Vietnamese teachers make a meager $100 a month

By Duong Tam   September 23, 2017 | 12:33 am PT
Vietnamese teachers make a meager $100 a month
A teacher helps her student with his red scarf during the new school year ceremony in the northern mountainous province of Dien Bien on September 5, 2017. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh
40 percent of teachers in a national survey said they would choose a different career if they had the chance.

Teachers’ social status in Vietnam has hit rock-bottom, based on the money they are paid, experts said.

It is a “paradox” when teachers who directly influence the quality of education do not earn enough to lead a normal life, education insiders said at a conference held by the education committee at the legislative National Assembly on Friday.

A national research presented at the conference found that teachers with 13 years of experience receive only VND3-3.5 million ($132-154) a month, including bonuses.

To put things into perspective, Vietnam’s minimum wage ranges between VND2.58 million and VND3.75 million ($113-165) depending on the region.

But extra years of experience does not translate into much more cash for teachers.

Those with a 25-year long career earn VND4.7 million ($207) at most, according to the study which surveyed teachers at public schools, from primary to high school.

Half of the teachers working in the system, given their shorter experience, earn around $100 a month, which is not enough to live on, especially in large cities like Saigon, where a monthly income of $1,300 is only enough to pay for an average lifestyle for a one-child family. Vietnam's average annual income was $2,200 last year.

Around 40 percent of the teachers questioned said they would choose another job if they had the chance.

The poor royalty does not just hinder loyalty, it also keeps away newcomers.

When university enrollment grades were announced in June, teacher training schools were among those having the lowest demands, with some asking for a combined score of only 9 out of 30.

While their free tuition is possibly the major draw compared to the thousands of dollars one has to pay for a four-year course at any other public university, the matter of low income and high risk of unemployment has turned students away.

Every year, around 4,000 students who graduate from teaching schools are unable to find a job in Vietnam, and the surplus is expected to reach 70,000 by 2020, according to official figures.

Nguyen Dinh Anh, a former education official from the central province of Nghe An, said that only 20 percent of teachers in the province are of good quality.

“And thus, the quality of education cannot be improved,” Anh said at the conference.

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