Ghana and Vietnam are classified by the World Bank as lower-middle-income countries with similar levels of Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, but they are very different in many respects. One area where the contrast of cultures is most pronounced is in the field of education, as Ghana has derived an essentially Western system from its British colonial past, while Vietnamese education has more in common with China. However, they share a common factor: insufficient resources to meet the aspirations of most people.
Both countries place a lot of emphasis on teaching English. According to the Accra Institute of Linguistics, Ghana has around sixty vernacular languages and has therefore adopted English as the official national language. All teaching in schools is conducted in English, but most Ghanaians have a vernacular mother tongue and English is a second language for them. Vietnam has an almost universally spoken national language that is used to conduct all business and administration in the country, and its interest in English is communicating with the world community. As in Ghana, English is a second language, but as it is used only to converse with foreigners, it is only fluently spoken by a minority of adults who need English for this purpose International School in Ghana.
Progress in education in both countries largely depends on the wealth and social position of the parents. In Ghana, academic advancement generally involves direct incentives for teachers to progress students through their exams, but in Vietnam the process is more subtle. Teachers persuade parents that extra lessons outside of school are essential and charge high fees for providing them. This system, while equally unfair to children from poor families, at least has the advantage of ensuring that students who pass their exams have actually received additional instruction and are more likely to possess the knowledge necessary to benefit from higher education.
The Chinese education system is known for preparing students to pass exams and Asian children regularly score the highest in international academic competitions. Vietnamese students perform as well as their Chinese counterparts. In schools in England, it is well known that Chinese and Vietnamese children, as well as Indians, achieve the highest grades, followed by Europeans, with children of African origin lagging behind.
Children in Ghana have the same laid-back attitude towards education that their parents have for work. They are not subjected to the long hours of extra study endured by the children of wealthier parents in Vietnam. It was once said that childhood is the happiest time in life. This may still be true for children in Ghana, but in Vietnam, at least among aspiring middle-class families, childhood has become a time of stress and anxiety. Parents are aware of this, but feel compelled to push their children through the system that exists and cannot be changed. They may be comforted to realize that no country has yet devised a completely fair and efficient educational system that painlessly prepares all citizens for the role they have chosen in adult life.