Winter 2007/2008

Reducing Poverty: Access to Education in Vietnam

Access to Education in VietnamVietnam has made significant economic and developmental progress in the last few decades, but as it operates in an increasingly global landscape, families living in rural areas are plunging deeper into poverty. About 90 percent of Vietnam’s poor live in remote rural areas. Families struggle to make ends meet as rapid urbanization pushes them further from economic and educational opportunities.

Studies show higher education is key to reducing poverty. Although primary school is officially free in Vietnam, families are responsible for books, uniforms, transportation, and maintenance costs of the school building. University level education, which costs US$960 per year in Vietnam, is virtually impossible for poor families who typically earn less than US$240 per year and depend on their children to contribute to total household income.

To increase educational opportunities for poor students in Vietnam, The Asia Foundation, with generous donor support, has partnered with the Vietnamese Association for Promoting and Supporting Educational Development to implement a four-year scholarship program. Roughly $250 covers one student per year; already, more than 140 disadvantaged girls have been able to attend primary and/or lower secondary school.

With our staff on the ground in Vietnam, the Foundation is able to ensure that scholarship recipients have the network of support needed for success. Additional funds provide vocational education programs so recipients can become economically independent and support their families. For example, one current donor couple has funded an embroidery training program where beneficiaries can learn the skills to earn a sustainable livelihood.

“Because my family is very poor, my parents had planned to let me stay at home to support them. My parents wanted me to drop out of school to save costs for my brothers to be able to continue studying. Fortunately, I received a scholarship from The Asia Foundation. I was so happy and moved to be able to go to school with my friends again.”

– Nguyen Thi Be Hong, grade 8, An Phu district, An Giang province

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