English language proficiency and the Education system in Vietnam

If you’re considering building an outsourced team in Vietnam, you’re probably wondering how you bridge the language barrier and what the Vietnamese education system is like?


The good news is that there is no language barrier. Vietnamese schools offer English as a compulsory requirement for all students from year 3 all the way through to university. Historically, the government committed to achieving 80% English proficiency among university graduates by 2020. In the context of this commitment, ‘English Proficiency’ means the ability to communicate effectively in English and understand complex texts, both orally and in writing. This has made sourcing an outsourced team in Vietnam climb higher in the ranks than ever before.


outsourced team in Vietnam


English Proficiency is commonly assessed using the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or The International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Both of these exams are universal and are one of the requirements international students need to successfully complete in order to obtain University places in Australia. This highlights the importance the Vietnamese Government places on English Language education. This is particularly the case for those workers who aspire to work in industries such as Business Process Outsourcing or other international areas where English is the primary language. Couple this with the fact that workers within the outsourcing industry are working with English speaking clients and are, therefore, constantly practicing and refining their skills. It is not a case of learning a skill throughout their education that is not applied and is then forgotten.

The Government’s focus on English Language education does not stand in isolation. According to a 2019 Deloitte report, The strategy has been credited, in part, for the 20%-25% annual growth rate of the country’s outsourcing industry. Combine this with the fact that Vietnam’s outsourcing industry has strict recruitment policies pertaining to English Language proficiency and you can be all but guaranteed that your Vietnam-based outsourced team will have no worries communicating with your local team.


Other indicators of English Language Proficiency all seem to agree; That Vietnam is focused on improving in this area. Take a look at these results:

The 2022 EF English Language Proficiency Index ranks Vietnam at 60, which puts it in the moderate proficiency category. That puts it in front of countries like Mexico, Israel and China and only a few places behind Brazil and India. Of course, other outsourcing locations are well in front of Vietnam for example:


  • South Africa at 12; and

  • The Philippines at 22.


outsourced team in Vietnam


Of course English is the most commonly spoken language in South Africa and it is one of two official languages of The Philippines. So naturally you would expect them to rank higher than a country such as Vietnam. The other consideration with Indexes such as this one is that the pool of respondents are not chosen by the testing body. That is to say, that test results are compiled via an online tool that anybody can access for free in order to gain an understanding of their own English skills. We will happily posit that if only Vietnamese Outsourcing workers completed the EF English Language Proficiency Test then Vietnam’s results would be much higher!


At the end of the day, if you are considering building an outsourced team in Vietnam you need to partner with a high quality, professional outsourcing provider who screens talent well, with a focus on English Language Proficiency. You need to be clear in your recruitment requirements and work with your provider every step of the way.


If you are interested in learning more about the pros and cons of the various outsourcing locations around the world and how Vietnam compares to them, contact our friendly team today!


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Frequently Asked Questions

1. How does the Vietnamese education system integrate English language education from primary school to university, and what specific strategies does the government employ to ensure English proficiency among students?

The Vietnamese education system mandates English language education from year 3 of primary school all the way through university, making it a compulsory requirement for all students. The government has historically aimed for an 80% English proficiency rate among university graduates by 2020. This commitment to English proficiency is reinforced through standardised tests like the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and The International English Language Testing System (IELTS), which are requirements for international students seeking university placements in Australia. Additionally, the outsourcing industry, particularly in areas like Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), emphasises English proficiency due to its relevance in communicating with English-speaking clients. The combination of formal education and practical application within the outsourcing industry ensures continuous improvement and refinement of English language skills among Vietnamese workers.

2. Apart from standardised tests like TOEFL and IELTS, what other methods or initiatives does Vietnam use to assess and enhance English language proficiency, particularly among workers in industries such as Business Process Outsourcing?

Beyond standardised tests, Vietnam employs various methods and initiatives to assess and enhance English language proficiency. These include English language training programs, language immersion experiences, and extracurricular activities focused on English communication and comprehension. Moreover, the government may support initiatives such as English language competitions, workshops, and exchange programs to provide additional opportunities for language development. BPO companies often offer in-house language training and support for employees to further enhance their English skills, recognising the importance of effective communication in servicing international clients. By employing a combination of formal education, practical training, and extracurricular activities, Vietnam aims to foster a highly proficient English-speaking workforce capable of meeting the demands of the global market.

3. While Vietnam’s focus on English language education has contributed to the growth of its outsourcing industry, what challenges, if any, does the country face in maintaining and further improving English proficiency levels among its workforce?

Despite Vietnam’s efforts to promote English proficiency, challenges remain in maintaining and further improving language skills among its workforce. These challenges may include disparities in educational resources and opportunities, particularly in rural areas where access to quality English language education may be limited. Additionally, while standardised tests like the EF English Language Proficiency Index provide insights into overall proficiency levels, they may not fully capture the nuanced language abilities required for specific industries like BPO. As Vietnam’s outsourcing industry continues to grow and diversify, ongoing investment in English language education and training programs, as well as collaboration between government, educational institutions, and businesses, will be essential to address these challenges and ensure a highly skilled and proficient workforce capable of competing in the global market.

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