General Education Overview

Public education in Vietnam is overseen by the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), with five levels of public education: Kindergarten, primary, secondary, upper-secondary, and university. National exams are given at the end of each level, with a passing grade required for graduation from that level.  Following the secondary level, test scores will be used to determine acceptance into the various types of high school. 

High schools include general education schools, vocational and technical schools, international schools (often taught exclusively in English, or bilingually), and specialized (magnet) schools.  Specialized schools are extremely competitive, taking only 1 – 5% of all applicants each year, and they are the schools where the majority of future university students will study.  

English classes are becoming mandatory in most schools, with higher levels available in the specialized schools and in the international schools, where class instruction is often bilingual or in English only.   Subjects cover all STEM fields with a limited introduction into the arts and humanities.  “Electives, school clubs, involvement in the arts, internships, and hobbies are all devalued in comparison with high scores in STEM fields.” (Bain, 2015).

College Entrance Process

A nationally administered exam is required for graduation from high school; the same exam’s results are used for admission to university. Each university pre-determines a desired class size, waits for the examination results, then selects a cut-off score for admission, based on the number of students scoring above that number.  Any student receiving a score above the cut-off number will be admitted to that school.  If the score is below the cut-off, admission will not be granted.  There are no essays or other factors taken into consideration.  The score determines admission.  In addition, a student can only apply to one university at a time; if the score is not enough for admission into a student’s first choice, the application must be withdrawn and used to apply to a second choice.   With this system in place, it is easy to see how important this one exam is to a student’s future.  

Sources: Bain (2015), WES Staff (2012) and Tuoi Tre News (2014). 

Back to Top