Insight Note

Learning Environments under COVID-Induced School Closures: Evidence from Vietnam

Key Points

  • Data collected from Vietnam in the second half of 2020 show how households and educational institutions responded to school closures between February and April of 2020.
  • About 95 percent of principals from a representative sample of 134 primary schools indicate that they made arrangements for students to learn while schools were closed. Nearly 75 percent of schools report sending and collecting materials online, and 52 percent recorded or livestreamed lessons via apps such as Zoom or Google Meet.
  • A majority of schools report that educational services were provided either daily (32.1 percent) or more than once a week (36.6 percent).
  • However, in contrast to interviews with school principals, only 69 percent of parents report that their child’s school provided any learning arrangements during the closure.
  • School disruptions were felt differently across the household wealth distribution: 80 percent of parents in the top quartile report that their child’s school made arrangements while only 57 percent of parents at the bottom quartile do so.
  • Differential access to information technology as well as children’s time use are potential determinants of learning disparities that may emerge as result of the school closures that occurred in 2020.


Image of Kenn Chua

Kenn Chua

MPC Minnesota Population Centre, University of Minnesota

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the education of  over 1.5 billion students globally. A majority of students  live in countries where schools were either fully closed  or were operational only through remote access. As  school disruptions are likely to have lasting impacts on  children’s human capital accumulation, data documenting  how schools and households have adapted to this new  learning environment have the potential to provide  information on how to curb the adverse effects of school  closures on children’s educational progress.

Using a telephone survey, the RISE Vietnam country  research team (CRT) collected data from 134 school  principals from a nationally representative sample of 140  primary schools (a response rate of 95.7 percent). A  telephone survey was also conducted of 2,389 parents  of Grade 3 and 4 students enrolled in these 140 primary  schools; this survey covers all 140 schools, with an  average of 17 parents per school. Principals were asked  what schools did to provide instruction while schools  were closed in early 2020, while parents were interviewed  regarding children’s weekday activities as well as the types  of instruction the children received during this period. The  telephone interviews with school principals and parents  were conducted between July and September of 2020.

In 2020, Vietnam was in many ways an outlier in that it flattened its epidemic curve early in that year, thereby allowing  schools to reopen as early as May 4, 2020—roughly three months after schools were first directed to shut down.  Vietnam’s schools continued to stay open and ended its 2019-2020 school year towards the end of June. While the  period of school closure in Vietnam was brief, the country’s example may provide lessons for other nations that faced,  and are still facing, the educational consequences of the pandemic.

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Chua, K. and Glewwe, P. 2023. Learning Environments Under COVID-induced School Closures: Evidence from Vietnam. 2023/056.