Vietnam Fellowship to Enhance Global Understanding

May 9 – June 1, 2014 (tentative)

Led by John Dirkx with a Vietnamese COE graduate student. 

The purpose of this study tour is to provide participants with an opportunity to learn more about the educational structures and processes of education in Vietnam, the cultural, economic, and political contexts in which these structures and processes are embedded, and the efforts at educational reform that characterize the current educational landscape in the country. Our focus will include institutions representing primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education, as well as community colleges, universities, and vocational centers.

The country is made up of three, relatively distinct cultural regions, with distinctive ethnic minority groups in each region. Therefore, our goal is to visit selected educational institutions and agencies in all three areas of the country. In addition, the study tour will focus on key cultural characteristics within each of these regions that illuminate the rich and deeply traditional nature of Vietnamese society and its minority ethnic groups.

Projected academic outcomes and benefits. Participants of this study tour will:

1) Become familiar with the overall educational system – from primary school to graduate and professional schools – within Vietnam;

2) Describe key projects or efforts at the primary, secondary, and postsecondary levels to improve administrative and instructional capacity within the country’s educational institutions;

3) Discuss challenges the country faces in relying on and integrating western forms of technical assistance and ways of knowing within a deeply traditional, Confucianist culture; 

4) Further develop their intercultural awareness and competence.

Rationale for country and universities.  Vietnam is a rapidly developing country. Over the last 20 years, the government has placed increasing emphasis on the expansion and improvement of its educational systems and institutions. For this reason, Vietnam represents an exciting context for studying organizational change in education and administrative and instructional capacity building. These efforts at capacity building have focused on providing additional access by developing schools and creating more community colleges and universities. For example, the community college system in Vietnam is less than 20 years old. Well-established but smaller universities have, within this same time frame, been amalgamated into larger universities, inservice education centers have been transformed into community colleges, and community colleges into polytechnics and universities. In addition, considerable emphasis is being placed on enhancing the knowledge and skills of educational administrators, teachers, and faculty members. In particular, the improvement of teaching and learning within the country has focused on creating educational environments at all levels that foster more active, engaged, and contextual forms of learning among students, challenging long-held beliefs and traditions within their society about the roles of teachers and learners in educational institutions, the nature of knowledge, and how one comes to know. The country has also actively sought international partnerships to help address the educational needs created by these dramatic transformations.

MSU has had a long presence in Vietnam, particularly within the Mekong Delta and with Can Tho University. The faculty leader has made many visits to Vietnam, including two prior COE study tours. He has working relationships with administrators and faculty at several universities and community colleges in the country, particularly in the South. MSU also has several graduates of masters and doctoral programs who are working in different parts of Vietnam and who will provide assistance to our visit.

Can Tho University will serve as the primary host institution and will help us with identifying additional contacts within the different regions we will be studying. We expect, however, to visit several primary schools, secondary schools, vocational centers, community colleges, and universities across the country. Participants will talk with government officials, administrators, teachers, and students, and to the extent possible, observe classroom instruction. Participants will be expected to gather data on the organizational and capacity building efforts evident in these different regions and schools, with some focusing on primary and secondary schools, while others will focus on postsecondary institutions. The tour will begin in Hanoi in the North and we will progress to Can Tho in the South and conclude in Ho Chi Minh City. Participants will get together in Can Tho to review and discuss what they have learned, and to organize presentations that they will make to faculty and administrators at Can Tho University and Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City.