Vietnam appears poised to enjoy a leap forward in education thanks to an increasing contribution from the private sector and the use of cutting-edge technologies.
That's the idea of Professor Ju-Ho Lee, former Minister of Education, Science, and Technology of the Republic of Korea and Chair of the Education Workforce Initiative.
Passions for latest education technologies
Ta Ngoc Tri, deputy head of the Primary Education Department under the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training, said that local students have reaped impressive test results under the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) initiated by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which he noted indicate the efficiency of the country’s investment policy in education.
The country has always attached great importance to investing in the education sector which is regarded as a key factor in ensuring sustainability in socio-economic development. This can be seen in the revised Law on Education which was passed in June points out that at least 20 per cent of the total state budget must be allocated to educational development.
The sector has been pursuing comprehensive reforms of training work. “Of note, we have issued a new general education curriculum which underlines the significance of improving soft skills for young Vietnamese people,” Tri added.
The sector in particular is eager to prepare and develop a skilled workforce through the extensive use of STEM-related programs that are expected to help meet market requirements amid the widespread Industry 4.0.
According to former minister Lee, the Republic of Korea (RoK) has enjoyed several successes in both economic development and political democratization, largely due to increasing investment in people and education. Like the RoK in the past, Vietnam seems to be ready to move forward in education, particularly as many global commentators were greatly impressed by the high performance of Vietnamese students in PISA tests.
The Education Commission has been partnering with the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training for a High-Touch High-Tech learning project.
Serving as a commissioner of the Education Commission, Lee believes that Vietnam could develop into a first-rate player in terms of educational innovations due to a willingness to embrace adaptive learning technologies, known as “High-Tech”, and transforming the roles of teachers, known as “High-Touch”. A desire to quickly adapt to a new era and utilise technology could see the nation move ahead of its peers, as the traditional learning model has become rapidly outdated in the era of Industry 4.0.
“We started with four foreign language schools, including two in Hanoi and two in Ho Chi Minh City. We made a school visit to one of four schools, and most experts from around the world were very impressed by the passion of teachers and the capacities of students to embrace new pedagogies and cutting-edge education technologies,” the former minister said.
“Following the visit, we discussed how to help Vietnam scale up the model across the country, which would enable Vietnam to provide equitable, inclusive and quality education for all,” Lee stressed.
However, the RoK expert suggested that the country should consider establishing a national funding agency similar to the National Science Foundation in the US or the RoK’s National Research Foundation, in order to improve the research capacity of universities nationwide as higher education entities remain relatively weak.
These foundations are generally used to fund research by university professors and researchers on a competition basis through a peer-review system. Vietnam could therefore consider merging various funding agencies which are currently a part of several different ministries and turn them into an independent and autonomous funding agency aimed to upgrade universities nationwide, he noted.
Based on his own observations in the RoK, Lee also recommended that the country increase the number of private schools, while increasing the overall size of investment in education.
Most notably, the RoK relies heavily on private schools and universities, especially in higher education with over 75 per cent of universities in the East Asian country being private and nearly 95 per cent of technical colleges owned by the private sector. Furthermore, more than 50 per cent of K-12 education schools have been developed by the private sector.
Hence, Vietnam should consider forcing public schools and universities to compete with private ones when they are allowed to gain support from the government.
Learning teams needed
A newly issued report by the Education Commission in Hanoi, themed “Transforming the Education Workforce”, highlights the vision for learning teams. However, some experts have raised their concerns about a lack of funding needed to implement the model in Vietnam.
Ph.D Tran Thi Thai Ha, Director of Educational Information and Forecast Center under the Vietnam Institute of Educational Sciences, said that learning teams are not actually a new concept to the local education sector. A number of projects dedicated to learning teams have previously been implemented in the country, but the model has so far failed to be scaled up when the projects came to an end.
Indeed, the current education workforce model seen in most education systems is built around a “one teacher to one classroom” model. This model sees teachers work in relative isolation, with limited support and often facing challenging conditions such as large class sizes.
In order to address these challenges, the report proposes the development of learning teams to improve education outcomes. Teams of professionals collectively focus on improving the learning experience for all students, whilst also keeping up with the latest trends in education.
The learning team approach is based on a concept of professionalism that utilizes the collective capacity of a group of people, as opposed to simply focusing on developing the skills of individuals.
“It is time for disruptive changes everywhere. I think education is no exception”, the former minister affirmed, adding that it is extremely difficult for teachers to transform themselves individually and they should gather as a collective to explore new methods of teaching and learning.
“We are not suggesting that multiple teachers should be in one classroom. Therefore, the learning team approach would not increase the financial burdens or require extra funding,” Lee said.
In the long term, this approach could even help to reduce the financial burden as a learning team could become more effective in providing personalized learning opportunities for all. VOV