Editor’s Note: Mark Ashwill is the managing director and founder of Capstone Vietnam, a human resource development company that provides education and training solutions. He was the country director of the Institute of International Education in Vietnam from 2005 to 2009.
Ashwill recently talked to Tuoitrenews about how to supply a better-balanced education to Vietnamese children, following a veteran educator’s letter to parents at the beginning of this academic year, which fell on September 5. Associate Professor Van Nhu Cuong, a 76-year-old mathematician who has written many textbooks for high school and college students, suggested in the letter that parents should not overrate and indulge their children too much.
He also touched on many hotly debated issues like excessive care for children, after-school classes, and Internet addiction. The English translation of this letter can be found here.
Following is Tuoitrenews’ interview with Ashwill.
What struck you most about young people, e.g. from kids to young adults in their 20s, in Vietnam when you first came to work here? How over-programed and stress-filled many of their young lives are, with a long list of extra classes and enrichment activities. Children who are overscheduled do not have time to be children, to play with others or even by themselves on occasion. Play is considered to be such an important contributor to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children that it was recognized by the UN as a right of every child. It’s unstructured time that gives children the opportunity to use their imagination, learn to solve problems, and develop social skills.
I understand that parents want the very best for their children but “the best” should include helping them live a life that is balanced – intellectually, morally, physically and spiritually. I’m reminded of the theory of multiple intelligences developed by Dr. Howard Gardner, a Harvard University professor. It includes visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, and logical-mathematical. We all have different aptitudes and “intelligences.” The challenge is to recognize and develop them. A lesson here is that children should be encouraged to explore and discover their intelligences but not be pressured into doing something for which they have little or no aptitude, i.e., trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. This also means that “one size doesn’t fit all” in terms of learning styles.
On the bright side, I’ve also noticed many young people who look beyond themselves and their narrow world by getting involved in community service activities. They are passionate about making a difference in the lives of people less fortunate and in the larger society. In addition, I’ve found that young Vietnamese are open to the world and open-minded in many respects. That’s a source of hope and optimism.
Follow this link to read the rest of the interview.
You can read the Vietnamese language interview here: Dạy con trẻ làm người tử tế (22.9.13)