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Vietnam’s education in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution
12/9/2018 10:50' Send Print
Illustration photo. Photo: VNA

Background of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has spread worldwide which is due to unprecedented effects caused by the pace of development and impact of technological breakthroughs. Innovations and scientific advances in all fields, including artificial intelligence, robotics, internet of things, self-unmanned vehicles, biotechnology, nano technology, 3D printing, material science, quantum computing, among others, have affected most industries at such a rapid speed that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is said to develop at an exponential rate. (1)

The Fourth Industrial Revolution plays an important role in creating products and services that allow us to live a better life. On the contrary, this revolution could also lead to even higher inequality when new technologies replace labor-intensive jobs. This is considered to be the biggest challenge as a result of this revolution. In addition, another challenge is how to create higher-skill jobs for people when automation technologies are already replacing workers in a variety of everyday tasks. (2)

Thus, the phrase "industrial revolution" implies great changes, not only economic, but also cultural and social transformation in a comprehensive way. Vietnam is moving rapidly from the "golden population structure” to aging population. The Fourth Industrial Revolution should be seen as an opportunity to increase productivity on the basis of scientific and technological applications, effectively utilizing the current "golden population structure.” It is certain that education and training will play a key role in solving this big problem.

Impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on education

One of the requirements in preparation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution is to improve human capital to meet changing knowledge and skills required for the new working environment. Thus, the education and training sector has a big mission which is to prepare human resources to meet the development requirements of the country. A problem that many countries have acknowledged and solved is to shift an education that mainly equip learners with knowledge and skills to an education that promotes capacity, innovation and creativity of learners, meeting the requirements of citizens during the Fourth Industrial Revolution. (3)

With the emergence of new learning models and the development of science and technology, traditional educational methods will certainly face many challenges.

One of the highlights is the differentiation to each learner. Each student has different learning needs and abilities. Technological advances allow educators to design customized learning paths. Educational software has been adapted to fit the needs of each student and allows students to learn at the pace that suits their needs. In many countries, these adaptive learning software have partially or completely replaced textbooks in the classroom.

Besides, access to information is easier than ever, leading to a question that educators need to answer, that is to identify the core knowledge that learners need to be equipped in the future. While past education models focused on providing learners with knowledge and skills needed to help them become highly skilled people, educators today are more concern with teaching students to study by themselves. Education teaches students how to think, evaluate situations, and complex issues in life, thereby forming problem-solving capacity.

Technology development has a great influence on the teachers’ role in the classroom. The technology-supported school management system can help teachers monitor the progress of each classroom, provide immediate response to difficulties students face. But modern and important technology cannot replace the role of teachers or turn teachers into robots. Therefore, how to utilize and master technology to supports and creates freedom, creativity in education is a challenge to every teacher and institution.

The above changes are a reminder of how educational models can work in the future. Computers are used as personal support tools in the classroom with a variety of learning roadmaps. Teachers and parents are better equipped to understand the learning process of students; classes are divided into small groups of students of similar levels and skills to work together.

Challenges and opportunities for Vietnam’s education

In view of the development of education in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Vietnam's education has fundamental advantages to embrace opportunities brought about by this industrial revolution.

The Party and Government of Vietnam have always anticipated challenges in education for future generations. On 4 November 2013, the 8th Plenum of the 11th Party Central Committee adopted Resolution No.29-NQ/TW On radical and comprehensive renovation of education and training to meet requirements of modernization and industrialization in the socialist-oriented market economy and international integration. The leading viewpoint for educational reform of the Resolution is: "The education sector should make a paradigm shift from mainly transferring knowledge to comprehensively developing learners' competencies and qualities. Learning goes with doing; theory with practice; school education is combined with family and social education." On 4 May 2017, the Prime Minister issued Directive No. 16/CT-TTg On strengthening the access to the Fourth Industrial Revolution with many important solutions. In particular, the Prime Minister requested a drastic change in policies, contents and methods of education in order to develop human resources capable of receiving new production technology trends. On 5 May 2017, the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) sent Official Letter No.1891/BGDDT-GDDH to all higher education institutions to guide the training of human resources adaptable to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. From 2018, this will be one of the basic contents to evaluate and orient the development for the whole sector.

Besides, one of the fundamental advantages for education to utilize development opportunities is that the Vietnamese society always attaches importance to learning. We have always been appreciated in creating a positive learning environment, ensuring school discipline and helping students to have a good learning attitude. Parents’ involvement and encouragement to young people are also a positive element in the formation of a learning society.

The third advantage is that education administrators, and teachers, who play a key role in education reform have received attention, investment and capacity building. Professional standards and norms of managers at all levels and teachers will be issued shortly. These standards and norms will be the tools to support managers and teachers’ capacity building to meet the requirements in the new phase.

Though there is still a lot of concern that Vietnam’s curriculum is not associated with practice high results in the PISA tests, the Intel ISEF International Science and Technology Examination, the International and Regional Olympics have affirmed that our education has started moving, focusing on students' use of knowledge to solve practical problems rather than just learning by heart textbook contents. This result also demonstrates the potential of Vietnam's human resources in the fields of mathematics and science if properly invested.

In addition, Vietnam’s curriculum sets store by helping students to gain a deep understanding of core concepts and the ability to master knowledge. The new general education curriculum which will be launched in 2019, moving from knowledge acquisition to quality and competency development will be the foundation for a radical and comprehensive reform of general education.

Over the past time, the Ministry of Education and Training has delegated more autonomy to schools in the implementation of curriculum, test and evaluation. These innovations have brought about positive effects in education quality of Vietnam. In the recent World Bank Report Growing Smarter: Learning and Equitable Development in East Asia and the Pacific (4), Vietnam and China are considered pioneers in education reform, having truly impressive education systems, and can become good practices for other countries.

Some orientations for Vietnam’s education in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

In the new wave of industrialization, the education system must focus on developing learners’ qualities and competencies by directing the most appropriate paths for different groups of students to help them promote the potential of each individual. This should be applied at all education and training levels. For higher education, the success of a university is not just the rate of graduates, the ability to find jobs of students or the position on the international rankings, but also the sustainable and long-term development of students, their ability to take risks, their capacity for innovation and creativity.

To do so, we need to affirm the importance of an educational system supporting lifelong learning. The entire educational system must recognize the diversity of strengths and talents of young people. We can only develop a new generation with stuff, ability of self-orientation and persistence in pursuit of their goals if they show passion in their learning process.

Following are some guidelines for Vietnamese education in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

First, combine teaching and learning with practice.

Education needs to simulate and prepare learners to enter into life as much as possible when technology has made access to knowledge easy so knowledge no longer means "insurance" for the future of the learner as before. (5) One of the appropriate approaches is to strengthen the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in schools. Accordingly, students will be equipped with knowledge coupled with applications in practice. They can experience, explore, discover technology associated with the knowledge learned from the curriculum; and are encouraged to be creative in science and technology in order to improve the development of new technologies. This is an interdisciplinary approach to equip learners with knowledge and skills they can apply to solve problems in their lives.

MOET has piloted STEM education at 15 lower and upper secondary schools in Ha Noi city, Hai Duong, Hai Phong, Nam Dinh and Quang Ninh provinces. The pilot results indicate that STEM education directs students to search for local ideas, after-school clubs, and make a change in the way science is taught and learned.

Second, diversify educational roadmaps.

Each student will have different learning needs and abilities and the task of education is to discover, nurture and motivate learners to identify and pursue their interests and passion. This requires the education system to provide diverse educational roadmaps that cater to the individual learning needs and learning styles. The new general education program has undergone fundamental changes with the integration of contents in primary and lower secondary education, a strong division at secondary education, vocational guidance and streaming in general education.

Third, encourage lifelong learning.

One of the most important goals of education is to discover and nurture talents, encourage the pursuit, passion and lifelong learning needs of learners. To achieve this goal, a major change is to restructure the system of continuing education centers and community learning centers, change traditional patterns to build lifelong learning centers. This is also the fundamental solution for implementing the radical and comprehensive education renovation, "To perfect the national education system towards open education system, lifelong learning and building learning society," as set out by Resolution No. 29-NQ/TW of the 8th Plenum of the 11th Central Committee of the Party.

Fourth, promote teaching and learning foreign languages, especially English; strengthen the application of information technology in learning and management.

The Ministry of Education and Training has submitted to the Prime Minister to issue the Decision approving the Amendments and Supplements of the Project on Teaching and Learning Foreign Languages for the period 2017-2025 (6) with a number of orientations, such as " make a breakthrough in the quality of teaching and learning foreign languages for different learning and training levels, encourage the introduction of foreign languages into schools from kindergarten and social activities. Integrate foreign languages in teaching and learning other subjects (such as math and sciences, specialized branches). Step up application of advanced technologies in teaching and learning foreign languages with online educational resources suitable to all target groups so that learners can study foreign languages, access to native language any time, anywhere, by any means, especially in the development of listening and speaking skills. Create a foreign language learning environment in the schools, families and society so that teachers, lecturers, family members and students can learn foreign languages."

In addition, the education program of Vietnam needs to ensure that learners are digital- and technology-literate at all levels of education to facilitate access to scientific and academic advances. In the new general education curriculum, foreign languages and computer science have become compulsory subjects from the first grade of primary school.

Special attention must be given to application of information technology in education management. The education sector is continuing to promote computerization in management, determined to build a communication system that ensure information flow between the Ministry of Education and Training and education and training institutions, and build a common database of the whole industry.

Fifth, capacity building and broadening the role of higher education institutions.

In order to enhance the competitiveness of human resources, in addition to constantly improving the capacity of scientific research and teaching, higher education institutions must be pioneers in realizing their missions of innovation and startup. Their impact is no longer limited to educating and changing the lives of students. They must serve as supporters of innovation, providing a launching platform for future entrepreneurs and startups to maintain development pace of industries. The Ministry of Education and Training has submitted to the Prime Minister to issue the Decision approving the Scheme for Supporting Students’ Startups by 2025, (7) directing education institutions to renovate training programs, involving managers and employers, develop and make public training learning outcome standards, support the coordination between higher education institutions and businesses and units employing labor in training, strengthen cooperation with businesses in order to link training with domestic and foreign labor market demands.

Higher education institutions must also acknowledge that training high-skilled laborers will not be limited to four or five years, but throughout their working lives, and they will return to gain more knowledge and skills after graduation. Thus, the old thinking of pre-emptive education will change when higher education institutions identify lifelong learning as part of their missions. To help higher education institutions bring into play their proactivity, creativity, performance, competitiveness and diversity of education and training forms to meet demands on human resources, the Ministry of Education and Training developed a Draft Law on Amendments and Supplements to a number of articles of the Law on Higher Education to be submitted to the National Assembly for approval and is continuing to perfect the system of legal documents, regulating the implementation of the Law on Higher Education after amendment. The Ministry has also submitted to the Government a decree on university autonomy, which replaces Resolution 77/ NQ-CP, formalizing autonomy as an inevitable path of higher education in Vietnam.

In conclusion, in order to be successful in the coming decades, the education sector needs to have a far-sighted vision in the context of continuous transformation of organization and skill requirements. Accordingly, future laborers will need to engage in lifelong leaning to be ready for changes. Current educational establishments are mainly products of technological infrastructure and social circumstances of the past. In the rapidly changing context, educational institutions need new perspectives to improve responsiveness. Agencies and businesses must also adapt to the changing environment and need to identify the importance of developing a human resource development strategy towards sustainable development through collaboration with higher education institutions.

In order to prepare future generations and increase the competitiveness of the Vietnamese people, we need to build a system of education that fosters innovation and creativity, emphasizing the importance of lifelong learning and sustainable development of learners. More over, effective budget allocation coupled with a strong political will to education and training will make a difference for the future of Vietnam's young generation.


(1) K. Schwab (2016): The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond means-and-how-to-responds /

(2) K. Schwab (2017): The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Crown Business Publisher

(3) B. Abersek (2017): Evolution of competences for the new era or Education 4.0, The XXV conference of the Czech Educational Research Association (CERA / CAPV) "Impact of Technologies in the Sphere of Education and Educational Research"

(4) World Bank (2018): Growing Smarter: Learning & Equitable Development in East Asia Pacific

(5) FICCI (2017): Leapfrogging to Education 4.0: Student at the core, FICCI-EY

(6) Decision No. 2080/QD-TTg dated 22 December 2017 of the Prime Minister on "Approving amendments and supplements to the Scheme of teaching and learning foreign languages in the national education system for the period of 2017-2025"

(7) Decision No. 1665/QD-TTg dated 30 October 2017 of the Prime Minister approving “The Scheme on Supporting Students’ Startups to 2025"

This article was published in the Communist Review, No. 909 (July 2018)

* Phung Xuan Nha,Member of the Party Central Committee, Minister of Education and Training