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Vietnam to Overhaul Higher Education System

Hanoi University. Photo: Hanoi Days/flickr.

Hanoi University. Photo: Hanoi Days/flickr.

HOUSTON, June 26, 2008 – The Vietnamese prime minister announced that Vietnam has endorsed a policy to reform its national higher education system and has implemented “radical changes” that will help the country’s colleges and universities achieve global integration by 2020.

In a speech addressed to the Asia Society Texas Center, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung discussed his goal of improving the higher education system’s “quality, efficiency and skills” to meet the economic and social development needs of Vietnam, where there is currently only one university per 260,000 citizens. He also outlined Vietnam's goal to house one of the world’s top universities and to build more institutions that meet regional and international standards by 2020.

Vietnam has recently made great progress in the area of education—the literacy rate for citizens over the age of 15 has risen to 94 percent. However, only six percent of Vietnamese workers are university graduates.

Prime Minister Tan Dung, who recently met with President Bush to discuss trade and education, said Vietnam looks to the United States as its model for successful higher learning. He expressed hope that through the educational reform, a larger percentage of Vietnamese professors and lecturers will obtain master’s and doctorate degrees.

Gigi Do, advisory board member of the Asia Society Texas Center, also spoke at the event about her participation in a Houston-based movement that brought the first American college to Vietnam in 2000, enabling Vietnamese students to graduate with an American degree. She discussed how similar US-Vietnam partnership programs can help support Vietnam’s education reform efforts.

Thomas Vallely, director of Harvard University’s Vietnam Program, outlined several points vital to the success of a US-Vietnam education plan. He stressed the importance of making higher education available for all Vietnamese students, regardless of socio-economic background. He explained that government subsidies toward universities were vital for them to become world-competitive research institutions.


Excerpt: Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung discusses the state of Vietnamese higher education and his objectives for reform (4 min., 30 sec.)