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Education, vocational training and labour markets in Vietnam: mutual distrust and the supply-side approach

Mori, Junichi and Stroud, Dean ORCID: 2023. Education, vocational training and labour markets in Vietnam: mutual distrust and the supply-side approach. Lee, Wing On, Brown, Phillip, Goodwin, A. Lin and Green, Andy, eds. International Handbook on Education Development in Asia-Pacific, Singapore: Springer, pp. 1-25. (10.1007/978-981-16-2327-1_58-1)

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In this chapter, we discuss technical and vocational education and training (TVET) educators’ perspectives on Vietnam’s skill needs, as a basis for questioning the country’s policy approach to skill formation. From our analysis, Vietnam’s current policies are flawed in their assumptions and as a result may fail to deliver on the needs of the country. They may also risk causing mistrust between the involved stakeholders. Previous studies of Vietnam’s skill formation system often note that its TVET offer does not deliver the intermediate level skills necessary to meet the challenges emerging from technological innovation and industrialization. To solve this problem, it has been suggested that educational establishments should more closely align education and training programs with employers’ skill needs. What is advocated is a supply-side approach, which assumes that “skill supply will create its own demand.” As such, Vietnamese policymakers have urged TVET institutions to improve their relevance to employers, as well as pursue market-based reforms to enhance the “flexibility and adaptability” of TVET institutions. First, we challenge the narrative that informs the approach taken by Vietnam’s policy makers. The claim is that there is an increasing skill mismatch, including skill shortages, which is impeding further economic growth and industrialization in Vietnam. At present many firms do not require a large and highly skilled workforce in the sectors expected to lead industrialization. Indeed, our evidence suggests that while many educators in Vietnam may well perceive skills shortages and gaps in ways similar to policy makers, others are much more skeptical of such claims through their direct interaction with employers. And yet, this skepticism is often outweighed by a false optimism that skill demand is increasing, which gives erroneous support to the current policy direction. Second, we argue that Vietnam’s market-based reform strategy is unlikely to strengthen the flexibility and adaptability of its TVET institutions. In particular, we note that market mechanisms do not seem to function well in the Vietnamese TVET sector and ignore the wider social aspects of skill formation in Vietnam. In part, this discussion relates to the educational preferences of the Vietnamese people, which is mainly for higher education despite poor graduate job opportunities. Such choices are informed by the low social status of TVET, with its recruitment predominantly from low-income households, and related difficulties for the increase of tuition fees. The low status and support given to TVET institutions means, moreover, that they face further difficulties in improving their market offer, that is, the curricula offered. The corollary of this is increasing distrust among key actors – between educators, policymakers, and employers – and likely policy failure. Some educators feel that the government has been merely shifting the responsibility of TVET reform to educational establishments without understanding their constraints. To achieve advanced industrialization, Vietnam needs an integrated skill formation strategy which stimulates the dynamism of skill demand, while acknowledging the social aspects of skills formation to move beyond narrow and instrumental concepts of education and training.

Item Type: Book Section
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Publisher: Springer
ISBN: 978-981-16-2327-1
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 26 April 2022
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2024 11:45

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