Time to race around and get gifts for teachers present and past! Not only a sign of respect in a nation that traditionally holds its educators in high esteem – it’s a tribute to doing a tough job. I should know, I used to teach in Vietnam!
It’s teachers’ Day again in Vietnam on the 20th of November. Celebrated each year by students, teachers and their peers and the government saluting the efforts in education by educators across the nation, the event highlights the exceptional educators as well the often unsung, unnoticed work done by teachers in the far-flung areas of the country. Leading up to Teachers’ Day, the government also assesses and notes for tribute, teachers who have made notable efforts in their workplaces. This often means prizes and awards.
From the warm southern islands to the crowded cities, from the coastal plains to the remote mountains, from elementary to tertiary institutions, and all the specialist teachers of the disadvantaged or physically/mentally challenged, it’s a good time acknowledge their work, dedication, patience, innovation and perseverance in the face of Vietnam’s educational challenges.
The day is widely promoted by mass media and the government hosts many gatherings to honor the work of educators.
While many foreign teachers working here are included in the ceremonies and events – including charity workers/trainers, the focus is on the local workforce and their contributions and the profound influence this profession has on the lives and futures of millions of students across the country. It’s all about inspiring, encouraging, defending, protecting, guiding and nurturing the minds and hearts of the present and next generations who will shape Vietnam’s future.
Did I say millions? Yep, Vietnam’s education system is huge. Over twenty million students – more a million teachers, including teachers with specialist skills in higher education, vocational training and special needs education. That’s a lot of people to thank!
It’s worth noting too, that expressions of gratitude are not limited to teachers, but also mentors, educational volunteers, moral education (think of priests and monks), and just about anyone who has helped in some way towards to someone’s education.
Students get in on the act by preforming for teachers and giving speeches in praise of them. To add to the fun, these are regularly competitions between students for best performance and so on. The bonus for everyone is generally a day off from school!
It’s a difficult job with burn-out, frustration, over-worked employees facing personal as well as professional challenges.
It can involve the loneliness of the remote rural region teachers in the mountain villages, far from home and loved ones, struggling to get students to come to school when parents want them to work in the fields, living in harsh conditions, dealing with weather and local poverty and the lack of professional support due to the distances and accessibility problems, particularly when the rains come.
The same can be said of the teachers working on floating villages, remote islands and small towns far from school supplies, home comforts and the higher salaries of urban areas. Many teachers here will tell you that they do it for the love of educating, a steady income and the respect that people give them.
One great improvement over the years has been the more publicized work and greater funding of educators working with students who have deafness, blindness or other handicaps and disabilities. This encouragement for acceptance as part of the educational mainstream does build co-operation and respect between many parts of Vietnam’s educational infrastructure.
This year has far more difficult than many outsiders would realize, affecting almost every aspect of education. COVID-19 has thrown obstacles and problems on a large scale across all institutional levels. The need to ensure a safe teaching environment, rapidly setting up online education – often in areas where teachers have little, if any, experience with online technologies, and making up for lost days due to lockdowns and cancellations due to this year’s extraordinarily long storm season. And this is on top of guiding, training and leading students in a very stressful year.
That the nation’s teaching profession has risen to the challenge as fast and as wide spread as now has happened is truly remarkable in a nation still lacking the huge financial and logistical resources of more developed countries.
It’s also tougher nowadays as the goals of education become broader – to produce decent, honest students equipped with knowledge and practical experience to adapt to our changing world – new technologies, modernization in the workplace – particularly vocational areas, thinking creatively and able to work in new environments quickly as workplaces transform across the country.
So, congratulations to Vietnamese teachers everywhere for all your hard work and the magic you put in the hearts of your students! Or…
Ăn quả nhớ kẻ trồng cây! (When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree!)