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How to Prepare for the Critical Issues Summit: Access to Education in Vietnam

How to Prepare for the Critical Issues Summit: Access to Education in Vietnam

Critical Issues Summit: Access to Education in Vietnam Resources

The purpose of these resources is to:

  • Provide context to the issue of education so you have a common starting place for initial discussions and feel prepared to ask relevant questions during your experience in Vietnam.
  • Introduce the scope of the issue and essential background information demonstrating the complexity, debates, and nuances of the issue.
  • Introduce the global context to educational access, including a human rights framework that allows you to make connections to your home context.


Read or watch the links provided below. The resources are divided into relevant themes and topics. For most sections, there are both required and supplemental resources. Required resources are in bold. Start with the required resources in each section. If you’d like to go a bit deeper in your preparation, we highly recommend the supplemental resources. There are no resources related to Design Thinking on this list. Instead, we hope you will join us for our Introduction to Design Thinking webinar.

Guided Reading Questions

Guided reading questions are designed to help you focus on important takeaways. Answering them will ensure you are prepared to take full advantage of your Critical Issues Summit Immersion Week experience.

  1. According to the readings, how does Vietnam compare to other countries in providing universal access to primary and secondary education? What are the existing debates on how well Vietnam’s approach is? (See resources under: Overview of Education in Vietnam)
  2. What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of Vietnam’s education system? (See resources under: Overview of Education in Vietnam)
  3. In your opinion, what does “access to education” mean? How does your understanding compare to The Convention on the Rights of the Child? Is the UN convention a reasonable expectation for all countries to achieve? Does it go far enough? (See resources under: Global Context around Educational Access)
  4. How does the historical and political context of a country influence the development of its educational system? What are some of the significant events and turning points that have influenced the public education system in your home country? (Hint: If you’re not sure, do some at home research or talk with your teachers!) What are some of the significant turning points in Vietnam’s history that have influenced education in the country today? (See resources under: Historical Context)

Access to Education in a Global Context


  • The Global Learning Crisis and What to do about it: TedTalk that advocates that countries think of education as an essential investment priority just like basic infrastructure. She uses Vietnam as an example that other countries can learn from, but highlights many different examples from around the world who have seen the positive effects of high educational investment.
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child: The UN Human rights convention centered on children, that most countries, including Vietnam, have ratified. Articles 28-29 cover the universal right to free primary education.

Overview of Education in Vietnam



  • Children and Sustainable Development Goals in Vietnam: UNICEF report on the status of children in Vietnam according to the SDGs. Goal 4 about access to quality education and pages 12-13 of this report outline the challenges to achieving this goal and recommended solutions.

Historical Context


  • North Vietnam puts the emphasis on literacy: Article from the NYT in 1976 on Ho Chi Minh’s “appeal to fight Illiteracy” that allegedly brought literacy rates from 20% to 95% in 20 years (1945-1965), during the period of revolution and colonial independence.


Rural and Urban Trends


  • UNICEF Mother Tongue Initiative: A short video on the challenges of ethnic minority students to study in school in Vietnamese and how UNICEF is working with schools in ethnic areas to teach in mother tongues and slowly introduce Vietnamese alongside native languages. This video uses a school in a Hmong community in Lao Cai as an example.
  • Ending Vietnam’s Suicide Season: NYT editorial from 2013 on the phenomenon of students committing suicide after failing the college entrance exam. In Vietnam, students’ results on the exam singularly determine where they will study. The author argues that vast discrepancies in high school standards, including grade inflation connected to bribing teachers, is why universities don’t consider a student’s high school work for admission. The exam is also apart of a centuries-old tradition dating back to the process of becoming a mandarin, the pre-colonial Confucian civil service.

Critical Issues Summit: Resources for All

The purpose of the following resources is to spark your thinking on topics that are relevant to the Critical Issues Summit as a whole, rather than one particular Immersion Week experience.

These engaging videos from TED will also be shared in your Facebook group and are recommended for students traveling on all programs.

  1. Chimamanda Adichie’s Dangers of a Single Story Ted Talk
  2. Hans Rosling’s The best stats you’ve ever seen Ted Talk
  3. Greta Thunberg’s The disarming case to act right now on climate change Ted Talk
  4. Daniela Papi Thornton’s Reclaiming Social Entrepreneurship Tedx Talk and Tackling Heropreneurship: why we need to move from “the social entrepreneur” to social impact in Stanford Social Innovation Review
  5. Benedetta Berti’s What are the universal human rights? Ted Ed presentation and this Human Rights Watch publication where you should become familiar with the top human rights violations in the country you are traveling to.

There are no books required for the Summit, but for students who have asked for our recommendations, they are:

  1. Rustic’s 16 books That Every Future Change Maker Should Read blog post
  2. To that list, we would add these non-fiction titles: