Levels of basic literacy and numeracy skills among Vietnamese primary school children are high by comparison with other countries of a similar income level and the country has made impressive gains in primary enrolment in recent years as well as improving the quality of schooling. Nonetheless, there remain substantial gaps in school performance between children from more and less advantaged backgrounds. Part of the justification of free public schooling consists in the equalisation of 'opportunities to learn' and the mitigation of learning inequalities which result from differences in home-background advantage. In this paper we examine the learning achievement of pupils in primary Grade 5 and explore the relationships between home-background, teacher, peer and school factors and learning progress in Grade 5, using data from Young Lives.
We find that disadvantaged pupils receive relatively equitable access in relation to indicators of 'fundamental' school quality, a considerable policy success regarding the provision of 'minimum standards'. However, differences by home advantage are relatively large where more sophisticated 'opportunities to learn' are considered, such as the number of hours of instruction received, including through 'extra classes', as well as access to learning resources such as computers, internet and non-text books. Analysis of the predictors of attainment suggests that some of these are likely to constitute an important part of the explanation for the persistence of learning inequalities by home background in Vietnam, suggesting that following success in equalising basic inputs, policy attention should turn more directly to boosting wider 'opportunities to learn' among disadvantaged pupils.
Keywords: primary education, performance gaps, inequality, Vietnam, opportunities to learn, longitudinal study.
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