My last post of 2014, a great year, in many respects. Below I describe one online adventure that illustrates the status of the Internet as both a blessing and a curse. The main lesson here? Read everything with a critical eye, check the source and question the intent. Pause and think before jumping on the cyber bandwagon.
In late October, the Saigon Broadcasting Television Network (SBTN) in Garden Grove, CA, USA published an article (current status: Không tìm thấy trang/Page Not Found) that quoted me and included a list of US-based unaccredited institutions of higher education that originally appeared here in 2010. Before the article was taken down from the website (I can guess why, aside from the obvious, but would rather not speculate in a public forum), it was picked up by numerous blogs and I noticed a substantial spike in traffic to An International Educator in Vietnam. I also received some emails thanking me for the post. In fact, the list was taken from a 2010 blog post of mine, which I updated in 2012. In other words, it was old news that was being recycled for political purposes. Political ax-grinding masquerading as journalism. Why? Read on…
The impetus for the original SBTN article was the arrest of Ha Van Tham, the chairman of Ocean Bank. In 2012, he approved a loan of VND 500 billion ($23.5 million) to Trung Dung real estate company without proper collateral. The media reported that Trung Dung is likely to default on the loan. As of the end of 2013, Tham’s net worth reached VND 1.5 trillion ($70.7 million), making him the eighth richest person in the stock market, i.e., a banking billionaire in local currency.
As his LinkedIn account and Wikipedia entry note, Tham “earned a bachelors degree from the Vietnam University of Commerce, and a masters from Columbia Commonwealth University. He is a Doctor of Business Administration at Paramount University of Technology.” It is the last two, both US-based unaccredited schools that happen to appear on my list, which spawned a side story that went viral in the blogosphere, including on this blog. Like the others, it simply reprinted the subsequently retracted SBTN article, which did a copy and paste job from my original blog post.
Originating in Orange County, CA, it should come as no surprise that the SBTN article had a political ax to grind. For example, it made the incorrect point that the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) had remained silent about this issue, blaming the Vietnamese government for doing nothing. In fact, as I pointed out in a August 2010 post MoET made unauthorized joint training programs illegal and announced that would not recognize the diplomas of programs offered in cooperation with unaccredited foreign partners. Here’s what I had to say about this step forward:
There is a seemingly happy ending to this story. The second week of August Dr. Nguyễn Xuân Vang, director of the International Education Development Department of the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) stated in an interview that unauthorized joint training programs are illegal and that the Ministry will not recognize the diplomas of programs offered in cooperation with unaccredited foreign partners. Follow this link to read the English translation of the interview: MoET will refuse degrees granted by low-quality joint training programmes. This is just what the doctor ordered, a salve for this societal growing pain.
I think it was the former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping who once said “Open the windows, breathe the fresh air and at the same time fight the flies and insects.” While the windows remain open in Vietnam, I do see the slow but sure installation of screens on some windows related to learner protection.
Another point the SBTN article could have mentioned, had the editors removed their ideological blinders for just a moment, is that most rogue providers that are operating (or have operated) in Vietnam are based in the US. Why doesn’t the US government develop a national policy and ban these faux universities that cheat students of their money, pollute the world of work with fake educational credentials and tarnish the reputation of legitimate US higher education? SBTN overlooked this obvious fact because it doesn’t mesh with its political agenda.