Community Learning Centres – An Active Tool in National Literacy and Post-Literacy

Country Profile: Viet Nam


86,116,559 (2008 estimate)

Official Language

Vietnamese (other common languages: Thái, Tày, Mường, Khmer, Chăm, Chinese, Nùng, H'Mông, French and English)

Access to Primary Education – Total Net Intake Rate (NIR)

94% (2006)

Total Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)

94% (1995-2004)

Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995-2005)

Total: 90% Male: 94% Female: 87%


Programme Overview

Programme TitleCommunity Learning Centres – An Active Tool in National Literacy and Post-Literacy
Implementing OrganizationContinuing Education Department, Ministry of Education and Training
Language of InstructionVietnamese (Kinh) and a number of minority languages, including Nung, Tay, Khmer, H’mong, Ede and Dao
FundingVietnamese government, international NGOs
Programme PartnersMain partners are the Ministry of Education and Training and UNESCO Hanoi. Other partners include the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism, the Vietnam Association for Promoting Education, Vietnam’s National Fatherland Front, the People Mobilization Division of the Border Guard Command, the Women’s Union, the Youth Union and the Farmers’ Union.
Annual Programme Costs120,000,000,000 Vietnamese Dong or VND (around US $5,700,000)
Annual programme cost per learner: 1,050,000 VND (around US $50)
Date of Inception2009

Country Context

Vietnam has made substantial process in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and has been successful in eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, and in securing gender equality in educational enrolment. Female participants now make up 50% of enrolments in both primary and secondary education. Despite this progress, gender inequality remains a major issue. Women from ethnic-minority groups living in rural communities or with migrant status are particularly likely to be disadvantaged. Ethnic-minority women living in rural communities are over-represented among the poor, for example, while the gender gap in education persists within ethnic minority communities. Women in Vietnam also have poorer access to health services than men and continue to be victims of gender-based violence. Female workers tend to earn less than men and are less likely to receive vocational training (World Bank, 2011).

The Vietnamese government recognizes that adult literacy and gender equality, especially among ethnic minorities, need further improvement. Its five-year plan for socio-economic development in the country acknowledges that improving the living standards of ethnic minorities is necessary in order to promote further development within Vietnam. The Community Learning Centres – An Active Tool in National Literacy and Post-Literacy programme fits well into this context as a large-scale government-run programme that aims to alleviate poverty among the rural poor and to promote gender equality (World Bank, 2014).

Programme Overview

The programme was launched in 2009 by the Vietnamese Continuing Education Department. The main goal is to promote adult literacy and reduce poverty among ethnic minorities living in remote regions of Vietnam. In addition to community development, the programme also strives to empower women and to promote gender equality. It aims to raise the status of women in communities to help them protect themselves against domestic violence, rape and social discrimination. It consists of five grades, each of which takes learners three months to complete. Topics taught include reading, writing, arithmetic, society, science, agriculture, environmental protection, human rights, gender equality, and parenting.

The programme is currently implemented nationwide in 10,815 communities in 63 provinces. Every year the programme reaches around 26,500 participants in literacy classes and some 21,300 participants in post-literacy classes. From its inception in 2009 to 2013, 238,942 learners participated in the programme.


Aims and Objectives

The programme has two sets of objectives related to different timelines. The first set of objectives, which programme implementers want to achieve by the end of 2015, are to:

The next set of objectives, for 2020, are to:

In addition to improving literacy rates, the programme aims to promote community development by reducing poverty levels and contributing to the eradication of hunger. To reach these goals, programme implementers teach communities about agriculture, nature, science and technologies in order to raise their standard of living and to empower them to address and solve the challenges they face. Additionally, the programme aims to empower women and to promote the languages of ethnic minorities through reading and writing classes. These classes are held in theNung, Tay, Khmer, H’mong and Ede languages.


Programme Implementation

Teaching and Learning: Approaches and Methodologies

The programme, in the main, targets adults, specifically women and minority groups. However, the courses are open to all members of a community regardless of age, gender or religion. The first step in implementation is to determine the learning needs of a community. Here, the programme relies on a tailored approach that aims to reflect, as much as possible, the needs of the community. In the beginning, facilitators of a local community learning centre (CLC) talk to community members and encourage them to participate in the literacy courses. This activity takes place in coordination with local women’s unions, youth unions, heads of villages, local schools and the Department of Education and Training (DOET). Programme implementers also organize events, such as literacy days, to raise awareness of the programme. The next step is to survey the local population to evaluate existing levels of literacy within the community. Besides evaluating participants’ reading and writing levels, the surveys also assess the learning needs and aspirations of respondents. CLC managers and DOET employees then analyze the surveys and develop a tailored learning plan for each community. When designing these learning plans, implementers take the number, gender, age and the religious and ethnic background of learners into consideration. In general, teachers have the freedom to adjust the teaching content and methods to suit the specific needs and situations of learners.

The teaching approach adopted by the programme tries to involve participants actively in the learning process. Facilitators employ literacy teaching methodologies that promote critical thinking and independence. For example, one of the methodologies used is REFLECT (Regenerated Freirean Literacy through Empowering Community Techniques). In addition, facilitators use traditional Vietnamese literacy teaching methods whereby students listen to and imitate the teacher. Facilitators do not want to lecture to participants, but seek rather to actively engage them in the learning process. They facilitate discussion among learners as to how best to address and solve local problems. This helps develop analytical skills and critical thinking, as well as developing life and literacy skills. Literacy and post-literacy classes can also take the form of on-the-job training. For example, facilitators organize classes on fertilizer application techniques outside in the fields.


Programme Structure and Process

The programme is split into five grades. Completing one grade usually takes around three months. Therefore, completing the entire literacy and post-literacy programme takes 15 months. The average number of learners per group is between 20 and 30. If there are not enough learners to fill all the places at one grade, facilitators will usually arrange multi-grade classes. Literacy training sometimes also takes place on an individual basis.

The literacy programme is divided into literacy and post-literacy phases. The literacy phase lasts from grade one to grade three, while the post-literacy phase takes place in grades four and five of the programme. The curriculum is designed progressively to move learners from being able to read and write to acquiring life skills. After completing the programme, learners have the possibility of going on to further education. In line with the tailored approach of the Vietnamese CLC programme, the curriculum is adapted to the socio-economic background of learners and to the needs of the local community. For example, in communities with high traffic accident rates, participants learn about traffic laws and ways to protect themselves from traffic accidents. The teaching materials are literacy and primary education textbooks. The Continuing Education Department (CED) was responsible for developing the textbooks, which were approved by the MOET. Other learning materials are sometimes jointly developed by local DOETs, partner organizations, programme facilitators and heads of villages. One example is the manual about cow farming techniques developed by Hoa Binh DOET and Action Aid. Another is a textbook on pig farming developed by Hoa Binh DOET and UNESCO Hanoi. Programme facilitators use statistical software called ‘Education Statistic-Combat Illiteracy’ (see and CLC management software ( to administer the programme. Both databases are accessible to the public and provide information on literacy arranged by gender, age, year, and region as well as by the number of CLCs. Facilitators use computers with internet access to conduct classes on agriculture and science.

Using the available textbooks, facilitators teach the following subjects: Vietnamese, mathematics, society and nature, science, and history and geography. Courses aimed particularly at women and minority groups include the following: human rights, gender equality, health (specifically preventive health, HIV/AIDS, nutrition and hygiene) and parenting. Other topics covered by the programme are environmental protection, sustainable agriculture and economics.



Facilitators need to have at least a high-school degree. There are between 20 and 25 learners to each facilitator. Full-time and part-time employees are mainly primary school teachers and border guard personnel from the People Mobilization Division of the Border Guard Command. In addition, union members, retirees and university students also support teaching. They receive salaries and are compensated for any overtime they work. Some facilitators are unpaid volunteers. These are mainly university students and students from boarding schools for ethnic minorities. All facilitators receive a course of training before they start teaching. The content of their training includes literacy, post-literacy and adult teaching methodologies. They are also trained in the programme curriculum, as well as in its monitoring and evaluation. The CED provides training at the national level, while local DOETs also provide courses at the local level.


Monitoring and Evaluation

The monitoring and evaluation process consists of several components. First, every community that runs a CLC establishes an organizing committee to monitor the implementation of the programme. These committees evaluate awareness-raising, participant mobilization, organization and teaching components. Second, local DOETs conduct quarterly reports on programme implementation. Twice a year, in May and November, the DOETs send reports to the CED which then collects and analyzes the data. To supplement these reports, CED employees conduct field visits to CLCs to understand how implementation looks on the ground. In June each year, the data is presented and discussed at a meeting of CED specialists and the board of directors. At the end of the meeting, CLCs who fared particularly well receive awards, while CLCs that need improvement are notified.

Local DOETs also assess the outcome of the CLC programme by examining achievements and lessons learned during the year. Every two years, workshops take place at central, provincial and district levels to review past experiences and implement changes. CLCs also keep track of the number of people who complete the literacy phase and those who go on to the post-literacy phase.


Accreditation Mechanisms

After completing the literacy phase (grades one to three), participants take a test. After passing this test, learners are eligible to continue with the post-literacy phase (grades four to five) of the programme. Upon completion of all five grades, learners take a final test supervised by the local DOET. The test results determine whether participants are eligible to pursue further secondary education. The test assesses the capacity of participants to read and write. In addition, their maths ability and their knowledge of nature, science, society and human rights are tested.


Impact and Challenges

Impact and Achievements

The following table gives the number of literacy and post-literacy learners by year since inception.

YearNumber of literacy learnersNumber of post-literacy learnersTotal
2009 30,765 26,022 56,787
2010 30,171 24,910 55,081
2011 29,469 22,003 51,472
2012 19,910 15,922 35,832
2013 21,973 17,797 39,770
2009–2013 132,288 106,654 238,942

Source: National literacy report 2013, MOET

Out of the more than 130,000 literacy learners who have taken part in the programme, 82% were women. Similarly, 80% of the 106,000-plus post-literacy learners were women. In general, slightly more than four-fifths of learners (81%) who pass the literacy phase continue with the post-literacy phase. The substantial number of programme participants contributes to improving literacy rates in Vietnam. The proportion of illiterate people in the population fell from 6% in 2009 to 1.75% in 2013. The illiteracy rate among ethnic minorities dropped from 22.87% in 2004 to 5.6% in 2013. The education gender gap also seems to have narrowed, with the number of illiterate women exceeding the number of illiterate men by around 0.75% in 2013.

In addition to improving literacy rates, the programme also helped individuals improve their life and social skills. It reduces hunger by teaching participants how to best use fertilizers, how to raise livestock and how to use environmental resources responsibly. Participants also learn how to generate income and improve their living conditions. The programme therefore also played a part in reducing the nationwide percentage of poor households to 7.6% in 2013, down from 11.4% in 2009.

With regard to female empowerment, the programme managed to improve the status of women within their communities. According to figures released by the General Statistics Office of Vietnam, incidences of domestic violence were reduced by around 50%, from 12,527 reported cases in 2009 to 5,164 reported cases in 2013. The programme also induced women to take on more active roles in their communities.

One feature that drives the successful implementation of a CLC programme is that the local CLC manager is usually also the head of the village. This helps to tailor the programme to the needs of the community and promotes engagement among the local population.


Challenges and Sustainability

One challenge of the programme is to ensure that facilitators have the capability to teach adult literacy programmes. For example, facilitators sometimes need to know minority languages and they need to be able to understand and relate to learners from different social and economic backgrounds. Another challenge is limited funding from government, which can make it difficult to provide support to participants while they are taking the programme, for example by providing them with goods such as rice and clothing. Another challenge concerns the attitude of people in rural communities to education. Typically, they attach less importance to it, a factor which, together with bad weather and poor infrastructure, can make it difficult to engage people to participate in the programme.

Political and financial support from the Vietnamese government ensures the sustainability of the programme. Furthermore, local governments also support the programme by providing the infrastructure and assistance needed to implement it. The programme’s sustainability is also supported by donor organizations such as the World Bank, UNESCO and World Vision.


Lessons Learned

One issue programme implementers have to face is that participants’ literacy skills sometimes diminish over time. This is especially true of participants who opt not to complete the post-literacy phase. Facilitators attribute this to the traditional teaching method whereby participants passively learn literacy skills by imitating the teacher. To solve this problem, the teaching method is slowly changing to more actively involve learners in the teaching process. In addition, programme implementers realized that simply teaching participants how to write, read and count is insufficient to enable learners to remember the learning content. As a result, facilitators have started to put more emphasis on teaching learners how to apply the skills in their everyday life and income-generating activities.




Tong Lien Anh
Specialist, Continuing Education Department, Ministry of Education and Training
49 Dai Co Viet Street, Hai Bà Trung District, Hanoi City,
Telephone/Fax: (+84) 988 867 866
Email: tlanh (at)