Cao Thanh Nguyen, The mismatch between the quality of university graduates and the educational reform at tertiary level in Vietnam

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John Rose-Adams
9 January 2012

To be presented at the Widening Participation Conference 2012 'Discourses of Inclusion in Higher Education', 24-25 April 2012

The mismatch between the quality of university graduates and the educational reform at tertiary level in Vietnam           

Cao Thanh Nguyen

The paper examines the interconnection between the quality of university graduates and educational reform in higher education in Vietnam. The results show that the quality of university graduates in Vietnam does not meet the needs of the society. The outcome of the study also indicates that the contents of agendas and proposals in reforming higher education seem to be appropriate and practical to the Vietnamese context, but they are unlikely to work well in practice. The study finally affirms that the educational reforms at tertiary level in Vietnam do not match the quality of the graduate. The paper has not presented empirical data as it belongs to a wider project which is still in the process of being undertaken. In future studies, this limitation will be adequately addressed.

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Interview with the author

The research paper you are presenting is titled 'The mismatch between the quality of university graduates and the educational reform at tertiary level in Vietnam'. I'm interested in learning why you chose to pursue this piece of research: Why these issues in particular?

This paper forms part of my PhD thesis. The reasons motivating me to conduct this study is the reality of the university graduate in Vietnam in the workplace. My motivation also derives from my own personal experiences both as a graduate and an educational officer in Vietnam. These prompted me to conduct a research project to explore and examine whether or not educational reform positively affects the quality of tertiary education in general and quality of university graduates in particular.

Thanks, that’s really interesting. I’ve not come across any reports in the Western academic presses of studies of the Vietnamese tertiary education system. Have you found this area very under-researched and under-reported?

I think so. There have not many studies regarding Vietnamese higher education. My presentation in the conference mostly belongs to the introduction and literature review chapters of my thesis. And that mainly focuses on the real situation of Vietnamese tertiary education. This area is not new as some studies have examined that.

I have found out in the data of my thesis that: in the domestic institutions Vietnamese students learn very passively and dependently, but when they are studying overseas especially in Western universities, they are able to learn autonomously. My discussion will concentrate on the differences between quality of learning between these two different learning environments.

Where do you see this research and yourself heading in the future? Are there particular themes or strands of the work that you particularly want to follow up on?

It's hard to present productive solutions to enhance the quality of university graduates in general and to assist students to learn independently in Vietnam. As discussed in my thesis, education links closely with social, cultural and economic factors.

My expectation and recommendation of the study is that Vietnamese students who have studied overseas should take action themselves instead of merely awaiting superior changes. Because "better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”.

One significance of my study is that whilst almost all of the research only looked at Vietnamese students who are very passive, do not readily take responsibility and are somewhat dependent, the result of my study shows that Vietnamese students are nevertheless able to learn actively, responsibly and creatively if they are well supported as in Western educational environment.

John Rose-Adams
11:41 on 9 February 2012 (Edited 12:33 on 20 February 2012)

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Chris Edwards
2:13pm 24 April 2012

Some (very imperfect) notes from session.

  1. Teachers revered in Vietnamese culture
  2. Teach from a podium
  3. learning transmitted from teacher to student - one way.
  4. Rote learning, development of critical skills and other meta skills not developed formally
  5. Government sets curriculum. It is considered very heavy
  6. Sense that graduates have not developed some skills like communication that are needed in the workplace.
  7. Has been spending a much larger proportion on GDP on education
  8. unqualified staff - in the sense they are not prepared to deliver these needed skills
  9. shortage of finance - even though large proportion of GDP the actual amount is small and considered insufficient.
  10. cultural factors
  11. Government policies and reforms are gradually changing the 
  12. Thanh's research is showing that Vietnamese students adjust to a western HE environment when provided suitabe support. He is also finding evidence they prefer this system once familiar with it.

Chris Edwards

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