While I will reserve judgement, the theme of this Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV) conference sounds like yet another example of US Americans telling others, in the case, Asian universities, how it should really be done a la Daddy knows best. Why not just New Approaches to University Education?
Or, as one colleague put it, “It’s nice to see that (Thomas) Vallely & Co have found that Vietnam is too small for their ambitions. They want all of Asia to hear their wise words about higher ed.” I wonder if there will be any criticism of US higher education as a negative role model, in some respects?
Said colleague continues: My own humble opinion is that what’s needed is a conference organized by Asians to explain to Americans how we can improve our universities. My colleagues and I could tell many, many stories about how university education in the U.S. has deteriorated over the years. In the 19th century, American colleges were at best comparable to European high schools. We might be getting back to that in the 21st century.
I wonder what advice Asian scholars would give to Americans about how to raise the level of education in the U.S. Unfortunately, in order to avoid offending thin-skinned Americans, they’d probably keep most of their thoughts to themselves, and would not say, for example, “Drop the slogans!” “Fire the bureaucrats!” “Give lower grades!” “Ignore student evaluations!” “Abolish competitive athletics!”
If FUV really valued the liberal arts tradition to which it pays lip service, it would organize such a conference. My colleague and I won’t hold our breath.
In the grand tradition of comparative studies, the US, with which the event sponsor, the Coca-Cola Corporation, and FUV are affiliated, like all countries, is a positive and negative role model, including its higher education system.
Beyond Viet Nam: A Time to Break Silence, a speech Dr. King gave at the Riverside Church in New York City on 4 April 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated is always worth a read and a listen on this or any other day: text and audio. His friendship with Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Zen master, global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist who is now back at his “root temple,” Từ Hiếu Temple near Huế in central Viet Nam, is one of the reasons he gave that seminal speech.
Here’s some information about the latest TedX Hanoi event on 19 January 2019 that will attempt to provide some answers to this very timely question.
The signs of Vietnam’s amazing progress are all around us. Increased growth from Vietnamese companies, and increased investment from international firms, lead to better jobs and rising incomes. With a new high-rise on seemingly every corner, more and more families can afford high-quality housing, and cars to keep their loved ones safe. Increasing numbers of students are studying overseas, while private schools and local universities are rapidly innovating to keep up with this demand. Rising incomes and improved education have unleashed a burst of creative energy, evidenced in the cool cafés, quirky restaurants, and innovative start-ups that populate Hanoi.
At the same time, these developments are uneven. The benefits of better housing, private vehicles, and private education are not shared by everyone. Air pollution has steadily worsened, and Hanoi now regularly ranks among the most polluted cities in the world. The lust for growth threatens traditions. A city once defined by its ancient temples, Old Quarter, and 1,000 years of history, now looks in many areas like any other modern Asian metropolis.
As more and more people attain the quality of life that Vietnam has been striving for, let’s take a moment to ask ourselves: Now what? How has Vietnam made this amazing progress? What direction do we need to focus on for the future? And how do we get there?
I’m happy to see this kind of discussion and debate taking place though I do think they could have had more key fields represented among their chosen speakers. Here is the official answer to this obvious question, “How do you select the speakers for TEDxHanoi?”
The answer is not a simple one. As curators, we read everything we can find that has to do with new ideas worth sharing, and we hear recommendations from our community. There are so many great choices, women and men with ideas worth spreading and stories worth sharing.
Another question is one of follow-up and finding a way to track the short- and long-term results of this conference. Talk is cheap. as the saying goes, but it is an important first step.
A word about access in a country with a nominal 2018 per capita income $2,603 ($7,882, PPP). Either the ticket cost should be much lower or the sponsor (cash) subsidy much higher.
As of 15 January, 92.42% of the tickets had been sold. The early bird rate was 880,000 VND ($38) and the regular ticket cost 1,080,000 VND ($46.56). That is not a lot of money for people of means but it is for most Vietnamese, including students.
Here’s the budget breakdown.
100 guest tickets, presumably gratis.
101 early bird * 880,000 = 88,880,000 VND
262 standard = 1,080,000 = 282,960,000 VND
371,840,000 VND/23,193.80 VND = $16,031.87
16K is pocket change for the event sponsor, a company with a market capitalization of $14.03 billion, as of 16 January 2019. Speaking of which, a smart PR move by Vingroup via Vinschool The Harmony to host this high profile event.
The Federal Government of the United States of America is currently in a Lapse of Appropriations period.
Scheduled passport and visas services, and emergency services for U.S. citizens, will continue at the U.S. Embassy Hanoi and our Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City during the lapse in appropriations as the situation permits.
The American Centers and EducationUSA advising offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City will be closed to the public during the lapse in appropriations. All schedule programs are also postponed until further notice.
We will not update this account until full operations resume, with the exception of urgent safety and security information.
EducationUSA is unable to work with international students who have an interest in study in the USA because DJT wants his border wall. The irony is so thick you can cut it with a knife.
Here’s another one to add to my long and ever-growing list. It’s a variation on the theme of the classic dog and pony show that so many education fairs are these days.
As a fair organizer, do you want to guarantee a certain number of students at your events? Don’t go the route of ethical marketing and promotion with the goal of organic and quality attendance. That’s unpredictable and for losers. You don’t want to be sweating bullets moments before the event doors open. If you want a sure thing, there are several tried-and-true ways of doing it, several of which I’ve written about in previous posts and articles. To recap, here they are:
Bus them in, regardless of their qualifications, interests, goals, and their parents’ ability to pay. Warm bodies make for good photo-ops and impress some of the (more inexperienced) representatives. I recently heard from a colleague who attended one such fair. He said there were a lot of 8th graders wearing the same school uniform. Bingo!
Hire a service that employs faux students and pay a certain amount of money to guarantee a certain number of attendees. (There’s something for everyone in Viet Nam’s relatively new free market economy.) Marketing dollars well spent!
Pay students who “bring a friend” essentially a finder’s fee, thereby doubling or tripling the fun. Great ROI!
#4 is a new one and a variation on #3. Are you ready? 🙂
Since most fairs have student volunteers to assist colleagues with translation and contact information collection, offer a cash reward for each additional young person, student or not, they bring to the event. It beats the expensive cost of traditional and digital marketing. Genius!
Seriously, though, I’ve been around the professional block a few times and am still amazed at how many companies have jumped on this particular cheating bandwagon, including some that pay lip service to ethical business practices and have some kind of external stamp of approval, for what that’s worth. (Not much, actually, but that’s another post or article. Start with this one, if you’re interested.)
One company, for example, offers 100,000 VND for four (4) students, which amounts to $4.30 or $1.08 per referral, rounded up. Too cheap! Give those poor volunteers a salary increase! More money equals more warm bodies! What’s not to like?!? 😉
Probably after checking out the competition, another one, wink, nod, decides to be more “generous” and pays 50,000 VND ($2.15) per student. 400 “students” will cost you a paltry $860. Given the high cost of digital and many kinds of offline marketing these days in Viet Nam, that’s a bargain! Since the name of the game is short-term profit, the more, the merrier (say it with me!), this will help you fatten the all-important bottom line!
If you’re a money-minded student, which company do you want to “volunteer” for? To paraphrase Karl Marx, you sell your labor to the highest bidder. Forget about quality – it’s all about the numbers. Inflate event attendance by essentially bribing students to attend. Look, Ma, we had 400 people at our fair!, don’t mind the obvious and distressing fact that the majority were paid attendees aka essentially actors without an audition.
Of Dogs & Fleas
Shame on people who have no qualms about cutting ethical corners. These are the kind of people that – after meeting with them – you feel the immediate need to wash your hands, maybe even take a shower and, in extreme cases, to delouse. Perhaps worst of all, they set a bad example for Viet Nam’s younger generation by reinforcing the notion that the means justify the ends. Cheating is acceptable. Go for it! Look at us and, in some cases, US(A)!
This is yet another example of corruption in the education industry. It reminds me of a saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack: If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. (Latin: Qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent.)
What a misuse of creativity. It also reminds me a little of the idiom Necessity is the mother of invention, except you can substitute necessity with cheating. As always, success – at all costs – in this case, as measured by the total number of participants, without integrity is failure.
The Buddha’s Fifth Remembrance applies to all of us: My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand. How solid is the moral and ethical ground upon which these scoundrels stand? (The answer in your interior monologue likely conjures up images of sand, quicksand, or something equally unstable.)
Shalom (שלום), MAA
Postscript: If you’re reading this and you work for a company that plays one or more of these games, then the shoe definitely fits. Wear it but definitely not with pride!
689,063 international students in the US in 2017/18, or 63% of the total, studied in 10 states, according to Open Doors 2018 data. You can see a list of 50 states and some US territories by following this link, or click on each state below to see its fact sheet (PDF download). Each fact sheet lists the top 5 places of origin for international students by percentage and the top five host institutions in that state, in addition to the percentage change from the previous academic year and the estimated international student expenditure in that state.
You’ll notice that most have large urban centers, which is where most US Americans lives. Below is a composite image of the continental US at night in 2016. (Credits: NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data from Miguel Román, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)
Now here are the top 25 leading host institutions, which enrolled 251,972 international students last year, or 23% of the total, followed by a map of the US that indicates clusters of high international enrollment.
One conclusion to be drawn from the above is that if your institution is not located in one of the top 10 states, the challenge of recruiting international students, in addition to everything else that is currently on our collective plate, is more daunting. You simply have to be more proactive and, to use an old tagline, try harder. There are many individual success stories and concrete reasons for institutions’ success in international student recruitment.
Given events of the past few years, these are two phrases that mix like oil and water. Think textbook cognitive dissonance. Or a feeble attempt at rehabilitation in the eyes of the public, an audacious means of gaining the moral high ground from the morass of historical tone and gross insensitivity.
My first reaction upon reading about this 10 January 2019 lecture and, more importantly, the series of which it is a part, was “that’s rich coming from an institution that engineered not one but two consecutive PR disasters related to the US War in Viet Nam.”
The first involved Bob Kerrey, who was offered and accepted the position of chairman of the board of trustees. That misguided appointment was the source of considerable controversy and ultimately became a thorn in the side of a budding bilateral relationship – at the highest levels.
The second involved another war veteran and “one of the most influential figures in the US-Viet Nam relationship you’ve never heard of,” Thomas Vallely. He made a series of cruel and insensitive statements about civilian deaths during the war in an interview that was published in early 2018 in Politico.
In case you’re just tuning in, dear reader, or are not entirely up-to-date, have a look at the articles and posts below.