Study urges reforms in Vietnam teachers' salaries

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A class at a high school in Ho Chi Minh City. A recent study says teachers' salaries need to be raised immediately as educators' current pay is not enough to make ends meet.

A study led by a former vice president has called for the urgent reform of elementary, secondary and high school teachers' salaries as their current pay is not enough to live on.

According to the study recently announced by Nguyen Thi Binh, former vice president, and her team, 50 percent of current teachers earn less than the education field's average income which is between VND3 and 3.5 million (US$140-164) per month, including allowances.

In fact, the study, which was conducted among 34 elementary, secondary and high schools in seven provinces and cities, found that fresh graduates earn an average of only VND2 million ($93.87) a month.

The findings showed that the salaries and allowances are not enough for teachers to support themselves and their families, especially those who live in urban areas, the study concluded.

The study's authors proposed that the government adjust its policies so teachers can rely on salaries to make living, and don't have to wait too long for raises.

The study found that on average, teachers had worked 13 years before making more than the average wages.

Better working hours and smaller classes should also be priority goals, the study said.

Commenting on the findings, Prof. Nguyen Quang Kinh, one of the study's authors, said: "I was shocked when seeing the salary records of teachers."

Society seems not to care about the working conditions of its teachers, but still demands too much from them, he said, adding that in big cities like Hanoi, a teacher has to teach a class with 60 students, while regulations are in place to keep classes around 30 people only.


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"With this situation, it is impossible to hope for good quality teaching, and it is also a torture for teachers," Kinh said.

Meanwhile, Prof. Hoang Tuy, one of Vietnam's leading mathematicians, called the current policies regarding teachers a "shame" on society.

He said to make ends meet, teachers have to work extra jobs, and most of their incomes are from such work.

"Such policies have prompted corruption and are the bases that feed the growth of corruption," Tuy said.

Letting go

The study also found that only 10-20 percent of surveyed teachers said they planned to continue teaching with the low salaries and harsh working environment. 

The survey found that many teachers in urban areas changed their profession whenever they had a chance.

Meanwhile, earlier surveys have pointed out that the number of students applying for teacher training schools has been dropping.

The number of applicants to the Ho Chi Minh City Education University dropped by more than 63 percent in a decade, from over 41,000 in 2000 to 15,127 in 2010.

Statistics released by the Department of Education and Training in the central province of Thanh Hoa also revealed that just a few hundred students applied for teaching degrees this year compared to 1,000 in previous years.

On the other hand, many students graduating from teacher training schools face difficulties finding jobs, and some even can't find any at all.

N.N.Nga, a graduate of physics and chemistry teaching from Hong Duc University in Thanh Hoa province, told Thanh Nien that she could not find a job in her hometown, so she left for Hanoi.

In the capital she was contracted to teach part-time at a private school two days per week with a total of six periods.

"I am paid VND45,000 ($2.1) for each period, so I earn just some VND1 million ($46.93) a month from teaching. Besides that I do not have any allowance," Nga said.

Another graduate from Hong Duc University, who would like to be referred to as N.G, said he is taking a course in accounting, while working as a tutor.

He said just around ten out of more than 40 graduates of his class have found work as teachers.

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