Fact: According to the Ministry of Education and Training, from 1987-2009, the number of students was thirteen times higher, while the number of lecturers only tripled.
Fact: The current average ratio of students to lecturers is 28:1. At the Ho Chi Minh City University of Foreign Languages and Information Technology it is 47.3/1, at the Ho Chi Minh City Open University 41.2, and at Hong Bang University 40.2/1.
Fact: Newly recruited lecturers at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technical Education are paid about 3 million VND ($154) per month in their first year.
Fact: Most university graduates with “good” and “excellent” marks have no desire to become lecturers.
Fact: The Ho Chi Minh City University of Technical Education planned to recruit 60 lecturers, but only 35 were selected from 110 candidates.
Fact: 65 people signed up to participate in a selection process for the University of Finance and Marketing. Only 31 people actually attended the interviews and only six were chosen.
This, of course, is one of the perennial and widely reported shortcomings of Vietnamese higher education. While there is a shortage of lecturers, qualified and otherwise, there are also many talented and dedicated faculty in Vietnam. The main reasons they are able to continue teaching are: 1) moonlighting to supplement their meager income; 2) a spouse who earns a good income; 3) investments and other sources of income; 4) they have no other viable career options. For those who are obliged to rely on option #1 to make ends meet and more, the emphasis is on quantity over quality. They are usually too busy teaching to revise syllabi as often as they should, update their knowledge, conduct research, engage in professional development activities, etc.
There is also the issue of “brain migration,” sometimes more benignly referred to as “brain circulation,” whereby schools are able to recruit but not retain quality instructors. It’s not a difficult decision to leave a job with a monthly salary of $154 for one that pays $500, 1k, 2k or more in the private sector. (Keep in mind that Vietnam’s 2009 per capita income was $1052.)
Long-Term Solution: Tap into Vietnam’s rapidly expanding economy and unprecedented generation of income and wealth through personal and corporate income tax collection. Take concrete and measurable steps to minimize “slippage” (i.e., corruption). Phase in a series of sizable salary increases for faculty and administrators that are more in line with market-based pay. Design and launch a nationwide recruitment campaign as a first step in recruiting (and retaining) outstanding young faculty, including those who are overseas-educated. Also address issues related to working conditions, including hiring more staff and reducing class size.
Click here to read Universities weep over shortage of lecturers (15.9.10).