Vietnamese get most of their information from online sources, including social media, primarily Facebook. They also watch a lot of video, 2 hours, 43 minutes a day, to be precise, according to the results of the annual We Are Social and Hootsuite update. As a result, YouTube ranks 4th among all websites in Viet Nam, according to SimilarWeb. It is for this reason that videos should be an integral part of any digital marketing campaign.
I see a lot of online videos intended to promote various educational institutions but not very many quality ones that young people, i.e., potential international students, would actually watch. In all honesty, most fall into the bad and ugly categories. Here are two examples. It would be best to illustrate my points by showing you real videos but that’s not possible, for obvious reasons, the most important of which I would not want to embarrass the offending parties.
Low quality content: A lot of videos I see are of the talking head variety. Either students are sitting or standing in one location talking about their school and related experiences, or someone is interviewing them using a talk show format.
In one video, the students being interviewed looked like prisoners, sitting with hands folder, and dutifully answering question after question. In another, a student was obviously reading off of a script and looking into the camera with the occasional nervous smile. Not convincing, invariably boring and, sometimes, painful, to watch.
Vietnamese students will click on the link, watch for a second or two, and then quickly move elsewhere in search of more inspirational, educational, and/or meaningful content.
Poor sound quality: Content aside, many videos are not professional or even semi-professional. Either staff or students are using substandard equipment and do not have experience making videos for the demographic in question. It’s like with photography. Everyone with a smartphone is a “photographer” but very few know how to take good photos worth looking at.
Nas Daily is an example from Facebook that I often share with colleagues. His daily one-minute videos are crisp, fast-paced, and a pleasure to watch and listen to with commentary, interviews, and background music. He has over 5.8 million followers and over a billion views, which means he must be doing something right. The point is his videos are worth watching.
And Don’t Forget the Tried-and-True Carrot & Stick Approach
Colleagues sometimes ask me to recommend education agents in Viet Nam. While I’d like to be able to help them in this regard, I can’t. The simple reason is that this is such a problematic (read shady) and unregulated sector. There is no one (or one company) that I can honestly vouch for.
If they ask me about a particular company, all that I can say it that I haven’t heard or read anything bad about that company, if that is indeed the case. Some are well-established and have been around for a long time. If I know that a specific company has been engaged in unethical or even illegal activity, I can share that information. (I rely on documented evidence not hearsay or gossip.)
My advice to colleagues is simple and straightforward. Apply rigorous screening criteria and use your own best judgement, including intuition, a valuable yet underestimated quality. Do prospective agents treat students and parents as clients and not their partner institutions, which pay them a per-head commission? Do they counsel or script students when it comes to the visa interview preparation? What do colleagues have to say about company A, B, or C?
Don’t rely on any external “stamps of approval,” which are limited in value for a host of reasons, including the (in)ability to monitor the activities of “certified” agents. (Examples of naughty yet “certified” agents provide ample grist for another post or even a full-length article. That’s an article waiting to be written by some enterprising investigative journalist.)
Here are some relevant articles and posts I’ve written:
Hold your education agents to your high standards, stay in frequent touch, and keep the lines of communication open. Trust, if you have a reason to, but always verify. Use the tried-and-true carrot and stick approach. Business is based on trust, which is inextricably linked to integrity, relationship and performance. If they don’t meet your high expectations, there are other fish in the sea.
Finally, don’t put too many of your international student recruitment eggs in the education agent basket, especially in competitive markets like Viet Nam. You will also need to invest time and money in non-commission-based recruitment tools and techniques.
How do I know I am something, in this regard? Because I discovered the power of the written word, a la Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s famous 1839 metonymic adage, The pen is mightier than the sword, in a previous incarnation, another lifetime, while still a high school student. I found it not only in what I read but in what I began to write.
The pen, the electric typewriter since my junior high days and, shortly thereafter, the keyboard in the dawning age of the microcomputer, has the power to inspire, delight, provoke, infuriate, exasperate, instill fear, and set the wheels of change in motion.
Writing has the power to shine light on the dark and dank corners of unethical behavior, hypocrisy, lies, and injustice, and to criticize whatever and whomever is deserving of criticism, regardless of the cost.
This unattributed saying often comes to mind: May the bridges I burn light the way. There are bridges worth drenching in gasoline and tossing a lit match on. You usually know them when you see them, the ones worth setting fire to. Don’t be afraid of the consequences. We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one, Confucius once said.
When you are something, not everyone loves you, especially those whose actions and ideologies are on the receiving end of your criticism. That is a small price to pay for speaking out on behalf of victims of exploitation and genocide, for example, both the living and the dead. I’m reminded of this profound quote from Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor: We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. For this reason, there is no pretense of “objectivity” or a sense of balance in much of my writing. Unlike most, I’m honest about whose ax I’m grinding.
A related quote that inspires me in my work is from Martin Luther King, Jr., who paid the ultimate price for speaking truth to power at the early middle age of 39: Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Don’t let your life end prematurely because of fear. You still have to look at yourself in the mirror. I sincerely hope you like what you see.
You will still have to look back on occasion as the inventory that is your life accumulates, assuming you are accorded that privilege. I hope you are able to look back with contentment, happiness, and inner peace.
I would much rather be something than nothing. Wouldn’t you? Aren’t you?
This is a Facebook post by Julie Marburger, a sixth-grade teacher at Cedar Creek Intermediate School near Austin, Texas, that went viral. It reflects the views of many US American teachers and those who are aware of the extremely difficult conditions under which most work. Her post was picked up by the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth, TX, among other media outlets in the US and around the world.
Don’t miss her update at the end in which she laments the “broken and inadequate” educational system in the US, the need to hold children to higher standards, and the need for more manners, respect, and kindness in a divided society filled with conflict and hatred.
Along with many others, I admire her brutal honesty. Her critique is spot-on. Sometimes, the truth hurts but it’s the only way forward. You can’t solve a problem until you recognize there is one.
I left work early today after an incident with a parent left me unable emotionally to continue for the day. I have already made the decision to leave teaching at the end of this year, and today, I don’t know if I will make it even that long. Parents have become far too disrespectful, and their children are even worse. Administration always seems to err on the side of keeping the parent happy, which leaves me with no way to do the job I was hired to do…teach kids.
I am including photos that I took in my classroom over the past two days. This is how my classroom regularly looks after my students spend all day there. Keep in mind that many of the items damaged or destroyed by my students are my personal possessions or I purchased myself, because I have NO classroom budget. I have finally had enough of the disregard for personal and school property and am drawing a line in the sand on a myriad of behaviors that I am through tolerating. Unfortunately, one parent today thought it was wrong of me to hold her son accountable for his behavior and decided to very rudely tell me so, in front of her son.
Report cards come out later this week, and I have nearly half of my students failing due to multiple (8-10) missing assignments. Most of these students and their parents haven’t seemed to care about this over the past three months, though weekly reports go out, emails have been sent and phone calls have been attempted. But now I’m probably going to spend my entire week next week fielding calls and emails from irate parents, wanting to know why I failed their kid. My administrator will demand an explanation of why I let so many fail without giving them support, even though I’ve done practically everything short of doing the work for them. And behavior in my class will deteriorate even more. I am expecting this, because it is what has happened at the end of every other term thus far.
I have never heard of a profession where people put so much of their heart and soul into their job, taking time and resources from their home and family, and getting paid such an insultingly measly amount. Teachers are some of the most kind and giving people I have ever met, yet they get treated so disrespectfully from all sides. Most parents can’t stand to spend more than a couple of hours a day with their kid, but we spend 8 with yours and 140 others just like him. Is it too much to ask for a little common courtesy and civil conversation?
It has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember to have a classroom of my own, and now my heart is broken to have become so disillusioned in these short two years. This is almost all I hear from other teachers as well, and they are leaving the profession in droves. There is going to be a teacher crisis in this country before too many more years has passed unless the abuse of teachers stops.
People absolutely HAVE to stop coddling and enabling their children. It’s a problem that’s going to spread through our society like wildfire. It’s not fair to society, and more importantly, is not fair to the children to teach them this is okay. It will not serve them towards a successful and happy life.
Many will say I shouldn’t be posting such things on social media…that I should promote education and be positive. But I don’t care anymore. Any passion for this work I once had has been wrung completely out of me. Maybe I can be the voice of reason. THIS HAS TO STOP.
UPDATE: Thank you, everyone for your words of support! I’m feeling a little shell-shocked over the attention I have gotten, to say the least. This is something I had no way of anticipating and have taken a few days to come to terms with.
I never intended to be a spokesperson for anything. I’m not the most qualified to do so, and I’m certainly not the best teacher out there, by far. But obviously my words, spoken in desperation that day, have struck a chord with many people. My Facebook Messenger inbox has been inundated with comments from teachers and others worldwide in agreement and support of my post.
If I could have the moment back, I might have said some things differently. For one, I would have pointed out that I have many amazing, hard-working, respectful students who show up every day and give their best and also many supportive, loving parents. For them I am thankful and hope I haven’t offended. But my frustration was also in their behalf. Because the actions of some are hindering their educational experience.
I believe this post resounded with so many because it speaks to three main issues we must address as a society:
First, the education system as we know it needs reform. It is broken and inadequate for our children.
Second, we absolutely have to hold our children to a higher standard of accountability in all areas. Inflating their success doesn’t raise self-esteem. If it did, we wouldn’t have the highest teen suicide rates in history right now.
Third, we as a society have to get back to treating one another with manners and respect. We are only going downhill with hatred and name-calling. No one wins when kindness dies.
I am a woman of faith and have been quite reflective this week on the good that I can bring to this world because of this experience. I have decided to (as soon as feasible) start blogging my feelings on all of the above and hope many of you will join me in the discussion. If we all work together, we can make the changes we need for our collective success
While Viet Nam is still primarily an agent-driven market, growing numbers of students are beginning to bypass education agents and apply directly to educational institutions, especially for certain types of institutions and programs with simpler application procedures. In some cases, more than 50% of all apps are directly from students.
The reasons for this recent trend are increased access to information, both on- and offline, more confidence, and greater sophistication. Given the quality and ethical problems that plague many education agents, the more Vietnamese students (and international students, in general) who apply directly, the better.
There are some students who don’t require the services of an education agent, thereby saving money and sparing both student and parent the potential aggravation of working with dodgy agents. They include academically talented students who have done their homework, so to speak, and know which institutions they want on their short list, as well as those who know exactly which school they want to attend because of their participation in a fair, info session, or based on a recommendation from someone they trust, e.g., a parent, teacher, or friend.
This is an encouraging win-win trend, in my opinion, that should be promoted. It gives students and parents more control over the entire process, eliminates the need to work with an agent, many of whom do not have students’ (and parents’) best interests at heart, and saves admitting institutions the cost of a commission. What’s not to like?
Below is an announcement about a new website created by Capstone Vietnam, a full-service educational consulting company of which I’m managing director.
This website is intended to serve as a one-stop resource for student recruitment in Viet Nam for colleagues from all over the world. It was inspired by a session that Dr. Mark Ashwill, Capstone managing director and co-founder, chaired at the NAFSA 2017 annual conference in Los Angeles entitled Keys to Successful Non-Commission-Based Recruitment in Vietnam.
A sound institutional recruitment strategy should ideally include tools and techniques that do not involve the use of education agents and commission-based recruitment in cooperation with quality and ethical agents. The Recruit in Viet Nam website focuses exclusively on the former.
There are many different ways to recruit both digitally and traditionally. You have to discover works best for your institution through a process of self-reflection and, sometimes, trial and error. We are happy to help guide you through this challenging process – at no charge. (In addition, you will need local feedback on draft content, including digital and offline materials, which is included in the cost of the service.)
The truth is not every institution that targets Viet Nam as a priority country will be successful but we can help ensure that you are using your time and resources as wisely as possible in order to give you the best chance to succeed.
There are approximately 200,000 young Vietnamese studying in around 50 countries. About 147,000 are in the top five (5) countries alone, including – in descending order – Japan, the USA, Australia, China, and the UK. This means that Viet Nam will continue to be a dynamic and promising recruitment market for an increasingly diverse array of host countries.
One of the privileges and pleasures of my work is watching colleagues connect with young Vietnamese who are interested in overseas study, be it at a fair, coffee talk, info session, or individual meeting at a hotel.
Traveling to Viet Nam and other sending countries is still one of the most effective ways to recruit students, especially if the recruiter is good, which most are. Sitting at home because of budgetary constraints or other reasons and relying solely on armchair techniques is not going to get the job done, especially in competitive markets.
From parents’ and students’ perspective, it’s a way to put a face to an institution, someone they can like, respect, and trust. Someone who will follow up, be responsive to inquiries via email, Facebook, and chat apps, and stay in touch.
Good recruiters enjoy their work. You can hear it in their conversations and see it in their smiles and body language. So can students and parents. Those who do not take pleasure in their work seem (are?) bored and disinterested. It’s obvious their hearts aren’t in it. Fortunately, these individuals are few and far between.
As someone who helps create opportunities for colleagues to meet with Vietnamese students and parents, I have the utmost respect for my colleagues who do this important work and know how hard they work. While the life of an international recruiter may seem glamorous to the folks back home, including exotic pics posted on Facebook, and it does have its rewards, it is time away from loved ones and not enough time for proper rest and relaxation.
In addition, Viet Nam’s evening is their morning “back home”, i.e., for those from North America, which means they have additional work to complete, including emails and online chats with colleagues.
US colleagues, especially in higher education, have the added burden of essentially trying to counteract the statements, proposals, and policies of their own government, now more than ever. Rather than providing support or not doing anything at all, the US government, through President Trump and his supporters, is continuously setting up road blocks that they have to get around or hoops they have to jump through. The end results are huge amounts of wasted energy and growing frustration.
The main and immediate job-related reward for recruiters is admitting a new Vietnamese or other international student who gets a visa and arrives on campus ready to begin her or his new academic and cross-cultural adventure. A potential long-term reward is the personal, academic, and professional transformation that many young people undergo after a rewarding and substantive international experience.