“Why do Vietnamese students refuse to return home after studying abroad?”

Courtesy of Tuổi Trẻ Online
Courtesy of Tuoi Tre

If only the world were that simple.  Fortunately, in this case, it’s not.  Many remain overseas for various reasons, mostly related to career opportunities and earnings potential.  Some fall in love and end up marrying a host country national while others choose to study in a field that is either at an early stage of development or nonexistent in Vietnam.

Do people return for family reasons?  Absolutely.  But there are other compelling reasons, including the vitality of the economy and the many opportunities available to people in some industry sectors to either work for an existing company or start one of their own.   There are also those who, for whatever reason, believe that the grass is greener in country X, find out it’s not, and return home.

I do agree with Dr. Trung, who studied in France and now works at the Hanoi-based Vietnam Construction and Import-Export Joint Stock Corporation, that ” the way organizations…  here operate is unprofessional, and lacks fair competition and the spirit of teamwork.”  This is one reason why many young Vietnamese prefer to work for a multinational company or a local company with an international environment.  Other disincentives mentioned are nepotism, a lack of transparency in the workplace and salaries that are not in line with living expenses.  For academic researchers in many fields there are fewer opportunities to conduct in-depth research because of a lack of resources.

Other reasons are related to quality of life, including concerns about the quality of the educational system – on behalf of their children – now or in the future – pollution, food hygiene, traffic jams, accidents, etc.

I also agree with what Nguyen Thien Nhan, former Minister of Education and Deputy Prime Minister and currently Chair of the Vietnam Fatherland Front, said last year during a visit to Hanoi-Amsterdam High School for the Gifted, namely, that Vietnamese students are not required return to Vietnam after finishing their studies overseas, as they can serve the fatherland anywhere in the world.  This sentiment was echoed by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam:  “as the concept of global citizenship has become more popular, it does not mean overseas students cannot contribute to Vietnamese society when they refuse to return to Vietnam.”  Examples including remittances, a sharing of expertise and business contacts, and charitable work.

Recipients of Government Scholarships:  A Special Case

Since this involves the use of public funds used to invest in talented young Vietnamese, many of whom remain abroad, the government needs to use a carrot and stick approach.  Here are four solutions proposed by Pham Quang Hung, director of the Vietnam International Education Development (VIED) under the Ministry of Education and Training, to ensure that more return to Vietnam:

According to Hung, the first solution is choosing talent with moral quality to send to those programs, as well as offering obligations that they are required to come back after finishing their studies.

The second solution is strengthening the monitoring of students studying abroad.

Next is to create motivation such as promoting their patriotism and offering good working opportunities and environments.

The last solution Hung suggested is to handle violation cases.

His advice, not the first time this has been proposed, by the way, is to require them to reimburse the government for the cost of their scholarship, should they decide to remain abroad.  It’s only fair.


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