Keep Viet Nam Beautiful! Gìn giữ Việt Nam tươi đẹp!

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A plastic bottle floating in Ha Long Bay.  Photo:  MAA

Vietnam is the fourth-largest contributor to marine plastic pollution globally, a 2015 study by the University of Georgia showed.

I took the above photo during a recent trip to Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994 and one of the natural wonders of the world.  While the water is often described as “emerald” that is not always the case because of pollution.  In addition, if you take a boat out on the bay for a half a day or overnight, there is a nearly 100% certainly that you will see plastic items floating in the water. Most of this garbage will eventually find its way into the sea.  

Aside from the importance of maintaining a healthy environment for the sake of the flora and fauna that live in it and the people who consume what it has to offer, there is also tourism, which is ultimately dependent upon a clean and beautiful natural environment, including the water that people swim in.  

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Photo taken in the same area at the same time.

Sadly, Viet Nam is one of Asia’s five worst polluters of ocean plastic waste with 13 million tonnes of waste released to the ocean every year.  The country ranks 17th in the world for ocean plastic waste pollution.  According to the February 2019 article from which that information was taken, each person in Viet Nam consumed 3.8 kg of plastic per year in 1990; in 2015, that figure had skyrocketed to 41 kg (Source:  Viet Nam’s Association of Plastic).  The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) estimated that about 80 TONS (!) of plastic waste and bags are thrown away every day in Hanoi and HCMC alone.  

To learn about positive steps that are being taken and can be taken, read the rest of the aforementioned mention article, Việt Nam takes action to reduce plastic waste.  Waste is not only a burden but an economic opportunity with the use of existing technology and that currently being developed.  There’s gold in garbage, as many entrepreneurs have discovered.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

My First VinFast

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The Powerful Spirit of Vietnam (slogan of the VinFast Lux SA20 Turbo, which will set you back about 1.5 billion VND ($64,602 USD)

I saw my first VinFast car!  Here’s an excerpt from the “About Us” section of the VinFast website:  VinFast is a private automotive startup backed by VinGroup – Vietnam’s largest conglomerate. This allows us to take a bold new approach to design. It was our goal from the outset to create a world-class car with a Vietnamese identity.  By inviting Vietnamese people – our future customers – to be directly involved in our designs right at the start, we turned the traditional design process on its head.

VinFast stands for:

Việt Nam (Vietnam)
Phong cách (Stylish, Ph=F)
An toàn (Safety)
Sáng tạo (Creativeness)
Tiên phong (Pioneer)

For more background information about VinFast, which was founded just two years ago, have a look at this overview.

I’ll be interested to see how Vingroup’s famous brand translates into VinFast car sales in the coming year.  There’s no shortage of competition and saying your product has a “Vietnamese identity” is no guarantee of success.  The competition is fierce.  Stay tuned!

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Education investment catching attention

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Photo: Viet Tuan (VET)

Here’s an informative article from the September 2019 issue of Vietnam Economic Times about the growth of private education in Viet Nam.  The introductory paragraph should whet your appetite for more, assuming you have at least a casual interest in this topic.

The International School @ ParkCity Hanoi (ISPH) will officially welcome hundreds of students to study at its new 2.5-ha facility in September. “We are here in Hanoi to meet the educational needs of Hanoi residents, both Vietnamese and expats,” Mr. Pham Duc Trung Kien, a private equity investor and Board Member of ISPH, told VET. “There are many great success stories in Vietnam’s education sector for both founders and investors. So I am upbeat about investing in the country.”

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Reflections on the passing of General Giap and the end of an era

reflectionsHot off the digital press, a retrospective view of the passing of the legendary Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap, who died six years ago this Friday at the age of 102 in Hanoi.  Click on the image to read the article in its entirety.  

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Here are two photos that will appear in the forthcoming Vietnamese translation.

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Group photo of Vietnamese, US and other foreign colleagues.
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From left to right: Michael Cull, who passed away in early 2018, Manus Campbell, MAA, and Chuck Searcy. Photograph by Catherine Karnow

Update:  Here’s a link to the Vietnamese translation on Soha.    

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Happy 10th Birthday, Capstone Vietnam!

Độc lập – Tự do – Hạnh phúc (Independence – Freedom – Happiness)

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10 years ago this week Capstone Vietnam, now one of Viet Nam’s premier full-service educational consulting companies, was established in Hanoi. That was a time when our vision, mission and values were still taking shape and the groundwork being laid for our future work.  Since 2012, we have had an office in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and a nationwide presence through various events and activities, both on- and offline.

recruit in vnWhile our official slogan is Reaching New Heights, which is related to our company name, Capstone, meaning a “high point” or “crowning achievement,” we are also inspired by this unattributed saying, Success Without Integrity is Failure. This sentiment will continue to guide Capstone’s work for the next 10 years.

10 year logoWe’re grateful to the many clients, both individual and institutional, and our partners, who have placed their trust in us, as well as staff who have contributed to the success of Capstone Vietnam, over the past decade.

Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, our development and growth have paralleled that of Viet Nam, in some respects.  I included Viet Nam’s national motto above because it also applies to private sector companies that are given sufficient leeway and flexibility to carve out a niche in the market, make contributions, and do what they do best. 

One testament to our Capstone’s success is that other companies have copied our business model in the spirit of imitation as the sincerest form of flattery.  On the dark side, this copy and paste mentality also reflects a decided lack of creativity and intelligence among some in this and other industries.  As you know, this tendency is not unique to Viet Nam.  

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Capstone student volunteers promoting our fall StudyUSA & Canada Higher Education Fairs – with smiles on their faces!

If the spirit moves you, raise your glass, alcoholic beverage or not, and make a toast to independence, freedom, and happiness in the field of international education in the private sector.  Chúc mừng sinh nhật lần thứ 10, Capstone Việt Nam!

Shalom (שלום), MAA

B-1/2 vs. F-1 Visas to the USA

us state dept seal.pngThe adjusted refusal rate for B (tourist/business) visas issued to Vietnamese citizens in 2018 was 26.2%, which means the issuance rate was 73.8%. I wish we had access to the same information for F-1 (student) visas broken down by state and even institution and type of institution.  

Student visa issuance rates are generally quite a bit lower, more so at the US Consulate in HCMC than the US Embassy in Hanoi.  I’ve heard of issuances rates ranging from less than 50% to over 75%.  I work with a number of secondary and four-year institutions that boast an issuance rate of 100% in Viet Nam.  

Other foreign governments do a much better job of sharing this important information. For example, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada recently released information indicating that the refusal rate from 1 January to 31 May of this year for Viet Nam was 55% compared to 15% for China and 36% for India.  In 2018, it was 22% for Viet Nam.  

As I’ve mentioned to a number of US colleagues and journalists, the only way to obtain this information is through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.  It shouldn’t be this hard.  These are not state secrets after all.  I recently heard from one colleague who filed a FOIA request.  I look forward to seeing the results.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Whose Bread I Eat, His Song I Sing: An International Education Nonprofit and a Devil’s Bargain

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2019 is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Institute of International Education (IIE), a well-known US-based private nonprofit that focuses on international student exchange and aid, foreign affairs, and international peace and security. IIE refers to itself as “a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas.”

While IIE has numerous achievements to its credit, there are also many missed opportunities and built-in constraints that are the result of its status as a quasi-US governmental organization. It describes itself as “an independent, nonprofit” but the former adjective is in name only.

I think the title and above excerpt from my essay about the Institute of International Education (IIE) pretty much sums it up.  Follow this link to read the article in its entirety.  Full disclosure:  I served as country director of IIE-Vietnam from 2005-09.  I therefore know whereof I speak.  

Here is a Vietnamese translation.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Postscript:  It will not surprise some of you to learn that the major US higher education digital media outlets would not touch this piece with a ten foot pole.  Why?  Because it’s too hot to handle.  Read the article to find out why.  “Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one.” ―A.J. Liebling