Viet Nam Briefing & Discussion with US Study Abroad Students

ssa-logoI spent part of last Monday morning speaking and listening to a group of 17 US students who are in Viet Nam for the spring semester under the auspices of a School for International Training’s (SIT) program entitled Vietnam: Culture, Social Change, and Development.

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They started out in HCMC (Saigon) on 1 February and will now spend the remainder of their time in Hanoi.  Most are female (12 out of 17, or about 70%) and come from a variety of mostly private colleges and universities from 11 states.  These include – in A-Z order – Bates College, Emory University, Hamilton College, Ithaca College, Maryland Institute College of Art, Skidmore College, University of Mississippi, Siena College, University of Vermont, Vanderbilt University, University of Virginia, Vassar College, Washington University in St. Louis, Whitman College, and Williams College

Thei majors represented include Anthropology, Economics, Finance, Gender Studies, History, Human Development, Illustration/Design, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Public Policy, Social Work, and Sociology.

In addition to their coursework and program-related activities, the students are either working on an independent study project or doing an internship.

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We discussed a wide range of issues related to Viet Nam, its development, and its recent history, as well as about concepts such nationalism, patriotism, and global citizenship.  They were engaged, curious, and well-informed. 

Thanks to SIT for the opportunity to talk about one of my favorite topics – Viet Nam!


Enrollment of Vietnamese Students at US Universities & Colleges Up by 640% Since 2001/02


According to Open Doors data, the number of international students in the U.S. universities and colleges from 2001/02 to 2014/15 increased by 67% to reach nearly 975,000 students. That increase for Viet Nam was 640%, which places it among the top five sending countries that have experienced a growth rate of over 100%.

As the authors of this analysis point out, the solid growth illustrates the post-9/11 resilience of US institutions of higher education among international students.  Whether or not this trend continues may be decided by the results of the upcoming presidential election.

For more information, follow this link to post on DrEducation’s website, based on this 11 September 2016 Forbes article.  Keep up the good work, Rahul!


Happy Planet Index: Viet Nam Ranks 5th Overall & 2nd in Asia Pacific

Vietnam ranks fifth in the Happy Planet Index results, and second in the Asia Pacific region. This Southeast Asian country, characterised by its mountains and tropical forests, has a strikingly low Ecological Footprint and economic output per head almost 24 times smaller than nearby Hong Kong. Vietnam is one of just three countries in the top ten Happy Planet Index rankings with an Ecological Footprint that is small enough to be considered environmentally sustainable.

The Happy Planet Index measures what matters: sustainable well-being for all. It tells us how well nations are doing at achieving long, happy, sustainable lives.

static1.squarespace.comWealthy Western countries, often seen as the standard of success, do not rank highly on the Happy Planet Index (HPI).  Instead, several countries in Latin America and the Asia Pacific region lead the way by achieving high life expectancy and well-being with much smaller Ecological Footprints.

The Happy Planet Index provides a compass to guide nations, and shows that it is possible to live good lives without costing the Earth.

Source:  About the HPI

Follow this link to read the entire Viet Nam report.


“Extraordinary” Educational Achievements in Viet Nam

Vietnam’s achievements in primary and secondary education over the last two decades are extraordinary. Out of 65 countries, Vietnam ranked 17th in maths and 19th in reading – surpassing both the United States and the United Kingdom – in the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the worldwide scholastic performance measure of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Here’s another headline you don’t see every day.  Congratulations to Viet Nam on its successes in the realm of education, especially math and science achievement.

rise logoThis £4.2 million ($5.4 million), six-year research project is being carried out by Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE), a project launched in 2015 “to conduct high-quality research to build a body of world-class evidence to inform education policy, and to raise learning outcomes for children in the developing world.”

Research in Vietnam, and in at least five other countries, seeks to shift emphasis away from long-standing, input-oriented goals – children’s attendance in schools – and toward output-oriented achievements – increased literacy and numeracy skills.

RISE is supported by £27.6 million  ($35.7 million) in funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), whose contribution has enabled RISE to add a sixth country.

Specifically, the research will “undertake a systematic evaluation of Vietnam’s education system by analysing the status and impacts of past, current and upcoming educational reforms. The aim is to understand how policy levers made Vietnam’s exceptional achievements possible, and whether and how new reforms are able to build on its achievements.”  The key questions are:

  1. What explains Vietnam’s high levels of student learning?
  2. What impact will current and planned curriculum reforms have on student educational outcomes?

I’m pleased to see this kind of research being conducted and look forward with great anticipation to the results.  Follow this link to learn more about this research project and the Viet Nam country research team, a multidisciplinary group of nine researchers from Viet Nam, the US, the UK, and the Netherlands.


Peace Corps Coming to Vietnam for First Time

I’m very happy to see this development.  It’s yet another indication that Viet Nam is coming of age as a full-fledged member of the global community of nations because it reflects the government’s confidence in itself and its country.

In the past, the Peace Corps was viewed with official suspicion.  (This is not without cause, based on past experience.  In 2008, for example, it was revealed that in Bolivia, Peace Corps volunteers and a Fulbright scholar were asked by a U.S. Embassy official to provide details on Cubans and Venezuelans in that country.)

The announcement came during a press conference with President Tran Dai Quang in Hanoi.  Photo courtesy of of the government of Viet Nam via UPI.

While the Peace Corps is very much a part of US soft power strategy, it represents another step forward in the bilateral relationship.  The English teachers supplied by the program will help improve the English proficiency of many Vietnamese, both teachers and students.  Note that the program is initially limited to English teachers, which makes sense, given past concerns.


“Tech, Communism & Commerce Coexist In Vietnam”

Not a bad article by Larry Magid, who writes about consumer technology for the WSJ.  It was the result of a recent and very brief visit to Ha Noi, after participating in a trade show in Shenzhen, China.  Most foreign reporters have an ax to grind and often cherry pick answers that are consistent with their preconceived notions of Viet Nam and what it’s like, or should be like.  It’s true – Magid he did tell his US readers some of what they want to hear but his report was a good update for those, i.e,. the majority of WSJ readers and US Americans in general, who know little to nothing about Viet Nam.  (One minor criticism is that he used some old data.)

Photo courtesy of the WSJ

Knowing that all countries are both positive and negative role models, my sincere hope is that Viet Nam shifts its focus to sustainable development and does not follow the US model of capitalism.  The US has 4.4% of the world’s population and consumes 1/3 of its resources.  The “American Dream,” such as it is, has been paid for on credit in recent decades, sadly, which explains record mortgage, credit card and student loan debt.


Tips for Entrepreneurs

Thuan Pham, CTO at Uber Technologies, Inc. Photo credit:  TheInformation

Memo to entrepreneurs:  read this, take it to heart, live it.  Good advice from Thuan Pham, Chief Technology Officer of Uber, excerpted from a recent Tech in Asia article about him.

It’s about the work, innovation, quality, impact, taking risks, learning from failure and leaving a legacy.  If all of the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, the money comes later.  It’s not about showin’ you the money but about showing the world what you can do offer and contribute.

This advice was offered by Mr. Thuan during a recent visit to India as part of an UberExchange program:

  1. Money will come when you do something that impacts a lot of people. If you chase only money, you will be really unhappy.
  2. Building something that can impact and change people’s lives across the world will always keep you motivated.
  3. Don’t take yourself too seriously and you will not hesitate to take bold risks in life. Have fun along the way.
  4. Give back. Developing people will really make you satisfied at the end of it. Developing young ones in your teams who can lead and impact hundreds of lives – even after you’re gone – will leave you satisfied.

It’s all about finding your ikigai!