Her full days are only finished at 11 p.m., and only on rare occasions is she allowed to go to bed earlier than this hour. However, on such occasions, she has to wake up at 4 a.m. in the morning the next day to study to make up for lost time.

Hoa is an other high school student who was faced with two options from her parents: either staying at home and getting married after finishing high school or attending private tutoring classes in the big city to prepare for her university entrance examinations. Hoa took the latter option.

Lan’s and Hoa’s situations are not exceptions among many of their peers in Vietnam. One recent and growing feature of the Vietnamese education system is a ‘shadow’ education system existing alongside mainstream education, where students attend extra classes (đihọcthêm) to acquire knowledge that they do not appear to obtain during their hours in school. These extra classes or private tutoring sessions have become widespread throughout Vietnam with a current enrolment of more than 30 percent and 50 percent of primary and secondary students respectively. Private tutoring also accounts for a considerable share of household budgets allocated to education. Our calculation using the latest household survey data in Vietnam shows that among those households that send their children to private tutoring classes, more than half (55 percent) spend between one and five percent of their total budget on these classes, and certain households spend up to 20 percent of their total budget.

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