Vietnam ranks high in primary learning metrics in Southeast Asia

By Phan Anh, Duong Tam   December 2, 2020 | 02:51 am PT
Vietnam ranks high in primary learning metrics in Southeast Asia
Students study at the Dinh Tien Hoang Primary School in HCMC's District 1, May 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.
Vietnamese fifth graders are vastly superior to their peers in five other Southeast Asian countries in reading, writing and mathematical literacy, according to a recent study.

The Southeast Asia – Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM) 2019 Main Regional Report, by the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) and UNICEF, assesses learning outcomes of fifth grade students in Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam, to inform policy-making and ensure that all children achieve meaningful learning.

Released on Monday, it surveyed children’s proficiency in reading, writing and mathematics using the SEA-PLM, a regional large-scale student learning assessment program that aims to generate reliable data and evidence for monitoring learning outcomes across and within countries.

The program collected children's and schools' responses through paper-pencil tests and questionnaires.

Data collection surveys were done in the six countries between January and November 2019. In Vietnam, they were done in 150 schools with over 4,800 students involved.

Of the Vietnamese fifth graders surveyed, 82 percent qualified as being in Band 6 and above for reading literacy, categorized as being able to "understand texts with familiar structures and manage competing information."

Malaysia followed, with 58 percent of its students qualifying for Band 6 and above.

The average rate in all six countries was 29 percent.

Twenty percent of Vietnamese students qualified for Band 8 and above for writing literacy, categorized as being able to "write cohesive texts with detailed ideas and a good range of appropriate vocabulary." It was followed by Malaysia with 4 percent, and the average rate was 5 percent.

Sixty three percent of Vietnamese students qualified for Band 8 and above for mathematical literacy, categorized as being able to "think multiplicatively and convert between units," including the ability to reason about triangles to find an unknown side length using information about the perimeter, and to solve problems using frequency distributions.

It was followed by Malaysia with 19 percent, and the average was 14 percent.

A higher rate of students qualifying for higher bands means they would be able to transition better to secondary education and may be on the right track to meet the challenges of a 21st century skill-based curriculum, the report said.

It provided six recommendations to improve students’ learning: prioritizing early learning, guaranteeing a solid start in primary education, ensuring explicit and progressive learning standards, supporting teachers with conducive teaching and positive school environments, using data, monitoring and research to achieve better learning environments, and participating in SEA-PLM activities in future.

At a SEAMEO conference held online on Tuesday to review the report's findings, Deputy Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Van Phuc said it would help Vietnam identify policies and strategies to develop primary education in both the short and long terms, including continued investment in education in mountainous areas and children with difficulties.

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