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(June 24, 2016) OXFORD, England _ Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE) – a new initiative aimed at conducting high-quality research to build evidence to enhance children’s learning throughout the world – announced today that it will begin work in Vietnam.

The £4.2 million, six-year undertaking will seek to understand how Vietnam “got it right” in creating an education system that has led its students to achieve learning levels exceeding those of their peers in far wealthier nations.

The project in Vietnam is one of four research endeavours currently being launched in countries throughout the world in order to shed light on ways to address a global learning crisis. Countries around the world have been remarkably successful in making progress toward universal primary schooling, but in many places, learning levels are poor, or have declined. As a result, even when children finish many years of schooling, they still lack basic maths and literacy skills. The RISE agenda emphasises the need to make changes that can provide children with the education they need to be successful adults in their local, national, and global communities.

“The fact that nearly every child is in school represents an enormous victory for humankind,” said Lant Pritchett, RISE Research Director, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, and a professor of the practice of international development at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. “Now that they are there, let’s continue that momentum to make sure that every child in school is learning.”

Research about the experiences of Vietnam offer the potential to inform policies that can help the other countries enhance students’ education.

Vietnam’s achievements in primary and secondary education over the last two decades are extraordinary. Out of 65 countries, Vietnam ranked 17th in maths and 19th in reading – surpassing both the United States and the United Kingdom – in the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the worldwide scholastic performance measure of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Vietnam’s primary school completion rate is 97 percent, and its lower secondary enrolment rate is 92 percent.

“Vietnam’s success raises key questions about how it reached such levels of learning, and whether its achievements can provide insights that help other nations,” said Paul Glewwe, one of the research team’s principal investigators. He has been engaged in research in Vietnam for 25 years, and is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota. “The project is very ambitious in scope, and it takes advantage of an incredible success story in education in developing countries.”

A team of nine experts from institutions within and outside of Vietnam will undertake a systematic evaluation of Vietnam’s education system by analysing the status and impacts of past, current and upcoming educational reforms. The aim is to understand how policy levers made Vietnam’s exceptional achievements possible, and whether and how new reforms are able to build on its achievements.

Key questions are:

  • What explains Vietnam’s high levels of student learning? Insights from the Vietnam experience are likely to provide lessons that can be used to improve the education systems of other countries. The team will undertake historical analysis of the underpinnings and evolution of Vietnam’s education. The system includes many distinctive features, among them a complex combination of public and private funding that has given rise to a “shadow education” system. That is, in most areas of Vietnam, even in rural areas, parents pay to send their primary-school-age children to “extra study.”
  • What impact will current and planned curriculum reforms have on student educational outcomes? Vietnam is embarking on comprehensive, system-wide curricular reforms that are aiming to fundamentally change how teachers teach, and what and how students learn. Because one of the key reform programmes is already being used in more than 20 other countries, the researchers will be able to make comparisons about how certain changes work in different countries. Vietnam’s “next generation” reforms are aimed at building up students’ skill to emphasise problem solving and teamwork rather than memorisation. The team will evaluate whether these reforms affect student learning over time, and they will seek to understand why any boosts in learning takes place.

Vietnam’s push to continue to improve its educational system stems from the desire to address inequalities in education among certain populations within the country, and from the realisation that it will need to expand its supply of skilled labour in order to continue the nation’s economic growth, which has led to broad-based improvements in living standards over the past generation.

“Debates about how best to sustain growth and to improve living standards form the backdrop of efforts to reform Vietnam’s education system,” said Le Thuc Duc, a Senior Researcher and Head of the Section for Economic Forecasts at the Centre for Analysis and Forecasting, a policy-oriented institutional member of the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences.

The Vietnam team includes nine researchers affiliated with institutions throughout the world. Principal bases are at the University of Minnesota, where faculty have been engaged with education research in Vietnam for decades; the Centre for Analysis and Forecasting, a policy-oriented institution within the Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences, a think tank of the Government of Vietnam; and the Mekong Development Research Institute, an independent scientific research agency that focuses on public policy and social change.  Other affiliated institutions include Leiden University, University College London, the (UK) Institute for Fiscal Studies, the World Bank, and the University of Oxford. The team members offer expertise in fields that include education, comparative and international development, economics, and political economy.

“Vietnam is an incredible success story, and it is enormously important to understand how Vietnam produces high levels of learning success while facing many of the institutional and poverty-related challenges many other countries face,” Pritchett said.

RISE was launched in 2015 to conduct high-quality research to build a body of world-class evidence to inform education policy, and to raise learning outcomes for children in the developing world. Research in Vietnam and elsewhere seeks to shift emphasis away from long-standing, input-oriented goals – children’s attendance in schools – and toward output-oriented achievements – increased literacy and numeracy skills.


RISE is supported by £27.6 million in funding from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), which has dedicated £21 million to high-quality research in up to five countries, and £6.6 million to support expert advice and management; and the  Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) whose commitment of A$9.85 million (£5.1 million) has allowed RISE to incorporate a sixth country.

RISE is managed and implemented through a partnership based in Oxford, UK, between leading international development consultancy Oxford Policy Management and the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford. Research is led by Professor Pritchett and a team at the Center for Global Development, a non-profit think tank based in Washington, DC.

The Vietnam Country Research Team is a multidisciplinary group composed of nine researchers from institutions worldwide, including Vietnam, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. Main operations are at the University of Minnesota, and the Centre for Analysis and Forecasting, a policy-oriented institution member of the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences. Other participating institutions include Leiden University, University College London, the (UK) Institute for Fiscal Studies, the World Bank, and the University of Oxford. The team members offer expertise in fields that include education, comparative and international development, economics, and political economy. They have extensive experience in conducting research in a developing-country context, broadly, and within Vietnam, in particular.

For more information on RISE Vietnam, visit the programme official page.


Principal Investigators



Joan DeJaeghere,

University of Minnesotta

Joan DeJaeghere is an Associate Professor of Comparative and International Development Education in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development at the University of Minnesota, where she teaches courses in international development and education; comparative education; and gender, education and development.  Her scholarly work and professional practice are concerned with education, development, poverty and inequalities, and particularly gender, socio-economic and ethnic inequalities in education.  She has served as the Principal Investigator on multi-year, multi-country studies funded by The MasterCard Foundation and CARE. She has also worked on education projects with UNICEF, USAID, Aga Khan, the World Bank, and the Department of Labor, and conducted research in Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Honduras, and Australia.


She was a Fulbright Scholar in 2013 with the Academy of Policy and Development of the Ministry of Planning and Investment and a Fulbright Specialist in 2014, with Vietnam Institute of Education Sciences under the Ministry of Education and Training. She served as a board member of the Comparative and International Education Society (2013-16) and as an associate editor of International Journal of Educational Development (2013-16). She has published widely in journals including Comparative Education Review, International Journal of Educational Development, Comparative Education, Progress in Development Studies and Critical Studies in Education.



Le Thuc Duc,

Centre for Analysis and Forecasting

Le Thuc Duc has been a senior Researcher and the Head of the Section for Economic Forecasts under the Centre for Analysis and Forecasting (CAF) since 2004. CAF is a policy-oriented institution member of Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, which is a government agency completing research in social sciences. Since 2006, he has also worked as the Principal Investigator for Young Lives, Oxford University, UK and Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, Hanoi. Within Young Lives, his research focuses on child nutrition, schooling and skill formation.


He studied mathematics in the former Soviet Union, where he also earned the Lower Doctorate degree in Mathematics. Following the economic reforms of Doi Moi, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study Development Economics at Williams College, Massachusetts, USA. He received his PhD in Economics at State University of New York. A native Vietnamese speaker, he is fluent in Russian and English.



Paul Glewwe,

University of Minnesota

Paul Glewwe is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota, where he teaches econometrics, microeconomics, and microeconomic analysis of economic development.


His focus is on education in developing countries, especially the factors that determine academic outcomes in primary and secondary schools. He has researched Vietnam for more than 25 years. He has also studied Brazil, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Honduras, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. In addition, he conducts research on malnutrition, inequality and poverty in developing countries.


He authored or edited five books on these topics, the most recent of which was Education Policy in Developing Countries, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2013.  He has published over 50 articles in academic journals and over 25 chapters in academic books.  His publications have appeared in American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Review, Economic Development and Cultural Change, Handbook of Development Economics, Handbook of Economics of Education, Journal of Development Economics, Journal of Economic Literature, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Journal of Human Resources, Journal of Political Economy, Journal of Public Economics, and Review of Economics and Statistics.


Before coming to the University of Minnesota in 1999, he was a senior research economist at the World Bank.  He received his PhD in Economics from Stanford University in 1985, and his BA in Economics from the University of Chicago in 1979.




Other Key Researchers




Pedro Carneiro,

University College London

Pedro Carneiro is a Professor of Economics at University College London, a Research Fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice. His research interests include labour economics, the economics of education, development economics, and microeconometrics. In the past he has examined issues such as the returns to education, human capital policy, and labour regulation in developing countries. He has studied poverty and education programs in several countries in Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe. He has published papers in several prestigious journals such as the American Economic Review, Econometrica, the Journal of Political Economy, and the Quarterly Journal of Economics.



Hai-Anh Dang,

World Bank

Hai-Anh H. Dang is an Economist in the Poverty and Inequality Unit, Development Research Group, World Bank. His main research is on international development, education, labour, and poverty. Most recently, he has taken the lead in developing new methods to construct synthetic (pseudo) panel data from cross sectional household surveys that allow better estimates of poverty and welfare dynamics. He has been working as Principal Investigator on projects funded by agencies including the Hewlett Foundation, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), and the World Bank. He has conducted research on various countries including Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Jordan, Lao PDR, Senegal, Vietnam, the United States, as well as cross-national studies.

He has published in journals such as Economic Development and Cultural Change, Economics of Education Review, European Journal of Political Economy, Journal of Development Economics, Review of Income and Wealth, and World Bank Economic Review. He has published a book on private tutoring in Vietnam and had chapters published by Cambridge and Oxford University Presses. He received his BA from Foreign Trade University, Vietnam and his PhD in Applied Economics from the University of Minnesota.



Sonya Krutikova,

Institute for Fiscal Studies

Sonya Krutikova is the Programme Director of the Centre for the Evaluation of Development Policies (EDePo) at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and Research Associate at the Department of International Development (ODID), University of Oxford.  She completed her PhD in Economics at the University of Oxford. Her research focuses on the determinants of skill acquisition among children and young people living in poverty, as well as more broadly the mechanisms through which childhood conditions manifest in child development and outcomes. She is currently exploring the role of home and school factors in explaining the evolution of gaps in cognitive skills and school attainment among children from poorer and better off backgrounds in developing countries.  Within this agenda a key focus is on understanding how factors that explain evolution of gaps differ across different stages of childhood and adolescence. She has a number of projects focusing on the role of quality of home and centre-based child-care provision for development in early childhood, has been working with the Young Lives data to examine the evolution of socio-economic gaps in cognitive skills over the course of childhood and the factors that contribute to this, and is involved in a number of ongoing and pipeline projects looking at the impact of childhood poverty on marriage, fertility and employment choices of adolescents and young adults in developing and developed countries.


She has published papers in several peer-reviewed journals, including Economic Development and Cultural Change, Journal of Development Studies, Labour Economics and Oxford Review of Education.



Jonathan London,

Leiden University

Jonathan D. London is University Lecturer of Global Political Economy at Leiden University. He has previously held positions at the City University of Hong Kong and Nanyang Technological University. London’s research interests span the fields of comparative political economy, development studies, and the political economy of welfare and stratification. A leading scholar of Vietnam, London’s recent publications include Education in Vietnam (ISEAS 2011), Politics in Contemporary Vietnam (Palgrave 2014) and research articles in such journals as The Annual Review of Political Science, The Journal of Contemporary Asia, and Social Science and Medicine. London is editor of the forthcoming Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Vietnam and sole author of Welfare and Stratification in Marketizing Asia (Palgrave). Fluent in Vietnamese, London is author of the first and only Vietnamese language blog on Vietnamese politics written by a foreigner. He has served as an analyst for international organizations such as UNDP, UNICEF, and OXFAM. London holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin.




Caine Rolleston,

University College London

Caine Rolleston is Senior Lecturer in Education and International Development at University College London Institute of Education (UCL-IOE).  He has worked on education and international development in a range of countries including Ghana, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Peru, India and Sri Lanka, and is currently Senior Education Associate for the Young Lives comparative international study of childhood poverty, based at the University of Oxford.  For Young Lives, he leads the development of school surveys and research on school effectiveness. His research interests include issues in the economics of education in developing countries, educational access and equity, privatisation, learning metrics and trajectories, longitudinal studies in education and development, cognitive and non-cognitive skills development and survey design.


He has published papers in several peer-reviewed journals, including Economic Development and Cultural Change, Oxford Review of Education, Comparative Education, and International Journal of Educational Development.



Phung Duc Tung,

Mekong Development Research Institute

Phung Duc Tung is currently the Institute Director at the Mekong Development Research Institute and has 18 years of experience working in development and poverty reduction. He holds a PhD in Economics from the Institute of Development and Agricultural Economics, Leibniz University of Hannover, Germany. He possesses a strong background in econometrics, impact evaluation, and survey design and implementation. His research areas focus on poverty reduction, education, socio-economic development for ethnic minorities, social welfare and vulnerability to poverty.

He is a lead sampling expert, having undertaken sampling and questionnaire design as well as survey implementation for numerous international and national large-scale surveys. Additionally, he has demonstrated excellent leadership through successfully leading multiple large-scale household and enterprise surveys, education and public opinion surveys, and impact evaluation projects for international agencies and line ministries that yield high-quality reports and sound research papers. Currently, he leads impact evaluation surveys of the Vietnam Escuela Nueva Project (VNEN).

His work has been published in international peer-reviewed journals such as the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics and World Development.



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