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LESSONS:

Upper Secondary Education Development Project

sector: Education | country: Viet Nam, Socialist Republic of

1. There was some concern that the feasibility study report prepared by Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), which was the official appraisal document on the government side, was not sufficiently consistent with the report and recommendation of the President. Considerable discrepancies between the two key documents, due to limited communication between MOET and the project preparatory technical assistance (TA) consultants, were observed. As government agencies, including the state treasury, preferred to use the feasibility study report in reviewing and processing documents submitted by the national project implementation unit, the inconsistencies often hindered timely implementation. TA consultants should be formally required to work out issues with the government before submitting any report to avoid such discrepancies.

2. The project could have avoided some implementation difficulties had the project manager been appointed earlier and assisted with the design of project details. Compared with the size of the project, the consultant services package was too small. The national project implementation unit (NPIU) had to take on too much of the work. While this helped in its Capacity Development, the NPIU was observed at times to have difficulty finding technically qualified staff to implement project activities that were not fully supported by the loan implementation consultants because of their limited contracts. This problem was pointed out to the government and the latter has agreed to a larger consulting service input for recently approved loan projects to ensure their timely and high-quality implementation. The NPIU must also be structured better so that suitably qualified staff are identified and appointed earlier in the process and the timing of external consulting support is better matched with project timelines.

3. Positive outcomes in terms of cost and quality were associated with using market prices in cost estimates for civil works and involving local communities in the management of works. This fact was appreciated by the government, which valued ADB’s flexibility in this aspect of the project’s operation. Escalation of civil works costs has been a major delaying factor in numerous ADB-funded projects in Viet Nam. In this project, however, Ministry of Education and Training and ADB had agreed from the start to use market prices in the cost estimates for construction contracts, so the national project implementation unit never encountered any unexpected overrun in civil works costs.

Lessons from Validation

Viet Nam: Upper Secondary Education Development

This validation generally agrees with the lessons detailed in the project completion report (PCR). Some are well known from the past experiences of ADB. One of these is the need for the project manager to be appointed early to assist with the detailed design of project. The size of the consultant services package should correspond to the size and complexity of the work required in a project, otherwise, the project implementing unit will not be able to cope nor will it gain as much capacity development as was intended. In this project, there were areas where a lack of expertise within various PPIUs, especially in financial reporting and information technology, caused difficulties. Similarly, more attention to the pre-project training of project staff may prove to be a worthwhile initial investment of time and funds.

Engaging local communities in school-improvement activities allowed for much better linkages with local contexts. Likewise, the flexibility of the new curricula’s component that took account of the regional and/or local context, particularly for ethnic groups, was important. Involving local communities in managing civil works may also be extended to other areas of school operations. For example, having teacher and school management training to occur within local schools could result in engaging high-performing leaders and local managers as trainers. This strategy is being used successfully in other countries with consultant input being brought in to work with local practitioners.

The development of an education management information system has significantly improved planning as program effectiveness and efficiency can be monitored and more strategic decisions can be made in allocating resources according to identified needs. In addition, the research-based pilot studies on school management and decentralization yielded good preliminary insights on how to effectively apply the principles of school-based management of upper secondary education (USE) at the local level. Other project pilot studies such as school mapping were not as successful, but it seems that pilot studies are a worthwhile project subcomponent as they map a path for introducing innovations and for building capacity within local agencies to undertake meaningful applied research.

The PCR also identified a lesson that suggested project preparatory technical assistance (PPTA) consultants to coordinate closely with the government agencies to ensure compatibility of project design with the sector strategy of the government. This, however, is a standard operating procedure, yet it is often taken for granted.

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