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How can education experts from other sides of the world learn from one another to improve teaching practices in their diverse classrooms? VVOB and long-term structural partner Catholic Education Flanders* are collaborating with a group of education officers, school leaders and teachers in Vietnam to improve the country’s professional development system for preschool teachers. First, the group visited the Flemish preschool system on an exposure visit, after which representatives from Catholic Education Flanders did the same in Vietnam.

Enhancing children’s learning

Over 92 per cent of Vietnamese 3-to-5-year old children attend preschool. As a next step, the government is now focusing on improving the quality of education and addressing discrepancies in developmental outcomes.


A key strategy employed is the promotion of active teaching and learning to enhance children’s learning in preschools. To achieve this, the Vietnamese government has invested significantly in in-service teacher professional development (TPD).


VVOB and Catholic Education Flanders support this strengthening of the current TPD system in 22 disadvantaged and ethnically diverse districts in central Vietnam. Teachers are stimulated to reflect on their practices in the classroom and to exchange with their colleagues on process-oriented child monitoring.


In a normal workweek, Gerda Bruneel and Ingrid Van den Hout, education advisors with Catholic Education Flanders, support teachers and school leaders in their daily work, based on the needs identified by the teachers themselves. But in March, they spent an intense period with Vietnamese educational officers at provincial and district level. First in Belgium, then in Vietnam.

It’s important to constantly reflect on our own daily practice in Flanders. By experiencing a completely different system first-hand, we learnt a lot about our own
Gerda Bruneel, Catholic Education Flanders


And this proved to be a two-way street.


Shortly after the Vietnamese delegation visited Flanders, they met Gerda and Ingrid again, this time in Vietnam. They visited preschools and explored the working context of Vietnamese preschool teachers, their practices and their needs.


They brought back valuable lessons and experiences from their visit to the Vietnamese system too: “It’s important to constantly reflect on our own daily practice in Flanders. By experiencing a completely different system first-hand, we learnt a lot about our own. We don’t really realise how context-specific it actually is, and at the same time how much characteristics it shares with other systems around the world”, Gerda says.


Ingrid remembers: “Teachers and school leaders were so eager to learn, share and observe. It was really nice seeing how open-minded they were.”

The Vietnamese delegation shared what they considered important for their reality in Vietnam, such as having a daily timeline. This is especially useful for children with special needs
Ingrid Van den Hout, Catholic Education Flanders

Tailored support

Gerda and Ingrid also sat in on a first workshop on effective TPD led by VVOB. They listened to what the educational officers had picked up from their visit to Flanders:


“They shared what they considered important for their reality in Vietnam such as having a daily timeline: a good practice through which children learn what the steps of the day are. In the context of children with special needs, this is especially useful”, Ingrid points out.


Gerda gives another example: “They saw how we in Flanders use corner work in classrooms. They’re discussing the idea and thinking about how to apply it.”


It’s clear that these exchanges have informed Catholic Education Flanders on the needs of teachers, school leaders and education officers in Vietnam. “We will now cluster them and offer support tailored to their specific needs. Just like we do in Flanders”, Gerda promises.


Together with Catholic Education Flanders and its other structural partners in Vietnam, KdG and the Center for Diversity and Learning, VVOB pushes forward with is assistance to the Departments of Education and Training to make education beneficial and equitable for all.


* Catholic Education Flanders is a network organisation of catholic schools (kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, special needs schools, boarding schools, vocational schools, schools for adult education, higher education plus the university of Leuven) in Flanders and the Brussels region.

Ingrid and Gerda visiting our local VVOB team in Vietnam