Capacity building through professional development and collaborative research to enable educational reform implementation in Vietnam

Phase 1 (2015-2016)


The research aims were to evaluate the extent to which school teachers and leaders felt they had sufficient capacity (human and other resources) to implement whole system Government  reforms to all aspects of schooling, including the curriculum pedagogy, and school decentralization and leadership. There were reports of overload on schools, and unrealistic ambitions by the Government. Accordingly, the research aimed to collect the perspectives and experiences of a sample of principals and teachers in Hanoi, Vietnam on the challenges and opportunities for their schools from implementing the “Fundamental and Comprehensive Educational Reforms” adopted by the Vietnam Government in 2013.


The research design was mixed method, consisting of a survey questionnaire and interviews to all teachers and principals in 6 primary and 6 secondary schools.

Key Findings


Teacher felt they lacked adequacy in knowledge and skills to implement the renovations. Two factors capture this – ‘deficit’ and ‘human resources’:

  • ‘Deficit’ refers to general under-resourcing and weak capacity in many areas currently (equipment, materials, and teacher capacity);
  • ‘Human resources’ refers to the need for future pre- and in-service teacher training and teacher supply to cope specifically with implementation of renovations.

Conclusion – targeted teacher training/development is necessary to enable implementation of renovations BUT that may not be sufficient – renovations may also be impeded by a general set of current limitations eg equipment, materials, insufficient teacher numbers and large classes.

Leadership and Management

Government renovations also include decentralization and changed roles and skills for school managers. Participants saw the need in future for managers/leaders to have more:

  • guidance and advice on school management;
  • instructional leadership skills in order to oversee renovations to teaching and learning;
  • Skills for leading the community and for administration.

“Culture” was seen as a predictor factor influencing implementation, and so leadership effects would mediate via development of a supportive and empowering school culture. “Culture” also included staff empowerment, a key responsibility for school leadership and autonomy in enabling implementation of renovations in future

Sector differences

  • Primary school respondents perceive greater current implementation of renovations, but feel less adequately equipped to deal with them (is this because they feel less qualified than secondary teachers?
  • Primary school respondents did not see the benefits of renovations as much as secondary, and were less likely to feel enablers or interventions would help implementation (is this because primary schools are more remote from school-to-work transition?


Phase 2 (2017-2019): Designing and piloting interventions through professional development


To describe and explain the perceptions/experiences of school principals, subject heads and teachers of  “Implementing current educational renovations/reforms to curriculum, teaching and learning, assessment, professional development, and educational management in Vietnam schools” since 2013.

The research design had three sequential stages:

Stage 1: Garner school perspectives of their capacities to undertake implementation of the government’s renovations, aiming to reveal upskilling was needed in terms of professional development. This expanded Phase 1 by including schools in both South and Central Vietnam (520 teachers)

Stage 2: Knowledge exchange and Skills training – we delivered 21 days of training in South and Central Vietnam to partner Vietnam University staff, and pilot primary and secondary schools – in areas of education most lacking skilled teachers and leaders.

Stage 3: Support and monitoring of implementation in pilot schools – 12 pilot schools in both regions of Vietnam were visited monthly by the Glasgow University team and Vietnam partner Universities to evaluate and advise on implementing skills from Stage 2 training.


Stage 1 consisted of mixed methods – questionnaire survey, structural equation modelling (SEM) and interviews.

Stage 2 consisted of knowledge exchange and skills training involving the cross-cultural research team from Glasgow and 4 Vietnam partner Universities.

Stage 3 focused on advisory visits to pilot schools and evaluation of the implementation programme in each school.

Key Findings

Three findings with key implications were:

First, the most significant finding (using SEM and critical path analysis) was that – contrary to research in Anglo-American settings – new pedagogic and assessment practices were initiated and led by teachers (not school principals) and by a process of in-school professional development, both of which then changed school cultures, all of which then changed schools leaders support for new practices. Teacher leadership was thus a leading characteristic of these VN schools.

Second, participants perceived the multiple reforms in three groups – curriculum/teaching and assessment; school structures; and leadership and management. To date – most of the perceived changes had been to curriculum/teaching/assessment, and relatively little changed practices had occurred in the other two groups -implying that reforms were partial and would likely be restricted without changes in the latter two groups, which were seen as ‘enablers.’

Third, key ‘enablers’ seen as pre-requisites for future enhancement of implementation efficacy were – clearer policy guidelines from the Government, improved teacher training inclusive of the new practices enshrined in the reforms; more relevant in-school professional development; and more resources generally, especially for schools in poor (mostly rural) disadvantaged communities – where reforms which were aimed at closing the equity gap, would otherwise likely increase it.


PI and Co-Is - International Collaborators

Phase 1:

PI Professor Clive Dimmock, University of Glasgow

Co-I Professor Chris Chapman, University of Glasgow

Co-I Professor Michele Schweisfurth, University of Glasgow

Co-I Professor Graham Donaldson, University of Glasgow

Co-I Assoc. Professor Long, University of Education (UoE), VNU (Hanoi)

Co-I Professor Phong, VNIES (Vietnam Institute of Educational Sciences -  VN Government Research Branch)


Phase 2:

PI Professor Clive Dimmock, University of Glasgow

Co-I Professor Chris Chapman, University of Glasgow

Co-I Professor Michele Schweisfurth, University of Glasgow

International Partners

University of Education, Vietnam National University, Hanoi;

Vietnam National Institute of Educational Sciences – Government Research Branch;

South-East Asian Ministers Education Organisation (SEAMEO) – Vietnam; University of Education, Ho Chi Minh City; College of Education, Hue University, Vietnam.

Start and End Date

Phase 1: 1st November 2015 – 31st October 2016

Phase 2: 1st September 2017 – 31st January 2019

Funder and Funding Amount

Phase 1 (2015-16):

British Council, Vietnam. HE Partnership Fund. £15,000

University of Glasgow. Funding £15,000


Phase 2 (2017-19):

The Head Foundation, Singapore. Funding $S120,000 (£72,000)

ESRC. Funding £30,000

British Council, Vietnam. HE Partnership Fund. £15,000

University of Glasgow. Funding £15,000

Related Publications

Journal Articles:

Dimmock, C. (2020) Connecting research and knowledge on educational leadership in the West and Asia: adopting a cross-cultural comparative perspective. Comparative Education, 56(2), pp. 257-277. (doi: 10.1080/03050068.2019.1703393)

Dimmock, C., Tan, C. Y., Nguyen, D., Tran, T. A. and Dinh, T. T. (2021) Implementing education system reform: Local adaptation in school reform of teaching and learning. International Journal of Educational Development, 80, 102302. (doi: 10.1016/j.ijedudev.2020.102302)

Project Reports:

Dimmock, C. & et al. (2016) Capacity building through professional development and collaborative research to enable educational reform implementation in Vietnam. Phase 1 Report of Research Project to University of Glasgow and British Council, Vietnam. Project Report. University of Glasgow, Glasgow. (Unpublished)

Dimmock, C. et al. (2018) Building capacity of Vietnam schools to implement fundamental and comprehensive reforms: Designing and piloting interventions through professional development. Phase 2 Report of Research Project to The Head Foundation, Singapore, British Council, Vietnam, and University of Glasgow. Project Report. University of Glasgow, Glasgow. (Unpublished)

Policy Briefs:

Dimmock, C. (2019) Implementing Vietnam’s School renovations’ Policy: Developing Teachers and School Leaders. Policy Brief (No. 9). Other. The Head Foundation, Singapore.

Dimmock, C. (2019) Implementing Vietnam’s School Renovations’ Policy: Developing Teachers and School Leaders. Other. University of Glasgow.


Dimmock, C. (2016). The cautionary tale of Vietnam’s ‘radical reform.’ Times Education Supplement, (24 June).