• Primary Education
• Higher Education
Reformed Education System in Colonial Time
• Primary Shool
• Secondary Shool
Through all the changes, the Vietnamese have been in the last 200 years - from the rules of their own emperors, through that of French governors to the present - one major constant has been a deep reverence for learning.
Under the Confucian system, the brilliant scholar stood at the head of the occupational hierarchy; his position brought agricultural, professional and commercial rewards. Before the French came, Vietnam was run at all levels of administration by officials called mandarins, who were chosen on the basis of education alone.
The aristocracy of learning was the only aristocracy of importance in old VietNam; learning especially of Chinese Philosophy and history was not only prized for its own sake, but was the main road to wealth, power and social standing.
Primary education was taught by the village school master, whose home generally served as the village school.
Here almost all boys learned at least a few hundred Chinese characters, and many went on to the works of philosophy and history which formed the core of Confucian scholarship.
The civil service examination was the crucial part of the traditional Vietnamese educational system. Tens of thousands of students each year would attempt the first examination, but only a few thousand of these would go to the second examination given every three years. In ever decreasing numbers, as they climbed the ladder, scholars could progress through the third examination which could result in one of the coveted degrees of Tu Tai (budding genius) or Cu Nhan (promoted man). Even to gain the lowest of these degrees was a high honor and marked its recipient for life while bringing honor to his family as well.
Examinations in the Imperial Court
The last and highest examination was conducted by emperor himself. Those who survived this final test received the highest degree, the Tien Si (Doctorate). However poor and humble were their origins, they were now members of the top range of the elite. Before the Tran dynasty (1225-1400), in 1075 Ly Nhan Ton (1072-1127) ordered the organization of a literary competition consisting of subjects on 3 religions (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism) for the recruitment of mandarins.
A new competition was organized in 1086 to select the members for the newly founded Academy. Except the 1st laureate of this contest, Le Van Thinh was appointed King’s Counseller, and the others were appointed teachers at the Imperial College which was opened in 1076.
The 1st examination for the selection of Thai Hoc Sinh (Doctorate degree) was held in 1232 under King Tran Thai Ton (1225-1258). Three categories were defined in a classification system called Tam Giap.
The classification became more elaborate in 1247 with the Tam Khoi which divided the 1st category into 3 separate classes:
• Trang Nguyen: 1st prize winner in the examination;
• Bang Nhan: 2nd prize winner;
• Tham Hoa: 3rd prize winner.
Examinations in the field of three Religions: Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism were established at the same time and were held throughout the Kingdom.
Reformed Education System in Colonial Time
With the coming of the French in 19th century, the formal educational system changed considerably. The French encouraged the Vietnamese to write their own language in the Latin alphabet. As a result, Confucian studies lost the prestige which had formely led young men to give them the years of arduous study they demanded. And in the early years of the 20th century, they reformed the civil service examination.
After the leaving of the French, the school system, administered by the Secretary of State for National Education in the South Viet-Nam. The Gouvernment is attempting in evening classes to raise the literacy rate among older people.
Primary Schools have a five year curriculum. Most teachers however were trained under and utilize the French System which stresses teacher authority, class discipline, and general learning.
The four year course of the first Division of the Secondary School System is divided into classical and modern sections. Students of both sections study a number of basic subjects, but those in the classical section study classical Vietnamese literature while those choosing the modern section study French or English. The three year course of the second Division continues the general pattern of the first but gives students the option of continuing their language studies or of substituting programs of natural science or of mathematics and phylosophy. The goal of secondary education is the stiff Baccalaureate examination. The baccalaureate is required for admission to the five year university program or to the advance technical schools. The Vietnamese baccalaureate represents a standard at least as high as the completion of two years at the American universities.
In addition there are a number of normal schools which provide high school teachers; an industrial technical school of applied arts, where the traditional fine arts of Vietnam are taught such as: goldsmithing, lacquer work, cabinet work, and tapestry making.
At the university level, the National University of Viet Nam in Saigon is the most important. The university has a Faculty of Letters teaching Vietnamese literature, a Faculty of Jurisprudence, a Faculty of Medicine, Philosophy and History, and advanced schools of Engineering and Education. Its scholastic standards are high.
There are other Universities: University at Dalat and University at Hue as well as several technical schools of university rank, including an Institute of Public Administration operated in Saigon by Michigan State University. Higher education in foreign countries is greatly sought by advanced students. The Vietnamese government grants passports to study abroad to students taking courses not offered in Vietnam, and in any year at least 1,000 to 1,500 students will be studying abroad.
In North Viet Nam, Nguyen Van Vinh and Pham Quynh contributed significantly to the enrichment of Vietnamese Literature. Pham Quynh published the remarkable erudite Nam Phong magazine, and Nguyen Van Vinh, the Daily Trung Bac Tan Van, with numerous translation of Western Books into Vietnamese.
Vietnamese prose became richer, and important literary works as novels, theatre pieces, criticism, developed.
The best of occidental culture was selected, assimilated to build a new culture which has met the needs of modern times while remaining faithful to the noble spiritual tradition of Vietnamese people.