Vietnam’s History

In order to fully understand Vietnam’s educational history, it is important to keep in mind the history of the country itself. Vietnam was a French colony for a few hundred years; the French colonization, coupled with Portugese, British, Japanese and Chinese influences, has deeply influenced the country’s education. To adequately portray the relationship of colonization and education in Vietnam, I’ll first give an overview of Vietnamese history, and then explain how education fits in and has been shaped through the various periods of colonization.

To read about Vietnam’s history of education, click here

"Golden Afternoon" Painting by Hai Thinh

“Golden Afternoon” Painting by Hai Thinh

Early History

According to a country profile written in 1996 by MD Pamela Laborde, Vietnam was first developped thanks to the cultivation of rice (Vietnam is the second largest rice exporter in the world, second to Thailand). The region was split into three small countries. Northern Vietnam was dominated by the Chinese. The middle state, Champa, and the southern state, Funan, were both Indian influenced. In 1407 the Chinese took over Champa, and it became a part of North Vietnam. The remaining state of Funan remained independant of the Chinese rule, taking on the title of ” South Vietnam”.  North Vietnam was under Chinese rule until 1428 when they were driven out by Le Loi, who then became Emperor of Vietnam.

In the 18th century, the Nguyen family took over power of Northern Vietnam, and united North Vietnam with Champa, creating one kindgom in the North. Throughout this time, beginning in the 16th century, the Portugese reached Vietnam by sea and their missionaries built Dominican, Jesuit, and Roman Catholic churches, influencing the values of the Vietnamese (Lambert, 2012).


French Colonization

Capture of Lang Son by french Army in february 1885-photo from wikipedia

Capture of Lang Son by french Army in february 1885-photo from wikipedia

The French influence in Vietnam began in the 17th century, when a French missionary found a way to fit the Roman alphabet into the Vietnamese language and design a new writing style, “quoc ngu” (LaBorde, 1996). The French slowly increased their influence over the language and culture, gaining power of North Vietnam in stages. By 1887, North Vietnam became a French colony along with Laos and Cambodia to create the French Indochina. The French lost power to Japan, then Britain, then China during World War II, and regained control after the war when Ho Chi Minh, a descendant of the Nguyen family who became president of the Communist regine in Vietnam, signed a treaty to replace the Chinese troops with French one because France promised to recognize Vietnam as a “free state”(Lambert, 2012).

The French did not follow through with their promise to Ho Chi Minh, which sparked an 8-year guerrilla war between North Vietnam and the French. Finally Minh was able to surround the French army and forced them to surrender in 1954. Both sides met at the Geneva Conference to end the War (Lambert, 2012).


The Vietnam War

Photo taken from

Photo taken from

Ho Chi Minh made plans to unite North and South Vietnam under the Communist regime in 1959 (LaBorde,1996). The north began a guerrilla war against the south. Gradually the US became involved in the war, first by finanically supporting South Vietnam, and eventually by sending troops to bomb the north.

Photo from

Photo from

By December 1965 there were 183,000 US soldiers fighting with South Vietnam against the north (Lambert, 2012). By 1967 nearly half of these soldiers were killed, forcing the US to withdraw and leave South Vietnam to fight alone. In early 1975 the South Vietnamese Resistance fell and the country was united under Communist rule (Lambert, 2012).



Information from:

“A Brief History of Vietnam”. Local Histories.

“Vietnamese Cultural Profile”. Ehnomed.