The 7th Anti-Corruption Dialogue meeting held on 28 May focused on corruption in the education system. Government and donor representatives, NGOs and media learnt that corruption is so widespread that it is difficult to ensure a child in Vietnam a good education without paying a series of illegal fees.
Donors urged the Government to address the issue by increasing government salaries, ensuring transparency, allowing the media to report on corruption, and accepting full-day schooling for all students.
More than 25% of parents in a survey have reported that they pay 25% or more of their income for private tutoring for one child. Teachers’ are almost doubling their income by providing private tutoring, as the survey found that they get 1.9 million VND/month for extra curriculum tutoring, while their salary is 2.5 million VND/month.
In addition to the extra tuition fee, parents pay illegal fees to have their children enrolled in out-of area schools, to have their children selected for ‘VIP classes’, to ensure that their children get good marks, to ensure that their children continues to the next class, they provide ‘voluntary’ contributions to Parents Associations, to upgrading of school buildings, to purchase of text books, etc.
Donors, however, found that different and more efficient measures are needed. Ambassador Peter Lysholt Hansen stressed that corruption will remain widespread and out of control as long as the government does not undertake the much needed salary reform to ensure that teachers’ salaries can cover the needs of their families. He said that much more can be done to improve transparency and particularly pointed out that the media are still discouraged from reporting on corruption for fear of persecution:
“The way the government handled the PMU18 scandal taught all journalists in the country the very clear lesson that those punished will be the messengers – not the corrupt persons”. He also said that during the six years he has spent in the country, he has not seen a reduction of corruption. During the past two years, it is actually the perception of ordinary people that corruption has increased. “The legal framework is excellent, and the Government talks openly about corruption, but it is difficult to see a clear indication of the will to translate the good intentions into action” he said.
As an illustration of the slow implementation of initiatives, Peter Lysholt Hansen mentioned the POSCIS programme, jointly funded by Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Canada. This programme started in 2006 and was planned to end in 2010. The inception period, however, lasted no less than three years, because the Government Inspectorate has been slow to undertake the necessary preparations of the implementation phase.
“Donors are now expecting that GI delivers on the promised results and meet the benchmarks agreed”, he said. “If this does not happen, Denmark and other donors will not be able to convince our headquarters that we should continue funding the programme”.