Vietnam looks to Northern Europe for education model

Vietnam’s new education philosophy shares many values with countries in Northern Europe

A Vietnamese classroom is seen in this file photo. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Vietnamese Minister of Education and Training Phung Xuan Nha has recently visited three countries in Northern Europe in search of cooperation opportunities in the field of education.

Minister Nha was joined by headmasters from a number of schools and universities in his country on the working trip across Finland, Sweden and Denmark ahead of Vietnam’s national back-to-school day on Tuesday.

Eighteen memoranda of understanding were signed between Vietnamese and Finnish schools over the course of the minister’s visit, addressing areas of teacher training, the dedication of learning materials and online teaching technologies, and the establishment of Finnish-invested schools in Vietnam.

A further 17 memoranda of understanding were closed with Denmark, outlining cooperation in medical and geological education and research, as well as the implementation of information technology in education.

During Minister Nha’s meeting with the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Ulla Tørnæs, the two exchanged in-depth discussions on STEM education, which aims to educate students in four specific disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – using an interdisciplinary approach.

Phung Xuan Nha, Vietnamese Minister of Education and Training. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Phung Xuan Nha, Vietnamese Minister of Education and Training. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Conscious adoption

According to officials from subordinate departments of the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training, mainstream education in the three Northern European nations share a range of values with Vietnam’s upgraded philosophy of education, as seen in a recent draft of comprehensive reforms of its general education.

The upcoming reform, set for 2019, will empower teachers and students with more freedom and autonomy, while emphasizing experimental and creative activities at school and evaluating students on both progress and final results.

Nguyen Duc Huu, an education ministry official, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that the new method of student evaluation expected in the upcoming reform is similar to that adopted by schools in Finland.

“It brings us more confidence that we are heading the right way,” Huu said. “Nevertheless, there are still challenges to overcome, and more adjustments [to foreign methods] must be made to fit in with Vietnam’s conditions.”

Students attend the opening ceremony for the 2017-2018 academic year at Nguyen Thi Minh Khai High School in Ho Chi Minh City, September 5, 2017. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Students attend the opening ceremony for the 2017-2018 academic year at Nguyen Thi Minh Khai High School in Ho Chi Minh City, September 5, 2017. Photo: Tuoi Tre

The ministry’s head of international cooperation Nguyen Xuan Vang said Minister Nha’s visit had opened the door for Vietnamese schools to import teaching programs from these nations with developed education systems.

However, he added that it was necessary for schools to make conscious adoptions of such programs on the basis of understanding similarities and differences between Vietnam and the European countries.

“One such difference is the human factor,” said Lam Hong Lam Thuy, headmaster of Nguyen Binh Khiem Elementary School in Ho Chi Minh City. “In order to successfully implement modern teaching methods, we must first upgrade the mindset of teachers and education administrators.”

According to Thuy, teachers in Finland enjoy a much wider freedom in deciding their teaching style and lesson plans, without being under constant supervision and inspection.

Teaching is also a much better-paid profession in Finland compared to Vietnam, which frees teachers of financial worries to concentrate on providing the best for students, she added.

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