Viet Nam National Consultation Workshop on Transforming Education
Opening Remarks by Ms. Pauline Tamesis, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Viet Nam
20 July 2022
- Mr. Nguyen Van Phuc, Vice Minister, Ministry of Education and Training;
- Leader and senior experts from different Departments of the Ministry of Education & Training and other Ministries;
- Representatives from Provincial Departments of Education & Training, schools, universities, colleges, organization of persons with disabilities, youth and from ethnic minority groups;
- Representatives from the Education Sector Group;
- My dear UN colleagues from UNICEF and UNESCO;
- Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honor to deliver the opening remarks for today’s national consultation workshop on Transforming Education on behalf of the UN Country Team in Viet Nam. The Global Transforming Education Summit is a key priority of the United Nations Secretary General, Mr António Guterres. Therefore, I take this opportunity, first and foremost, to thank MOET Viet Nam for organizing this national consultation. I thank all those participating in person and virtually for your commitment to transforming education.
We come together today at the behest of the UN Secretary-General, to shine a light on crucial steps needed by education systems in every country. Our goal in this national consultation is to identify concrete recommendations that will be carried to the Global Transforming Education Summit in September. Today, we are asked to address key challenges faced by education systems all over the world, allow to me raise four of these challenges:
- how to ensure that the right investments are made today to address the learning lost due to the pandemic;
- how to ensure that the right investments are made to ensure children and young people learn in safe, healthy schools;
- how to ensure that the right investments are made to skill children for the world of work today and in the future; and
- how to ensure that Sustainable Development Goal 4 is brought back on track in all countries.
These are the challenges set out by the Secretary-General in his call for the global summit. The urgency of the call recognizes that the world faces a learning crisis. A crisis that pre-dated the pandemic in some countries; but which has seen the numbers of children being left behind increase exponentially as the pandemic unfolded.
The call to action by the Secretary-General – signals that business as usual is not an option. The learning of children and young people has been devasted by the pandemic. Teachers have been lost from the system. Child labour numbers have increased as children lost their faith in education to change their lives. Children who remain in the system face years of lost learning, their confidence, social skills, mental health are all negatively affected. I encourage us all to make space, to hear the voices of those most affected - the children and young people themselves. As a part of this national consultation and the Global Summit, the United Nations is consulting young people, listening to their experiences as well as the solutions that they want to contribute; recognizing them as important partners at the table in the transformation of education.
Despite all the evidence of impact, all the arguments regarding the risk to economic growth in the future, when the pandemic recovery plans of countries are analysed – education is rarely mentioned. On average, when an investment in education was made, countries allocated only 3 per cent of their COVID-19 stimulus package to education. This is compounded by the decline in the ODA and humanitarian aid for education since the beginning of the pandemic. Without this investment the achievement of SDG 4 is in grave doubt.
The catalytic effect of achieving SDG4 cannot be overestimated, as all SDGs rely on education. The cost of not investing in education reform is catastrophic. Globally, lifelong lost earnings due to learning poverty could top $17 trillion by 2030. Yet evidence suggests that as little as $10 to $15 per child is enough to deliver remedial education and strengthen existing education systems’ ability to deliver on foundational skills. This $10 to $15 can cover support, training, and incentives for teachers, as well as additional materials and resources. Financing foundation skills is a short-term investment. The cost of inaction, however, is a lifelong loss.
Grounded in a commitment to the principle of “No one left behind”, Viet Nam has invested about 20% of its national budget expenditure in the education sector. The challenge as we all know, is that while that sounds like a strong investment – most goes to teacher salaries – there is little space for the kinds of school renewal and reform that the transformation agenda asks of them.
Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a result of COVID here in Viet Nam, lessons abound regarding the use of technology and distance learning solutions to ensure the continuity of learning, and to support the learning of children with a disability, or those left behind when the language of instruction differs from that spoken at home. We saw evidence of a far greater digital divide than was recognised, where both teachers and children were left behind. We appreciated that insufficient schools are healthy and safe spaces with too many lacking the facilities for children to wash their hands, to use clean toilets. We have also seen in a recent UNICEF-supported study – that there has been a significant increase in the number of upper secondary children facing mental health challenges. Each of these areas requires urgent attention, each justifies an investment. We must join hands and advocate with the Ministry of Finance for expanding investments in the education system.
A part of the transformational agenda focuses on curriculum -- introducing social-emotional learning and skills, transferable skills or twenty-first-century skills as they are often called, as well as digital literacy and skills. But it is also a question of changed teaching approaches, re-skilled teachers with new teaching methodologies, ending didactic / memory-based teaching methodologies and creating far more participatory, problem-based learning; drawing on blended education where digital tools aid learning for every child.
The good news here in Viet Nam is that – even prior to COVID – MOET had started to work on the curriculum for the foundational skills, introducing new approaches to learning. Recognising the important role of the private sector, several local and international companies have been engaged in advising and co-creating new approaches. This work, including the teacher training, is still in the early stages – investment is needed to advance this, to accelerate the necessary changes.
Another element in the transformational agenda is the learning-loss catch-up and equitable access to quality education.
Data from the General Statistics Office (GSO) 2020-2021 SDG Indicators on Children and Women Survey not only confirmed the digital divide, exposed so visibly over the past two years of battling COVID-19, but it shows us the hurdles that must be addressed if the Government’s vision of a digital transformation is to be realized. While a relatively high level of internet coverage at a low cost is found, the survey shows that nationwide, the majority of girls and boys – men and women - do not have good ICT skills, and not surprisingly, the divide widens between ethnic groups, rural and urban areas, and the richest and poorest segments of the population.
The survey also highlighted worrying trends including a gender disparity – where a mere 51.4% of boys complete upper secondary, compared with 65% of girls. No country can afford to lose nearly 50% of either gender from their ongoing education system. Boys lured by the promise of a dollar today – are choosing instead poverty for life. As UNESCO makes clear - this makes it much harder for children to acquire the technical and higher-order skills needed to thrive in increasingly demanding labor markets, and for countries to develop the human capital needed for sustained, inclusive economic growth. As machines replace low wage positions – the prospects are dire for economic growth in the future.
Dear Excellencies, colleagues, distinguished guests,
With the SDG goal in mind, to ensure that all children complete equitable and quality education, an education that leads to relevant and effective learning outcomes by 2030, it is time for a revamp. We need to prioritize the issues in the education sector that will help Viet Nam achieve the education-related SDG targets: issues such as inequity in access, learning loss, digital divide, gender gaps, education financing gaps, and specific needs of education for particular groups of children / young people.
Today, I encourage you to identify innovative approaches that can serve as levers for game-changing transformations of education policy and practice in the medium and longer term. And I appeal to each of you to commit to supporting the MOET to make the investment case to the Government / to the Ministry of Finance to increase the investment in schools and to vocational training centres.
As a newly arrived UN Resident Coordinator, it is symbolic that my first public speech is on transforming education. This represents my commitment to SDG 4 and the young people of Vietnam.
I close by once again congratulating the Government of Viet Nam. I thank MOET for taking the lead to organize this national consultation on Transforming Education. I thank you also for your patience with my lengthy remarks.
We encourage the Government to hold further consultations and, most importantly, to ensure that commitments are turned into action, with an investment to reform.
We look forward to the results of today’s consultation and reiterate the commitment of the United Nations agencies to support the Government in promoting transformative changes in education, with the hope and belief to increase Viet Nam’s ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) by 2030 in an inclusive manner, Leaving No One Behind.
Thank you. Xin Cam On.