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An effective and relevant approach to increase children’s learning in Vietnamese preschools

VVOB Vietnam and the Departments of Education and Training of Quang Nam, Quang Ngai and Kon Tum are currently working together to improve the quality of education in preschools of disadvantaged and ethnically diverse districts of Central Vietnam.

This long-term collaboration is based on the results of a pilot research, that validated an approach for teachers to make sure they include all children in their class when teaching. The approach – process-oriented child monitoring system – proved to be effective and relevant to the context of Vietnamese preschools. By observing the children in their class through a class screening, teachers rate their levels of well-being and of involvement. Through those indicators, they realise to what extent those children are actually benefiting from their teaching… In other words, to what extent they are learning. Teachers can then adjust their ways of teaching by taking action to include all children, so that they can all learn at deep-level and develop fully.

Every child now has the opportunity to play and to take part in all activities.
Teacher at Chaval-Zuoich preschool, Nam Giang district, Quang Nam Province, June 2017

Monitoring the learning of 519 children of Northern and Central Vietnam

From December 2015 to June 2016, the pilot research was carried out in 16 classes of 8 preschools of 3 districts of Northern and Central Vietnam (Thai Nguyen City and Vo Nhai districts in Thai Nguyen Province, and Nam Giang district in Quang Nam province). Those schools were selected based on the ethnic diversity of their student populations. The 519 children were from 14 different ethnic groups, including Kinh (231), Co Tu (137), Tay (65), H’Mong (37) and others (49). They were enrolled in main or satellite classes[1], single or multi-age classes[2]8 preschool leaders took part to the research and created an enabling environment for the 40 teachers to try out that new approach. The action was also supported by 8 lecturers of Teachers Training Institutes (TTI) and 4 provincial and district education officers.

Teachers as reflective practitioners towards inclusive education

During 6 monthsteachers, school leaders, lecturers and educational officers implemented the pilot research together, by taking 6 steps:

  • Step 1: In a first training, they learnt about child observation and developed a plan to implement the first class screening.
  • Step 2: Teachers implemented their first class screening with support from lecturers from TTI in a joint reflection.
  • Step 3: In a second training, teachers were guided to categorize children’s learning (Green: doing well in the setting, Orange: at risk of not learning and requiring attention, Red: concern for learning and requiring immediate action). Then they reflected upon the barriers to children’s learning and participation. If in the beginning, teachers saw specific characteristics of individual children as barriers (eg: personality, poverty, ‘intelligence’, limited social skills,…), their focus gradually moved towards socially defined barriers (eg: class environment, nature of activities, interactions, expectations towards children,…). From their findings, based on the needs and interests of the children, they explored the actions they could take to mitigate those barriers and drafted “action plans”.
  • Step 4: Teachers implemented the action plans in their classes, supported by VVOB and lecturers from Karel de Grote University College (Belgium), specialists of the approach.
  • Step 5: In a workshop, teachers, school leaders and educational officers gathered and reflected upon the results of their second screening from their own and their peers’ experience.
  • Step 6: Based on reflection and some coaching from VVOB, teachers came up with a final action plan and implemented it via a variety of actions to create an enabling environment for children to learn deeply… Resulting in an increase levels of well-being and involvement of the children.
Before, I was observing the whole class and I thought that my children were doing well. Now that I observe individual children, I realise that some are not doing OK.
Teacher at Chaval-Zuoich preschool , Nam Giang, Quang Nam, June 2017

Results: increased levels of well-being and involvement for 71% of the children 

During their screenings, teachers gave scores to the learning of each child in their class [3], based on their observations.

Between the first screening in January and the final one in May, teachers reported that the levels of well-being and involvement increased for 71% of the observed children. For 27%, the scores remained the same, and they decreased for 2% of them. In January, 1 out of 4 children were categorised as “doing well” (green group). They were 2 out of 3 in May.

National data[4] pointed significant gender and ethnic disparities in learning among children in Vietnam, levels of well-being and involvement increased for all. Nonetheless, existing disparities remained present, even if differences were less pronounced after the pilot research.

  • Children of dominant ethnic group tended to be rated with higher scores than children belonging to minority groups. For example, in Nam Giang district, Kinh children (dominant ethnic group in Vietnam) were rated with higher levels than Co Tu children (respectively 30% and 17% had high ratings in January, and 72% and 56% in June).
  • Boys generally appeared to be more at risk than girls of not being rated as highly by their teachers on well-being and involvement, in all three districts.
I know that the way I changed my teaching has created very positive changes among children.
Teacher at Chaval-Zuoich preschool, Nam Giang district, Quang Nam Province, June 2017

Long-lasting changes

Teachers and school leaders who took part to this pilot research have expressed their motivation and commitment to continue using the approach within their district. District and provincial Education officers are now gradually spreading this process-oriented child-monitoring approach, that they consider as a practical and tangible foundation for enhancing children’s learning. 

For five years (2017-2021), VVOB will support the Departments of Education and Training of 3 provinces of Central Vietnam in introducing this approach to 3 400 preschool teachers, supported by 570 preschool leaders. The programme will help 62 000 children (65% of ethnic minorities) of 22 disadvantaged districts. Besides the results of the class screenings, a research will be conducted to track the impact on the development of those children.

This project had an impact on the whole education system: on the teachers, the children, the school leadership and the parents.
Vice principal at Tabhing-Tà Poo preschool, Nam Giang, Quang Nam, June 2017

[1] Satellite classes are classes situated outside the main school building, usually in more remote villages and communities

[2] In mutli-age classes, children of different ages are together in one class

[3] The screenings were done for 513 out of 519 children because 6 children were temporarily absent. 

[4] Ministry of Education and Training. (2013). Early Development Instrument (EDI) in Vietnam 2013. Hanoi: Golden Sky. General Statistics Office (2011). Education in Vietnam: An analysis of key indicators. Retrieved from here



  • the International Journal of Early Childhood (August 2017) here
  • the interview of a teacher and a school leader who took part to the action research here