Tomorrow (Friday) we conclude our technical visits with meetings at Hoa Sen University and Open University. The former is an interesting example of a private university and the latter an effort to provide access to those who may not score high enough in the general entrance exam to qualify for regular university admission.
Over the past two plus weeks, we have explored a wide range of universities and a more limited range of schools. Such a range of experiences has provided us with interesting observations and questions about the relationship of education to society, from the Gifted High School in Hanoi to the struggling primary and middle schools in the poor province of Hoa Giang in the south, from the relatively elite National University Hanoi and National University Ho Chi Minh City to the more regional and provincial universities in the Mekong Delta. The number of private universities are increasing but creating questions of quality and sustainability (sound familiar?).
My perspective: Some answers, but lots and lots of questions. Improving the schools and universities in a developing country seems like an overwhelming task. So much to do, so little to do it with.
Stay tuned for final reflections by our group members.
3:45 am. can Tho is sleeping but we are up and off to the floating market!
For all our followers out there - and we so appreciate that you are following us - we apologize for the lack of posts and that all the photos are not showing properly. Our current hotel has weak internet. We are moving to a new city - Ho Chi Minh City - tomorrow night and (hopefully) will be able to do all our updates and corrections. Stay tuned…
Yesterday morning, before we left Nha Trang city limits for a day of adventure on the high seas, I took a walk around the neighborhoods away from the beach. Like many communities situated along a beautiful shoreline, most of the activity (at least that which is directed at tourists) is concentrated along “the strip.” And most of the daily life takes place in the areas perpendicular to the strip.
I am always delighted to find schools in Vietnam. I think it helps with my missing my family, and it also creates a nice counterpoint to the visits we have to higher education institutions, which were the only kind of schools we were able to visit in Nha Trang. Though my academic and professional focus is on post-secondary education, my personal life is decidedly in the Pre-K-12 camp (as I have mentioned).
Yesterday the primary school was hosting what appeared to be a kindergarten graduation. Kindergarten is, here, the final year of preschool education, as opposed to the first year of primary education as it is in the U.S. But the children still have the same look: no longer “little kids” but not yet “big kids,” and like many preschool graduation ceremonies, the shift from preschool to primary school is to be celebrated.
Here, that meant balloon vendors lining the school streets, and their large and colorful balloons created a vibrant contrast to the bright blue sky. As in the U.S. parents raced in late, encouraging their children to hurry, and racing to the inner courtyard (I couldn’t go in to see, since schools have guards at the gates) where there was music, singing, and groups of small children wearing bright blue gowns and matching blue mortarboards, complete with tassels.
I was frankly a little surprised to see that, despite the differences in traditional dress, much of what we wear is quite similar: you’ll notice from pictures of our delegation that business dress is not unlike that which you find in the US. Men in dress slacks and a button down shirt, and as someone pointed out, women are more likely to wear skirts than pants, though I have seen both in professional settings, much as you will see in the U.S.. You will occasionally see an ao dai (the traditional Vietnamese long flowing dress and loose fitting pants), but it seems to be more symbolically formal than practically formal. At our one visit, the students that were part of our welcome delegation wore ao dai, but the female faculty members wore skirts and short sleeved blouses.
And as another example of sartorial and stylistic similarity, these children, graduating from kindergarten, took the same kinds of pictures to celebrate the moment as we do: in bright gowns and mortarboards, standing next to a tree with mom or dad. Our educational systems are significantly different in many ways, but we honor the milestones that are part of our passage through these systems in similar, even parallel, ways.
Though as someone who is often forgetful and harried, I would LOVE for balloon vendors to be outside my child’s school for momentous occasions. I would make things much more efficient, and I’d be covered if I forgot!