Harvard Proclaims Crisis on Vietnam’s Higher Education

11.03.09 – The Ash Institute of the Harvard Kennedy School’s 2008 declaration of Vietnamese Higher Education fuels debate both inside and outside of Vietnam[i].  The eleven pages memorandum declares crisis citing Vietnam’s lack of intellectual patents and publications. Also included in the memorandum are explanations of Vietnam’s inefficient education system—legacy of post French colonialism and the lack of educational freedom and accountability—which are mostly based on the Hoang Tuy’s New Year, Old Story article published in Tia Sang[ii].

The Harvard memorandum sparks responses from both sides.  Leading opponent is Mathematics Professor of University of Washington, Neal Koblitz[iii], who cautions Vietnamese politicians of romanticizing American education and its institution. In June 2009, the Ash Institute published The Intangibles of Excellence: Governance and the Quest to Build a Vietnamese Apex Research University[iv], offering policy recommendations for Vietnam’s higher education reform.  Neal Koblitz again warns Vietnam to be wary of recommendations from “neocolonialist arrogance”, where he coined the term with Harvard/Fulbright group.  Koblitz’s second paper is yet to be translated to Vietnamese[v].

Addressing the need to reform Vietnam’s higher education, Deputy Prime Minister, Ministry of Education and Training, Nguyen Thien Nhan calls for local government and students to reassess the quality of higher education in an interview posted on VietNamNet.vn[vi] and the Ministry’s website[vii] recently. The Consulate General of Vietnam in San Francisco also will host Higher Education Forum to explore cooperation between Vietnam, California and American universities on November 16[viii].

[i] http://www.hks.harvard.edu/innovations/asia/Documents/HigherEducationOverview112008.pdf
[ii] http://www.fetp.edu.vn/inthenews/tiasang_02feb2007_1.htm
[iii] http://www.tuanvietnam.net/2009-10-21-tranh-luan-sau-bao-cao-cua-harvard-ve-gd-vn
[iv] http://ashinstitute.harvard.edu/ash/apex_university_paper_september.pdf
[v] The paper is provided generously by its author, Neal Koblitz.
[vi] http://vietnamnet.vn/giaoduc/200910/Giai-the-truong-dai-hoc-phai-co-quy-trinh-875827/
[vii] http://www.moet.gov.vn/?page=16.1&view=1718
[viii] http://studycalifornia.org/MeetVietnam.html

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  1. Wow great article! We need collaboration, from both inside and outside the country! Its quite clear that we have numerous talented individuals in our global communities – from PhDs, MDs, Masters to MBAs MPHs.. If only there are valuable opportunities for these individuals to make contributions. By the way, the references look great.

  2. I do agree with most of Koblitz’s comments. The ASH paper just starts from the US point of view and comon practice, with the huge assumption that US higher education is the best of the world!. They just have forgotten that the Vietnamese (like other Asian countries) context is much different from the US.

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