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HE and Societal Impacts – Face the Truth Moment
Ngày đăng 03/09/2018, 10:19

August 31, 2018
Open Letter
TO WHOM IT MIGHT CONCERN
 
Re: HE and Societal Impacts – Face the Truth Moment
 
Might I send to you, all participants of 2018 IAU and all who concern about HE globally and locally.  

I wish I might send this letter, from my own story lasting more than 20 years practicing in Vietnam, Asia and in the world, in relation to educational business.  All the facts I share with you here is from my own responsibility and I have never ever complained what happened to me as a human, but more than that, I just want to send a letter of warning with all we are planning to do in education sector, no matter it is under the local scale or global market.

I was born in the family that my grandparent, my parent and I strongly believe in education values, and People values, even though we have live in Vietnam, in the wars or the peace time, and very poor conditions of learning.

When I read the news saying about the IAU 2018’ theme of HE and Societal Impacts, focusing on Society Common Good, I am so glad, so glad to think that we start to go back to our education values: PEOPLE, the learners and their society future, under the internationalization and globalization pressure.

Before we talk about the future, it is wise to review the past and the current situation of HE and its roles in our society.  And this is from Vietnam as an example.
  1. HE and the political influences
 
As far as many of you might know, Vietnam is under management of one Party and it lasts more than 70 years.
 
In fact, when we had the wars with France and US, and backed up by China and Russia, seems that the education is not the first priority.
 
After 1975 Reunion, we decided to run education model with the combination of French system, Russian contents and political views from China.Most of educational structure was influenced the most by Russia and China’ ideas, because at that time, they were our partners in many areas.
 
Then, in 1990s, realizing that the education combined with many different roots did not work well with the world, and because Vietnam need to open door to integrate with the economics, Vietnam asked World Bank and international organizations to come and help to renovate our education system, especially for HE (the first project to re-structure HE in Vietnam under the WB’ survey and support occurred in 1996 and then, in 2004).
 
Till now, after more than 20 years of renovation of HE and our education system, people still think and still renovate, re-structure HE…as the non-stop journey, and for me, in person, without clear and achievable mission.And the auto consequence is that we waste so much societal resources, we steal the future of the current and the next generations, we weaken the national competition, and the most important fact that we do not know exactly where we will go from here.
 
An example for Vietnam HE is that the political leaders try hardly to target one Vietnam university shall be listed in Top 200 World Universities in 2020, while we do not have any indication or background to see that it is possible and suitable the most with Vietnam, Vietnamese.
 
And the same for Vietnam Plan 2030 built up for Sustainable and Smart Growth released in 2016, our leaders talk a lot about Industrial Revolution 4.0 and how Vietnam shall go to the next level of development of economy and technology in the world, but unfortunately, in the Vietnam 2030 Plan, there is no key idea of how to do that and no projection for strengthening the current education system as the key foundation for our Vietnam 2030 Plan.
 
I do not know how and who will run the Vietnam 2030 Plan’ mission for us.
 
Not sure that how the People in Vietnam might know and take all the political targets that spend huge resources and money, and without clear study and purposes.
 
  1. HE and the ways to upgrade in the last 20 years
 
In the last more than 20 years, Vietnam follows the trend of the world: open more universities (300 universities and colleges till 2017) and more opportunities for people accessing the universities.We try hardly to improve the HE for more Vietnamese to attend (to date, nearly 80% of graduate of high school applied to universities and colleges in Vietnam).
 
It is good under the view of numbers of people who have HE graduate, but sounds they are not suitable with the fact that under ILO and many international organizations’ evaluation, the graduates in Vietnam do not fit with the skills and knowledge required for new economy and new transformation.Vietnam HE still, listed in WEF’ Driver of Production in 2017,68/100 (3.7 point) [*] and the lowest level compared with all other nations in SEA, no matter the PISA scored for international assessment of students in some specific areas (reading – math and science), Vietnam has been listed over the US’ students!
 
Within 20 years, Vietnam has opened more than 200 universities and colleges around the country, and increased sharply the students (in 2017, we have more than 6 million students and equivalent to 8% of labor force).But now, the newest direction that Government shall do is to re-structure the HE system to eliminate the ineffective HEIs and to ensure that the best of HEIs shall serve our students the best to well prepare for new challenges of Revolution 4.0!
 
But let’s see how it works, just from a simple example of teaching and learning English.
 
Dispute the Ranking of Top 5 in SEA about English Efficiency Index by EF (2015), the outcome of high school’ graduates in the same year proved that more than 80% of Vietnamese students achieved less than 4 point (4/10 score).The Government spent more than 8,000 billion Vietnamese dong for the Master Plan of Teaching Foreign Languages in K-12 from 2008-2020, in order to ensure that every Vietnamese student can speak fluently one foreign language. Most of the amount, according to the report on the failure of the Plan, was wasted on buying equipment that might not suit with the current conditions of K-12 system in Vietnam, and the key reason for failure is that we did not have enough trained teachers who might teach the relevant foreign language!
 
You might see in Vietnam HE, we might open more and more universities or eliminate, we might do project for teaching more languages in systems, but finally, most of our students cannot speak any foreign language!
 
We go on and on with the projections, with master plan or plan, and then, all of the failure fall into our People and our students. No more and no less.
 
Talking about education, there is no science, no ground to show that it must be the best for students and for their teachers, but in the opposition, Vietnam HE and education system, in general, move from public good into private good and force all society paid for all their failures!
 
For learning English in Vietnam, students, from K-12 might pay tuitions 3 times to learn the same English and at the end of graduate of universities, no one might recognize that they have learned English!
 
The bad, very bad practice has continued for new project of new curriculum for Grade 1-12 that shall be effective in next year, 2019.It is widely said that, under the international practice, and under the experiences of well-known countries who get success of education revolution, Vietnam must change curriculum in every 3-5 years! They – the Government and Ministry of Education’ representative strongly believe that importing foreign curriculum shall help us – Vietnamese students to be internationalized, while the percentage of students who might read and get understanding English or foreign language is so small…and the same reason for failure in the last 20 years, we lack of well-trained teachers in charge of this, no matter how much money they spent to improve “quality of teaching” every year.
 
They do more and more, but for less and less, because they do not know clearly who they are and what the real values of quality of teaching and learning are.
 
  1. HE and its future
 
Before talking about HE and its future, I prefer to share the warning for Africa that the yesterday news talked about “The too late future for Africa when the 4.0 catch them up…” [**]. In brief, it is strongly impressed the disadvantages that African countries and people there must take when 4.0 run out, such as the uncertainty of politics/economic development, the young but not educated population, the cheap and easy labor forces to replace by auto and AI forces. As a consequence, it might be real that African people shall be left behind if the leaders do not know how to face with the 4.0 world-wide challenges.
 
It reminded me about another campaign of news talking about 4.0 in Vietnam in 2016-2017 and till now, but in opposite conclusion.Everything referred to Africa’ disadvantages is the same for Vietnam (we are luckier, I am not sure, that we have a very certain political management!), except the conclusion of opportunity. The same situation of Africa, but Vietnam is highly recommended that it shall be a rising start (we raised twice or third times in the recent history of news) if we change to 4.0 and take all benefits from internet-based technology, because we have more than 70% population using internet every day!
 
What do you think about this?
 
Let’s me go back to the ideas for African campaign to reduce poverty matter.
 
In 1985, the well-known song “We are the World – USA for Africa”, a song for African children and people was impressive me as this used to be a symbol that the world really care and try hardly to help African countries to overcome the struggles and poverty status-quo. In 1990s, my mother spent time as a volunteer doctor in Angola and we knew exactly what and why happened there, in the war time.
 
Till now (August 2018), as the news said, African still face with the truth that they might be left behind forever, because all the key issues preventing them to grow up (except for a few countries and the elite of Africans), are there!Percentages of un-employment, un-educated or lack of education (including children and adults), poverty, wars, corruptions, etc. are still there! They might get worse because seems that some new faces occurred there and love to “help” Africans to go to dig them more in “poverty” situation.
 
We might say our helps for poverty reduce in Africa are not effective as much as we might expect!
 
I am not an economist or politician or African expert, so I cannot say anything about the status-quo people think about Africa.But because I am Vietnamese, we used to be in the war time because of someone else benefits (not our people’ benefits), because when people talk about open door, development and jumping out of poverty in Vietnam but they have never mentioned about the damages of air, water,sea pollutions, our lands have been poised together with huge bad things happened around the People’ life, the numbers of disasters (natural disasters) increase yearly and we do not have any resource to handle…I think I might share the same matters with African People, especially when we together face with 4.0 challenges. We do not have much difference with them.
 
From the personal observation in Vietnam, I realized that 4.0 and its concept had started to launch their project in the world and in Vietnam since WEF 2016, and might be earlier, 2014, when people reviewed the pressure of globalization together with “disruptive technologies” and how to face with that. But in fact, might be I am wrong, the 4.0 is aligning closely with the negotiation of World Trade Treaty, for example, in Vietnam, and it is the CPTPP, the way our politic leaders discuss about the free-trade over the world with his partners.
 
Free-trade is good, bad or disaster with you or not, who care? But it is the target for all as “We are the World”, no matter that the least developed countries and huge people in Africa or Asia have no chance to take full or even, a part of advantages from this. They become a market for others, and in fact, from the lessons learned from the poverty campaigns, they might be in worse situation by the bigger and deeper gaps with the rest of the world, while the issues still stay the same with them!
 
I am so sorry to talk about poverty first before the education, HE and its future. The key message here is that the ways people deal with poverty over the world is very similar, (while I do want to say “the same”), in education, HE and its future of our young generations.
 
To prepare for trade deals with his partners, especially for higher education, I am not sure how many Vietnamese students like my daughter and my life were stolen?For some key of stories happened to me in the last 18 years and 4 years of education, please kindly visit my personal website www.newasiagloballearning.com
 
The KEY questions I asked many leaders around the world are WHO I AM, AM I A HUMAN in our internet world? WHO PROTECT ME AS A HUMAN THERE, while everything of mine is sold, managed and influenced by other companies who shall do all and just for their MONEY/BENEFITS?
 
4.0 challenges or the internet-based services providing to mass world-wide population are needed to attract more and more people accept, use and transfer to “digital life”, but at the end, the benefits, the prospects do not SHARE FOR ALL.The internet-based services are now challenging all of us to balance the bigger gaps in all “divided” societies in this world. But HOW CAN?
 
We might all become the NUMBERs, the things under the Internet of Things (IoT), we might transfer to “auto” HUMAN to compare with auto-machines and our brain, our intellectual shall be added some AI to ensure that we can compete with the unemployment challenges that some guys who are in the chain of giant “tech” companies, governments and their supporting services advertised strongly.
 
Now, go back to the HE matter in the IoT and its future.
 
To go to connect with the world of HE, i.e. joining in the international university associations and many other HE organizations, my 3 last years in the US’ university became the “disaster” that no one preferred to take.No one loves to go to university to become “the internet contacting hub” for their country, based on 20 years of life and work, and you turned to “partial dis-function person” with “improper behavior” to deal with public, and all just because your country leaders need to sell “60 million accounts” for compensation of world-free trade they decided to join.
 
As a Vietnamese, I could do nothing, except to write an official letter to ask the Government to enforce the citizen rights, including my rights to be protected, as a whole and truly human! [http://www.newasiagloballearning.com/tin-tuc/thu-ngo-ve-bao-tro-cho-quyen-cong-dan-va-nhan-than.html].But the same like most other Vietnamese, and believe me, the same for many other Asian and African and the rest of the world, how much we might expect the Government shall do effectively to protect their citizens, while they are not the ethical guys?
 
When you heard the public story that some leaders of Vietnam Government run, controlled the internet-gambling and attracting more than 43 million online accounts throughout Vietnam and the world, it is the key to help us understand the truth, behind of all the fakes! The Government, or their representatives, in the case of Vietnam, sold their people already!
 
In Vietnam, to date, we have more than 22,3 million students from K-12 and around 3-4 millions of students in HE, together with 4 million of teachers.Do you know how the Ministry arranged for selling them?
 
Our Vietnam Ministry of Education (“MoH”), under their power of educational management, co-operate with private and foreign agents to organize the nation-wide online competitions for some specific subjects.In general, they call up the volunteering attendances from students and teachers, but in fact, everyone “must” join to fit with the targets and budgets that the Government and MoE will subsidy for them.Every year, they organize some competitions like this and after 2 consecutive years, MoE shall kick out the old agent and change to the new one (and of course, from the new country!).
 
This process has been applied directly to my daughter and me during the last 18 years, especially in the last 5 years (2013-2018). Based on my 20 years of legal and business consulting in Vietnam and Asia, the list of my clients is over than 40,000 contacts and from all corners of this world (and of course, they – Vietnam Government can arrange with the foreign supports).Not only from my professional practice, they hacked all of my networks with friends, families’ members and all the things they do believe it helps them to “build story” about “global citizen symbol”.It is not for me, not for my values, but for promoting the study abroad, all kind of services related to study abroad, teaching profession, banking, financing, travel, heath care and many others.
 
I was shocked in one of international HE conferences held by SEAMEO in Ho Chi Minh in 2016, when the topic of the conference was of “Quality of Internationalization of HE”, but before my presentation, one folk shared all of 40 minutes about travelling and nothing had any link with education and internationalization.This is just one joke among thousands of jokes (but not for fun) happened to me in the last 18 years.
 
I died partly, from my bottom of heart, when I realized the truth that someone explored my life, my experiences, my credibility, my contacts and networks to do their business and for some private benefits. They are Vietnamese and their foreign partners.They have powers and they believe that they have the right to decide my life. I don’t agree with that!
 
In person, I think we agree that everyone shall die, but the most important is what is the purpose we should die for?I might die for others as if I am sure that my dying is useful for them, in the meaning that they shall get better life, better education and better future.No, it is totally NOT. The guys, who make me died, never think about the humility or the benefits for majority.The market sizes for internet-based services and for young people are small still, especially for online learning. Then, from my situation and many other “tested” people, they want to take us for experimental tests and also, extending their markets over the world.
 
Till now, when I am typing this letter to you, I do believe they continue to “explore” me for looking for any solution to handle the “poverty” matter, and from the folk like me – having well educated and skills, under their views. But the same like jokes they started over me in the last 18 years, the things occurred to me are not the ones they might apply for others, because of many inside and outside reasons!
 
How do people think they have their rights over than others?
How the free-born people, especially young people, are sold by their governments and some companies, and we have never ever know what they are doing with us?
 
You might laugh at my concerns above, but please kindly remember the key for education and HE is for freedom and democracy! How do people might talk about freedom, democracy, and values of societal common good when most of us have been controlled and managed and influenced by 3rd parties for serving their clear intentions/purposes?
 
When I read the books “Everyone lies” and “Misbehaving: the making of behavioral economics”, I got the reason why it happened and how it must be like this, in my story.
 
And it is the same, not only for me, but also for Vietnamese students, African students and the rest, the students and the followers.
 
When I reviewed the SDG 2030 and GUNi Report 2018, they argued that university shall be the key for “change” or transformation of our current “divided” societies.It sounds great for all 17 SDGs’ goals.The food for thought here is that, for the least developed countries in Africa, even they do not catch up the SDG’ targets in 2030 (and they might reach there in 2064 or later), but from 2015 to 2021, all universities and their people should be connected/integrated with GUNi.
 
Anyone of you might share with me that how many students/people in African can afford the updated computers/smartphones? And obviously, they also need internet to explore the worldwide knowledge or learn something, even more than half of them (young people) are illiteracy.
 
Universities system in Vietnam and I am guessing the same or might be better in the rest of the least developed world, is the mess, in the term that they do not know who they are and where they will go.That’s why they test everything, every year, and with every new that the world might have!
 
Of course, they have the power to test, but the people like me, who died because of their tests, we appeal against the way to use the real people to test!
 
The people tested for online services more than 13 years, but till now, who might confirm that they are better than the face-to-face services?
 
When I walked around the department of education in the US and askingprofessors’ opinion, all of them concerned about the quality of online teaching, but they fully understood that this is the only and the one effective way (to date) to cut the headcount costs over the “limited budgets”! And when they do that, they must maximize the benefits for their investment, by exploring the world market for online, no matter that the rest of the world is ready or not.
 
When the topic of HE and internationalization is rising around the world in the last 4 years, I also learned that we, the educators, researchers and all in the education sector, we are under so heavy pressure of earning, either profits or reputation, and then, when the budget is cutting, we might “sing” the song that someone asked us, even the reality is very different!
 
Please kindly advise me, what are the real values of internationalization of HE? For university or for students first? If the beneficiary of internationalization of HE is for our students, it is required us to re-imagine all the stuffs we called as “internationalization process” in HE now, from my point of view.
 
The funny example is from the MoE in Vietnam for internationalization and they believe that internationalization is to import all key curriculums from successful education countries over the world to test around our students in the last 10 years. Finally, most of them failed and in return, it encouraged our Vietnamese to go to study overseas as much as they can.
 
Why does my Government test our students’ life? Why did they and HE fail, in more than 25 years? I see it in the same way of poverty reduce campaign, in Vietnam, in Asia and in Africa.
 
I am regretfully sharing that we cannot find the answer from the education only, or from economics or politics.We might find the right answer when we must review it from all perspectives, especially from the history of our country (including all wars and colonial times), from the national and personal identity and the key values we think we pursuit them.
 
However, in short to reflect the today’ truth, the author of The Rise and Fall of Nations, shared that “(From views of investors)…it takes too long (70 years) to get the return from the education reform and the change of institutions, and therefore, they (investors) do not want to take them in the forecast.  They just need to see what will happen in the next 5 or 10 years”.  This idea is the real in the digital age and “disruptive tech” period! And very unfortunately to all of learners, we do not learn in 5 or 10 years, we must have a lifelong learning, while we do not know how to survive to start, to continue and to apply our learning!
 
Furthermore, the circle of blaming, from Government to schools or to society or vice versa, also are contributing to the failure of HE education and at the end, we just dare to hope! But because we still base on the wrong attitude, the wrong perception to approach to education (values to the market first, not the learners first) and honestly, we love to see the society pay for their learning (no matter how much they might learn and apply), while the corporates (the giant ones) love to see how they might maximize their benefits rather than paying more for training and re-training employees, then, the final results are the same and might be worse year and year.
 
You might tell me that I am talking from the victim’ voice or I am very pessimistic. Yes, I am!But I might confirm here that I do and never against the new education technology, new ideas for improving the quality of learning outcomes or helping teachers/students to enjoy their learning to get better results. In any circumstance, please do not, one hand give us a chance to take the new tool to study and in other hand, “kill” us softly by exploring our database, watching our activities and then, studying and influencing our life, from day by day, from learning to voting!
 
We, our students, our teachers and all of us are HUMAN. As a human, we have the right to be unique and free/independent thinking.
 
How the universities with limited budgets can produce “the free, responsible, and ethical people, under the local and global views”?This is the key to answer the HE future and our people’ future!
 
  1. The questions for ALL, not only Vietnam, about internationalization of HE
In June 2017, when I was voluntarily quitted out my PhD for HE Leadership after 2 years and half and completing 39/60 requested credits, the Program Director, who promised to support me getting research works in relation to my internationalization of American programs in Vietnam (my research thesis) at the time he interviewed me join in his courses, asked me to recruit and advertise his programs in Vietnam and Asia.  With my surprising, I, in return, argued him that why he did not do anything to help me to complete my study and programs as promised, and then, I can do the works he expects for his programs.  He silenced and it reminded me about his quote before “This is my program, this is my university.  If you do anything I tell you, you might complete. There is no room for argument or debate here. You must follow me”.

In the last June 2018, when I visited the Native American Museum, thanks for American honor when they post officially the famous quote that I wish every people should read aloud every morning, before they do any work, especially the work for others:

“While you…say, “Behold the wonders wrought by our children in this foreign land”, do not forget that this success has been at the sacrifice of our homes and a once happy race [Simon Pokagon, 1893]

When we talk about worldwide learning crisis or HE crisis, please kindly look back our history and reflect ourselves first, and please ask clearly questions:
“For whom do we sacrifice?

Do we steal our next generations’ future by our improper and low quality of teaching and services, because at the time of cutting budgets everywhere, we just need to market our services to earn more money and reputation, even they are not real?

And why do we, teachers, educators, administrators, researchers, do not against the victimization process that the current laws, the current politics, the current intangible pressures and settings push on us and our students, for many decades?

What are the true values for students we must bring to them, under the process we call out as “internationalization of HE”?

Last but not least, Abraham Lincoln might give all of us a very important reminder to get insight of why we fed up with our current government/corporate leadership in almost corners of this world:

“The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of the government of next”.

So, what you will do for your students, for not having generations to be failed?

Not because you need to have monthly paycheck, not because you might have an award for teaching or high recognition from someone else…but just because of your students’ success, now and in future and because of you – truly educators?

How will you be the best teachers that the students might count on you?

Thank you and appreciate your timing.

Huong Nguyen
 
 
[*] https://vietnambiz.vn/vi-sao-viet-nam-xep-vao-nhom-chua-san-sang-cho-cach-mang-cong-nghiep-40-48685.html

[**] Ngày Nay - 4.0 - Nguy cơ với châu Phi

 
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