I had the privilege of being an invited speaker at yesterday’s First Vietnam-US Higher Education Forum in Hanoi. During the morning plenary session, one speaker referred to the Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF) as a US government program. I took the liberty of pointing out to the assembled throng that it is, in fact, a scholarship-for-debt program and that the funding comes from the Vietnamese government. Give credit where credit’s due. It’s only fair, right? (Here’s a 2010 post entitled VEF: From Vietnam With Money about this issue.)
In April 1997, the US “persuaded” the Vietnamese government, using the time-honored carrot and stick approach, to repay $146 million worth of agricultural and other loans, including principal and interest, incurred by its former enemy, the former Republic of Vietnam. Three years later, the Vietnam Education Foundation Act of 2000 was introduced with the support of US senators who are veterans, including John Kerry, John McCain, Bob Kerrey, Chuck Hagel, Chuck Robb and Max Cleland. This legislation resulted in the VEF.
When I asked how many colleagues were aware of this, only a few hands went up in an audience of 150 or so. In other words, most people, Vietnamese and US Americans alike, think that the VEF is a US scholarship program. Interestingly, a black/white PDF version of an article I wrote ten years ago about the VEF is still on its website. (Follow this link to download the original color version.)
Stay tuned for a post about the connection between VEF funding and the new Fulbright University Vietnam. This will be a follow-up to a post from 26 May 2014 entitled Of Proposed Fulbright Cuts, Reaper Drones & the American Fulbright University in Vietnam. The subtitle of this blog ain’t Information, Insights & (Occasionally) Intrigue for nothin’!