Church leads the way in helping Vietnam cope with its educational emergency
by Ngoc Hung

A government report indicates that half of pupils in rural areas do not get a higher education. Only 4 per cent graduate from universities. Unemployment for those between 15 and 24 stands at 50.3 per cent. For general secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Education, educating teenagers is “a source of concern”. Private individuals and religious congregations help fill the educational gap.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Educating teenagers and young people "is a source of concern. A humanistic education helps the younger generation become good people, for the Church and society,” said Fr Vincent Nguyễn, general secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Education. At the same time, “Vietnam’s education system must be based on the country’s cultural values.”

The clergyman spoke to AsiaNews about a government report on education and work for young Vietnamese. In view of the situation, “counselling programmes are needed to provide students with psychological support during their school years."

Government figures for 2015 show that 27 per cent of the population (25 million people) is under the age of 15. Of these, 70 per cent live in the country’s rural areas.

Only 4.3 per cent graduates from university. Worse still, about 10 per cent of children do not complete primary school. In mountainous areas, in the Central Highlands and in the Mekong Delta, half of all young people have no access to school.

When it comes to employment, the picture is bleak for young Vietnamese. Youth unemployment for people 15 to 24 is 50.3 per cent, with the highest rate in urban areas compared to the countryside.

For years, the Vietnamese Church has played a leading role in helping young people eager to go to school. Various local dioceses and parishes provide hostels, free courses, and scholarships.

Several religious orders and congregations are also involved in education, and in recent years, the government has authorised Catholic kindergartens.

Christian intellectuals and businessmen have also obtained permits to open private schools (from elementary to university).

Since 1987, Vietnam has opened the door to a ‘socialist-oriented’ capitalism that allows investments by private foundations.

"Catholics are good at managing institutions that follow the private school model,” said Nguyen Van, principal at the ĐD. School in Ho Chi Minh City.

“Each year, ten faculties come and we organise courses for thousands of students from the provinces. We are helping the Church and society shape 'new people' good for everyone."

In August 2015, the Church slammed existing distortions and problems in the country’s education system, calling for a reforms along democratic and multicultural lines.