Institute for Educational Science, Justus-Liebig University, Gießen


Education in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam between Class Politics and Nation Building: The Case of the School for Complementary Education to Central Workers and Peasants


From the 1920s onwards the establishment of a modern nation-state had been the goal of Vietnamese anti-colonialists. The Political Programme of the Communist Party, adopted in October 1930, stressed educational and cultural development as a means to establish a new state.

In line with the united front approach pursued by the Party, the Viet Minh’s educational policies aimed at broad anti-illiteracy campaigns and general education from 1945 on. However, after the Communist victory in China in 1949, the Viet Minh increasingly departed from its united-front line and put more emphasis on land reform and class issues. In 1952, Ho Chi Minh called for increased attention to peasants in education. This formed part of an attempt to replace the united-front approach with a more class-based approach and to win over the peasantry after the Viet Minh had previously ignored land-reform to some degree. From 1953, topics like class struggle and socialist ideology were increasingly incorporated in school teaching curricula.

The Geneva Accords of 1954 provided the Vietnamese Workers’ Party with the opportunity to expand its educational system throughout the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) established in the north of Vietnam; curricula increasingly incorporated patriotic and socialist themes promoting the twin policy to build socialism in the DRV and to defeat the Republic of Vietnam in the South. Thus, one the one hand, the new educational system promoted special attention in education to workers and peasants and was perceived by Party leaders as a means for class. On the other hand, it was intended to solve pressing issues in the establishment and consolidation of the new state by producing qualified graduates who would take up important positions and functions in the administration and the economy.

The tensions between these two functions become clearly visible in the School for Complimentary Education to Central Workers and Peasants. Set up in 1956 with the twin goal to prepare workers and peasants for higher education and to create a group of “core cadres” for leading positions in the party and the state, the school existed until 1964. The current presentation follows the history of the school to show how educational policies dealt with such tensions. In addition, it traces Soviet and Chinese influences on the school and draws parallels to similar educational institutions in other socialist countries.

The author’s work is part of the DFG funded project “Globalization of an Educational Idea: Workers’ Faculties in Cuba, Mozambique, and Vietnam”, at the Institute for Educational Science, Justus-Liebig-University Gießen. The presentation draws on archival research and semi-structured interviews carried out in Hanoi between February and May 2014.