Prof. Tran Thanh Van, an overseas Vietnamese professor and renowned educator in France with a worldwide reputation believes that Vietnam should remove many universities and keep only the best.
Prof. Van was interviewed by DTiNews in Vietnam, when he returned to attend the first conference for Vietnamese people all over the world held in Hanoi.
He said: “I cannot understand why there are so many universities and junior colleges in Vietnam, nearly 400. With so many universities, the word ‘university’ does not have much significance any more.”
From your point of view, what are you wider thoughts on Vietnamese education?
I think that Vietnam’s secondary education is very good and Vietnamese students are in no way inferior to students from other countries. However, many Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) educators believe that a lot of problems need to be settled with higher education. I cannot understand why there are so many universities and junior colleges in Vietnam, nearly 400. For example, there are tens of economics schools. In France, though people are very rich, they cannot open private universities because the Government keeps a very tight control. I think that some 90 percent of universities in Vietnam are just businesses. I received an invitation for collaboration from some 20 Vietnamese private universities, but I refused them because I think that these are not really universities.
What do you think Vietnam should do to settle current problems?
Only the Government can do it. First of all, it needs to shut down the universities which cannot meet the requirements and turn them into vocational schools. I have learnt that the Government of Vietnam is building up four universities with international standards and planning to train 20,000 doctors, which really is a good thing. Some experts worry about the quality of the 20,000 doctors. However, I think that it would be satisfactory if we have 500 excellent doctors out of the 20,000. What we need to do now is to train some excellent students, so that we can have excellent lecturers in five or ten years. Professor Nguyen Van Hieu and I have set up the high quality post-graduate training programme at the Hanoi National University which has been running very well.
Experts nowadays are talking much about the “brain drain”, when many Vietnamese excellent students do not return to serve in Vietnam but stay working in foreign countries.
Overseas Vietnamese have been working hard, making great achievements, thus bringing fame to Vietnam. Professor Dam Thanh Son, 36, for example, has become very famous in the US. He will be able to work well if he returns to Vietnam. However, I think that we should allow talents to fly high. Vietnam should not ask students to return to Vietnam after they finish training courses abroad. In 1960s, my South Korean fellow students did not return to their country after the graduation. However, in 1980-1990, 90 percent of South Korean graduates returned to South Korea because the country had made a big leap by that time
Why cannot Vietnam attract talents? Because it is poor and backward, or are there other reasons?
I can say for sure that overseas Vietnamese wish to return to work in Vietnam. In fact, life in Vietnam is happier than in foreign countries. Also, professors are respected by society and students, something which cannot always be seen in foreign countries. However, if Vietnam wants to attract talents, it needs to pay to a level deserved their work. I know that Vietnamese professors now have to earn their living by organizing extra classes and they do not have time for scientific research.