Decentralization of Educational Management in Vietnam
The main part of this study is undertaken as a case study, in which four Departments of Edu-cation and Training in four chosen case provinces and three different international develop-ment organizations have been interviewed in order to analyze the actual state of decentraliza-tion of education in Vietnam. The first section presents the methodology used and the impor-tance of the study. The second section gives a theoretical background to the political structure in Vietnam and some background information to the chosen case provinces. The third and the fourth sections provide the interviews with the Departments of Education and Training and the international development organizations.
This thesis has been written as a Minior Field Study (MFS), sponsored by the Swedish Interna-tional Development Agency (Sida). The requirements set by Sida for a MFS-thesis are that the thesis has to be written in a developing country in cooperation with a local organization.
The research environment in developing countries is always different from the research environ-ment in the developed world. The different research environment requires the chosen methodol-ogy to carefully take in consideration constrains that the new research environment imposes. However, this is a fine line, since the chosen methodology is still required to keep academic qual-ity. The research environment that this thesis has been undertaken in, i.e., the communistic one-party state of Vietnam, has imposed difficult constrains for the methodology used for this thesis. The methodology has been balancing on this fine line between political constrains on the aca-demic freedom and the requirements of academic quality; this has been a difficult balance and has imposed serious problems for the methodology used.
As all research, this thesis is to a large extent based on secondary sources. The theoretical part, that is not country-specific, has been based on a number of sources written by academics and presented as papers or reports at international academic institutions or from international devel-opment organizations. The quality of these sources has to be seen as reliable, and the combina-tion of different sources assures that more than one view of the current subject is presented. The methodological problem has been to find country-specific secondary sources that hold academic quality. The main part of secondary sources presented on Public Administrative Reforms (PAR) in Vietnam has been published by Vietnamese academics under supervision of the communistic party of Vietnam. These secondary sources have often been written in poor English, which fur-ther decreases the academic quality. I have as far as possible tried to avoid these secondary sources; however, it has not always been possible. The section that illuminates the public admin-istrative reforms in Vietnam has to a large part been based upon the PAR-evolution that was done under the initiative of the communistic party of Vietnam, with help of international organi-zations. Even though, the academic quality of these reports is relatively low I have chosen to present them since they represent the official view of the administrative reforms. This view is of special interest since it is this view that is communicated from the central government to the provinces and the districts. In order to increase the academic quality of this section, and in order to validate its findings, secondary sources on this section written by more reliable sources, as far as they have been available, have been used. The validation done by interviews has also focused on the public administrative reforms in order to illuminate if the content of the secondary sources presented by the communistic party of Vietnam responds to the view of the international organizations present in Vietnam. The conclusion from these interviews is that the PAR-evolution to a large extant corresponds to the view on the public administrative reforms of the international organizations interviewed.
What shall be mentioned is that the language barrier imposes academic problems since I have only been able to use secondary sources that are written in Swedish or English. Since the host country of my study has been Vietnam, this has excluded a number of potential secondary sources. However, this problem has not been possible to solve, given the time and budget con-strains of this thesis.
This thesis is done as a case study, as Stake points out; case studies always run the risk of becom-ing biased.116 This is especially true in Vietnam where the academic freedom is very limited. The selection of case objectives has in this thesis been done as a two step selection. The first step was to identify provinces with poor educational outcomes. This was done in order to select cases that were rich of information. Wiklund points to the importance to choose cases that are information-rich and from which more important conclusions of the research question can be made than an average case.117 The methodology used to identify provinces with poor educational outcomes, described in the next section, ensures that this requirement is met. The second step of the selec-tion was to choose provinces that were accessible. In the selection process I was totally depend-ent on the help of my host-organization, i.e., Save the Children Sweden. The political situation, together with the poor infrastructure made some interesting provinces inaccessible. Together with Save the Children Sweden four provinces were identified which met the requirements of accessibility and information richness. The provinces chosen are spread geographically within Vietnam, and also represent a mix between rural and urban areas. This selection increases the probability of conclusions that can be drawn which are more information-rich than from a ran-domly selection of provinces. The sample-size of four cases is relative small. Vietnam has 61 provinces, which results in that the sample-size represents 6.5 per cent of the provinces in Viet-nam. This sample-size is relatively small, however, given the time-constrains it has not been pos-sible to increase the sample-size. The relatively small sample-size results in that the conclusions can not be seen as representative for the whole country. However, the selection methodology used increases the importance of the study, and hopefully provides important information about decentralization of education in Vietnam.
I was required to send my interview questions in advance, translated into Vietnamese, to the Min-istry of Education and Training in Hanoi (MoET). The questions were approved by the MoET and sent to the Departments of Education and Training (DoET) where my interviews took place. This process decreases the academic quality of the answers given, since the MoET has been able to give directives how the questions should be answered. In order to decrease this bias, I always tried to make the interviews semi-structured. This semi-structured design leads to that all respon-dents answer the same type of questions, but at the same time it gives space to a free discussion in which the respondents have a chance to address their own opinions about the topic.118 The semi-structured format helped to get the interviews more personal and focused, however, the tight political control, and the awareness of what information that could be presented were al-ways present in the interviews.
Mikkelsen claims that all development studies are connected with expectations of later interven-tions, which can create reasons for the interviewees to present incorrect answers.119 It was obvious for all participants from the beginning that my research was not connected with any devel-opment program, and could not result in any money transfers or development projects in the province. This can hypothetically been an advantage for me, seen from the perspective of aca-demic quality, since no interviewees had an economic incentive to present incorrect answers. However, the political incentive to present incorrect answers was still present; this was especially obvious in Ho Chi Minh City where my interview was observed by a person from the Depart-ment of Foreign Affairs who spoke both English and Vietnamese. Given the requirement of aca-demic freedom, this is unacceptable. However; without this person present, I would not been given permission to do my interview. This is the most obvious case in my study where the re-quirement of academic freedom has been weighted against accessibility. In the case of HCMC, I chose to go ahead with the interview; however, less importance for the conclusion has been given the interview in HCMC.
To conduct studies in a country, in which you do not speak the native language, always impose a problem. Most preferable is to learn the native language120; however, given the short time-period (two months) of the case study, this has been impossible. In order to conduct my interviews I was forced to use an interpreter. To work with an interpreter always increases the risk of infor-mation-bias, since the message has to be decoded. During my studies I used two interpreters, preferable had been to only use one since the risk of bias in the interpretation would have been reduced. However, this was not possible. The interviews done as validation with the international development organizations were done in English.
Given the methodological constrains; the framework of academic freedom during the interviews can be questioned. In order to try to solve this problem this thesis presents three interviews with international development organizations and institutions in order to validate the findings of the case studies. The validation interviews did not solve all the bias problems of the case studies, but reduced this problem.
The methodology used in this case study has been a balance between academic quality and acces-sibility. By providing an extensive theoretical background and to conduct validation interviews, efforts have been made in order to increase the academic quality.
2 Decentralization –a Theoretical Framework
2.1 Public Decentralization
2.2 Decentralization of Education
2.3 Ineffective Organization of Educational Management
3 Decentralization of Educational Management in Vietnam
3.2 Political Structure in Vietnam
3.3 Decentralization of Education in Vietnam
3.4 The chosen Case Provinces
4 Results from the Case Provinces
4.1 Son La
4.3 Ho Chi Minh City
4.4 Ca Mau
5 The International Development Organizations’ View on Decentralization
5.1 The UNDP
5.2 The CIDA
5.3 The World Bank
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Decentralization of Educational Management in Vietnam