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Education fails the nation: Vietnam

Teacher friendly policies and more effective school management are urgent imperatives, experts say. Vietnam’s education sector is in a crisis, with universities not producing the educated workforce that the nation’s economy and society need.

In an “opinionated analysis” titled “Vietnamese Higher Education: Crisis and Response,” recently released by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Governance, researchers Thomas Vallely and Ben Wilkinson say, “It does not bode well for the future that Vietnamese universities lag far behind even their undistinguished Southeast Asian neighbors.”

They note that compared with lesser-acknowledged universities in Southeast Asia, like those in Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, Vietnamese universities have the lowest number of publications in peer-reviewed journals.

No Vietnamese educational institution of higher learning appears in any of the widely used league tables of leading Asian countries.

The researchers say little has been done to change management of higher education network in the 22 years following introduction of the "doi moi" (renovation) policy.

At a conference held late last month to review the 2008-2009 academic year, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Thien Nhan admitted there were administrative problems that contributed to the low quality of higher education in the country.

He said that the government has not yet issued proper polices to encourage and facilitate teaching careers at the college level. A major inhibiting factor in improving the quality of teachers and teaching is the low remuneration that they receive.

Thankless job?

After some 11 years of teaching English at the Tay Nguyen University in the Central Highlands town of Buon Ma Thuot, Nguyen Thi Tuong Nhu, MA, earns a monthly salary of about VND3 million (US$167).

She told Thanh Nien Weekly that most teachers in her university can’t meet their living expenses with the salaries they receive.

In the Central Highlands region, her salary would be barely enough to live by herself, but it fell far short of what is needed for her four-member family with two school children. Other teachers who have not been teaching for long are in more difficult situations, Nhu said.

Bui Thanh Quang of Transport College No. 3 in Ho Chi Minh City, who has a doctorate degree in political economy, said that after almost 30 years of teaching, his monthly wage is a little more than VND5 million (around $279).

Speaking to Thanh Nien Weekly, Quang said his 28-year teaching career has helped him and his family buy a small house in a suburban district in HCMC. But for his impending retirement, he said he had no savings that “could help me and my family feel secure when I retire in the next few years.”

Dr. Vu Thi Phuong Anh, director of Center for Educational Testing and Quality Assessment, Vietnam National University – Ho Chi Minh City (CETQA), said, “Salary is not the sole element but it is a fundamental element that affects the working quality of the people [teachers/lecturers] who create the quality of higher education.


“The quality of an educational system cannot surpass the quality of the teachers – that’s a statement I’ve heard elsewhere.” Without adequate salaries to cover living expenses, teachers cannot spend much time preparing their lectures and improving teaching quality.

Anh said most university lecturers have become “too familiar” with the low salaries as they’ve changed little over the years, so they’ve had to find other ways to make ends meet.

Lai Thi Hai Linh, a graduate of the HCMC Education University, said due to the low salaries paid by state universities, many teachers have had to teach extra hours at private schools or take classes that pay higher fees. Consequently, the amount of time and effort they spend on lectures in state universities is small.

The Harvard paper quotes surveys conducted by government-linked associations saying that as many as 50 percent of Vietnamese university graduates are unable to find jobs in their area of specialization.

For instance, when Intel Corporation conducted an assessment test for around 2,000 Vietnamese IT students to recruit engineers for its manufacturing facility in HCMC, only 5 percent, or 90 students passed. Of these 90 students, only 40 with adequate English language skills were hired.

“Intel confirms that this is the worst result they have encountered in any country they’ve invested in,” the researchers say.

In an article published last year, senior academic Professor Hoang Tuy said the reduction in quality over a long period of time, especially in higher education, has produced many graduates unqualified to meet market demands. In fact, the implications of low quality education go even further, said Tuy.

Reported by Tuong Nhi (with additional reporting by Thai Thanh Van in Hanoi)

Story from Thanh Nien News

Published: 03 October, 2009, 16:48:35 (GMT+7)

Copyright Thanh Nien News