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Human Rights Education in Asian Schools Volume II

Teaching Citizens' Rights and Obligations in Vietnamese Secondary Schools

Nguyen Duc Quang

The study of citizens' rights and obligations is important and given great attention in Vietnamese schools, especially at the secondary level. As future productive members of society, students should know their rights and obligations as citizens, and as members of the community, nation and humankind.

Citizens' rights education is closely linked with citizens' obligations education. Students learn that while they enjoy certain rights, they have to fulfill their obligations to society. Article 51 of the Vietnam Constitution provides: "The rights of citizens are not separated from the obligations of citizens. The state ensures the rights of citizen; the citizens must fulfill their obligations toward the society and the state. The rights and obligations of the citizens are defined by the constitution and law."

If systematically and properly taught, such education will have great impact on society not only immediately, but also in the long run.

Objectives and Content of Citizens' Rights and Obligations Education

Citizens' rights and obligations education has the following objectives:

  • systematically provide knowledge on citizens' rights and obligations in different areas of social life;
  • teach students positive attitudes and feelings toward their rights and obligations;
  • train students to behave properly and develop the habits that will help them enjoy their rights and perform their obligations.


Each nation has its own culture and history, which define its citizens' rights and obligations. As former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali said:

"Although human rights are a common issue among all members of the international community, and each member of the community realizes itself in these issues, each culture has its own way to contribute to the realization of these rights."

In Vietnam, the content of rights and obligations education is as follows.

For lower-secondary school students

  • Concepts relating to citizens, the state, law and relationships among these concepts.
  • Fundamental freedoms and related obligations of the citizens.
  • Citizens' rights and obligations with respect to
    • social order and security;
    • education, culture, science and technology;
    • the economy and labor;
    • participation in the management of the state and society.

For upper secondary school students

Issues are treated more deeply and systematically. Subjects include the following:

  • The Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, with emphasis on citizens' basic rights and obligations with respect to politics, economics, culture, society and education, freedom, democracy.
  • Rights and obligations to work, in civil affairs, in business, relating to land, in marriage and family life, and the obligation to pay taxes and to defend the fatherland.


Civics education

Civics education is concerned with the relationship between

  • ethics and citizens;
  • the economy and citizens;
  • the state machinery and citizens.

It combines traditional methods with modern ones such as lectures, dialogues, training, situation-based debate, value clarification and role-playing.

Extracurricular activities

Extracurricular activities can help in the teaching of citizens' rights and obligations. Examples are:

  • conducting surveys in students' communities on the people's level of awareness of citizens' rights and obligations;
  • visiting historic and cultural sites;
  • helping to protect the environment;
  • organizing contests to spread awareness of citizens' rights and obligations.

However, these activities must accomplish the following:

  • ensure that the content is substantial and attractive;
  • encourage all students to participate;
  • promote students' ability to take care of themselves;
  • induce education agencies to support them.

Methods of Education

Methods of educating students on citizens' rights and obligations must meet certain standards:

  • They must be activity-based and integrate the concepts into the students' lives.
  • They must be learner-centered. They must
    • emphasize what the learners need to learn rather than what the teachers think they need to teach;
    • develop critical thinking;
    • enrich the students' imagination.
  • They must be interdisciplinary. They must
    • help the students know how to use their knowledge of the many subjects related to rights and obligations;
    • help the students avoid judging situations or solving problems superficially or without evidence.
  • They must be participatory. They must
    • require the students to be active, rather than merely listening and reading;
    • guide students so that they do not resort to extreme behavior.


Citizens' rights and obligations education is of both immediate and long-term importance. The following conditions will help us conduct education more effectively:

  • Education administrators at all levels must believe in the importance of citizens' rights and obligations education.
  • The majority of teachers, especially teachers of civics education, should be trained to teach citizens' rights and obligations.
  • Reference materials for students and teachers should be developed.
  • Teaching and learning materials and aids should be available.

Annex A

Lesson 1
Freedom of Belief or Religion

I. Requirements
Help pupils understand that:

  • Having or not having a belief or religion is the right of each person.
  • Nobody is permitted to violate anybody's freedom of belief or religion, or to benefit from it illegally.

II. Suggestions on Content and Methods
1. Every citizen has the right to follow or not follow a belief or religion.

a) Explanation:

What does "Belief" mean?
What does "Religion" mean?
  • Let pupils know that there are different beliefs and religions. To follow or not to follow any belief or religion is the right of each person. No one may violate freedom of religion.
  • A person has the right to change religions.

2. Violating the right to freedom of belief or religion, or benefiting from it illegally is prohibited.

a) This part stresses three points:

  • Teachers help the pupils understand that no one may compel, forbid or hamper exercise of religion, and no one may discriminate against people because of their religion.
  • Places of worship must be respected. Some are of great architectural and cultural value and should be preserved.
  • Belief and religion should be distinguished from superstition. Superstition may result in loss of money or health; it may even cause death.

b) Benefiting illegally from religion is prohibited.

The teacher should underline the following points:

  • All beliefs and religions teach us to live honestly, work for self-improvement and become virtuous by doing good works.
  • People of strong religious belief have made huge contributions to the protection of national independence and nation-building.
  • Some people benefit illegally from freedom of belief or religion and, in fact, harm members of the faith. The teacher should emphasize that there are laws to prevent this and that it is necessary to punish people who profit from it.

3. Freedom of belief or religion must be respected by others.

  • Pupils must remember that customs of worship are a good cultural practice that should be preserved.

Lesson 2
Labor as a Right and Obligation of the Citizen

I. Requirements

  • Labor is the citizen's right. All have the right to work, for themselves, their families and their country.
  • Labor is the citizen's obligation. All have to work to support themselves and their families and to produce material and intellectual wealth for society.

Pupils must learn to respect both manual and intellectual work in every economic sector. They must study hard and follow school rules. They must understand that while the state has employment-generating projects, citizens must also create or seek employment for themselves.

II. Preparation
Teachers should study the employment situation in their schools, how labor is drawn into various economic sectors, as well as data on unemployment in other countries, for example.

III. Suggestions for Content and Methods
1. Labor is the citizen's right.

To make pupils aware of the right to work in a multisectoral market economy, the teacher divides the analysis and explanation in the following manner:

  • * The right to work covers actions that produce material and intellectual products, such as farming, forestry, or working in state offices, state-owned or private enterprises. Citizens have the freedom to engage in trade and to create or seek employment for themselves. They can, for example, engage in family business, be entrepreneurs, establish cooperatives, participate in a stock company, work in a private company.
  • The right to use one's labor means the right to choose a career, job and workplace, and to negotiate working conditions by labor contract with employers (working time, duration, salary, etc.).

2. Labor is the citizen's obligation.
By now, pupils have gained some knowledge about this. The teacher can present a problem to the pupils for discussion about obligations toward themselves, their family and society.

3. The state must protect the citizen's right to work.
The teacher helps pupils think about the following issues:

  • The state "in cooperation with corporations, and economic and social organizations" creates employment by developing different economic sectors, implementing the open-market economic policy to attract foreign capital, exporting labor, and teaching family planning to prevent too-rapid population growth.

The teacher can contact employment promotion services and career centers.

a. Legal methods

  • The rules regarding state officials stipulate their labor regimes (working time, holidays, subsidies, etc.).
  • The Labor Law stipulates the rights and obligations of employees and employers. The teacher must help pupils understand the concepts of "employee," "employer" and "labor contract."

The state must ensure that the Labor Law is followed by doing the following:

  • inspecting workplaces;
  • considering petitions concerning dismissal, for example, and other labor problems;
  • dealing with violations of citizens' right and obligation to work.

The teacher should emphasize that the state protects the benefits of laborers as well as the profits of the employers.

4. How do citizens use their right and obligation to work?
The teacher brings up the problem to pupils for discussion and asks what they have learned about labor from the newspaper, radio, television or their communities.

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