As you may know, corruption in its many forms, both large and small, permeates Vietnamese society, including (use your imagination) and education. Vietnam ranks 112/183, according to the 2011 Transparency International Corruptions Perceptions Index (CPI).
If you’re Vietnamese or an expat who has lived in Vietnam for a long time, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re a foreigner just passing through, what you may have seen or experienced is just the tip of a gigantic iceberg that is as deep as it is wide.
Corruption in education is especially debilitating. A report entitled Stealing the Future: Corruption in Education, published several years ago by Transparency International, cited six damaging effects of corruption in education.
- Corruption in education is particularly damaging because it endangers a country’s social, economic and political future:
- If children come to believe that personal effort and merit do not count and that success comes through manipulation, favoritism, and bribery, then the very foundations of society are shaken.
- Corruption in education affects more people than corruption in others sectors, both in rural and urban areas.
- Its consequences are particularly harsh for the poor who, without access to education or with no alternative but low-quality education, have little chance to escape a life of poverty.
- Corruption is incompatible with one of the major aims of education: producing citizens that respect the law and human rights.
- Corruption threatens equal access, quantity and quality of education.
Since the subtitle of this post is “The Scourge of Forged Documents,” let me conclude by briefly addressing this problematic and vexing issue. When admitting a student from Vietnam, do not trust what you cannot verify. (The issue of forged documents, including transcripts and bank statements, is one of the reasons the US student visa rejection rate is higher than it should be. Another reason is a lack of familiarity with the immigration law that consular officers are charged with enforcing.*) Transcripts are modified and even fabricated for a fee. This is more prevalent among some types of schools than others. When in doubt, work with someone on the ground whom you trust to determine the authenticity of an academic document.
P.S.: The image at top is relevant to Vietnam only in a symbolic sense; money usually passes from one person to another – for services rendered (or in the expectation of services to be rendered) – in an envelope; hence, the reference to Vietnam as an “envelope culture.”
*On the bright side, stay tuned for an upbeat blog post about the US student visa process tentatively entitled The US Student Visa: It’s Not Rocket Science!)