The Vietnam School Readiness Promotion Project launched on September 19 aims to raise school readiness for five-year-old children from disadvantaged groups and ethnic minorities.

Improving education outcomes for the population is an important part of Vietnam's economic and social development agenda, and has been defined as one of the three breakthrough areas in its Socio-Economic Development Strategy for 2011-2020.

Investing in early childhood education is a key step towards building high quality human resources as Vietnam strives to become a modern, industrialised market economy.

"Overwhelming evidence from around the world shows that many of the thinking and language skills as well as social and behavioral skills are formed in the early years of a child's life," said Xiaoqing Yu, human development sector director for the World Bank in East Asia and the Pacific region.

"If you want to make education more equitable, if you want to enhance everyone's chances to take advantage from Vietnam's growing economy, if you want to tackle poverty, early childhood development and education is one of your most promising tools."

According to a survey introduced at the launch, about half of Vietnam's five-year-olds are at risk of lacking at least one area of skill needed to start schooling.

The Early Development Instrument survey, conducted by the Ministry of Education and Training, Russia Education Aid for Development, Canada's Offord Institute and the World Bank, also shows that the percentage of children not ready for school is highest in children of ethnic minorities and of disadvantaged backgrounds.

The project is designed to address this problem by raising school readiness for children entering primary education, through supporting selected elements of Vietnam's national programme on "Universal Early Childhood Education for 5 year old Children 2010-2015" (Decision 239).

The project supports efforts to expand full-day pre-school enrollments, improve capacity for pre-school quality assurance and strengthen professional expertise of teachers and principals.

The funding of 100 million USD for this project comes from the International Development Association, the World Bank's concessional lending arm for poor countries.-VNA