Friday, October 10, 2014

Vietnam's Educational System

This week was a slow one at CTU. Professor Cary left on Tuesday and our new teacher Professor Glen should arrive sometime next week. So for the time being we are in the capable hands of our program adviser Hung. A new development on campus is that we have about 15 new students living in the international dorms. We have two boys from Denmark and everyone else is from all over the US. I got to say, its pretty nice having more English speakers around and even nicer to have some of the attention taken off of our group. I had another week of classes for the American culture class. The students have really come out of their shells and they are much more willing to participate. We had the topic of social interactions and dating on Wednesday. Everyone in the class was very excited to learn about what dating culture is like in the states. In Vietnam people usually start dating around the age of 18. Before a couple is dating they are boyfriend and girlfriend. There are very few casual relationships in Can Tho. Once students have graduated they begin to seriously consider marriage. It was difficult to explain all of the different kind of relationships that exist in the United States. The students were most perplexed by the concept of "friends with benefits".  I was asked twice if I was going to be marrying and starting a family with my current boyfriend. To be honest I didn't know how to answer the question. As a 22 year old living in California I don't think about marriage and family being in my immediate future. By the end of the class I think what most surprised me was the Vietnamese students' willingness to commit to marriage and a family at such a young age and after having so few partners in their life.

We focused our class research on education this week. On Thursday we had a meeting with an expert on Vietnam's new policies to revamp the education system. It seems as if Vietnam is moving away from an authoritarian system to an authoritative system. The difference between the two teaching styles is that authoritarian teaching favors blind submission to the teacher, while authoritative teachers have a set of rules and boundaries, but are responsive to the students needs.  The Vietnamese government is looking at the US and UK school systems and they are seeing which aspects can be applied in Vietnam. After our lecture on Thursday we went to visit a high school to see what a typical day is like for the students, High school students go to school for four hours rather than the US eight hours. During those four hours the students are just lectured at. In order to practice what they've learned they have to pay for extra classes or private tutoring. I found this to be completely unfair, because obviously only the more well to do students can afford tutoring. Senior high schoolers need to take a test to graduate and they need to take a second test to get into college. Depending on their score they will get into a university or college. A college here is like a junior college in the states. Similar to the US, it is possible to transfer to a university from a college. There is an issue with overcrowding for higher education here and not enough teachers to teach the students. To my surprise teachers have one of the lowest paying salaries. I suppose I thought that in a socialist system that teachers would have a higher pay wage because they have such a large influence in the shaping of the future generation. To compensate for their low wage, teachers need to have multiple teaching jobs. Through this system the students become more of a commodity to the teachers rather than pupils to teach. Vietnam's educational system has a lot of problems to face and I don't think that applying certain practices from the Western system will improve it. Nor does it seem as if there is a clear plan to revamp the system, because every outline I have seen just uses broad explanations for improvement. Regardless, if Vietnam wants to make the next step to join the international arena they need to improve their educational system and accredit their universities.   


  1. I liked this one a lot, Kaitlan! I think what you said about "students becoming a commodity" is sickeningly accurate. I also agree that applying a Western model is oversimplified and overeager. I don't really know what the solution is, but I think bringing in educators from around the globe to implement and instruct about the authoritative model is a necessary step to create insular change.

  2. I am living in Can Tho and joined American Culture last year, this article impressed me a lot. I have met a lot of foreigner (almost from EU), and they also have same thinking with you.