Thứ Bảy, ngày 29 tháng 11 năm 2008

Thi cử trung học ở Úc

http://www.tiasang.com.vn/Default.aspx?tabid=65&CategoryID=6&News=2301
03:19-17/09/2008


Trong khi học sinh của ta thi hết kì thi này đến kì thi khác hao tổn trí lực và có khi cũng chẳng cần thiết, thì học trò ở Úc học thật là thoải mái, thi cử ít nhưng phản ảnh đúng trình độ học vấn. Chẳng hạn, học sinh xong tiểu học thì lên trung học (nếu em nào khá thì thi vào trường tuyển), và họ chỉ thi một kì thi duy nhất gọi là HSC - higher school certificate (tùy tiểu bang mà họ có tên gọi khác), tương đương với tú tài II hồi xưa và tốt nghiệp lớp 12 bây giờ.

Xong kì thi HSC, mỗi học sinh có một điểm tốt nghiệp từ 0 đến 100. Trường đại học căn cứ vào nhu cầu họ công bố điểm vào (chắc là như “điểm sàn” gì đó ở trong nước) để tuyển học sinh, chứ họ không có thi tuyển. Chẳng hạn như muốn vào học ngành thương mại của trường UNSW thì thí sinh phải có ít nhất là 95 điểm, còn trường mickey mouse nào đó cũng ngành thương mại nhưng chỉ đòi hỏi 80 điểm. Quyết định ghi danh trường nào là quyết định của thí sinh. Thí sinh có quyền ghi danh 5 trường khác nhau, và trường nào tuyển thì họ thông báo. Tôi thấy cách tuyển sinh này rất nhẹ nhàng, công bằng, và minh bạch.

Cấu trúc đề thi HSC cũng đáng để nói lắm. Khi theo học 2 năm cuối chương trình trung học (lớp 11 và 12), mỗi học sinh phải chọn các môn học phù hợp với khả năng của mình. Các môn học này nhiều lắm (hàng trăm môn), nhưng chủ yếu vẫn là toán, vật lí, hóa học, sinh học, Anh ngữ, và một ngoại ngữ. Mỗi môn học có bậc tính theo units. Môn lí, hóa, sinh, và Anh ngữ chỉ có 2 bậc, riêng môn toán có 4 bậc. Ví dụ như môn toán có 4 bậc như sau:

* Toán phổ thông: dành cho các thí sinh không có khiếu làm toán, khi đi thi họ được phép dùng máy tính;

Toán 2 unit: dành cho các em khá hơn, biết giải phương trình bậc hai, bậc ba, ứng dụng toán trong thực tế;

* Toán 3 unit: dành cho các em có trình độ toán trên trung bình, và chương trình học đi sâu vào lượng giác, đạo hàm, tích phân…

* Toán 4 unit: dành cho các em giỏi toán, chương học học khá nặng nề như số phức (complex number), hình học không gian, tích phân và ứng dụng tích phân, v.v…

Theo tiêu chuẩn HSC, thí sinh phải thi đủ 12 units (tín chỉ). Chẳng hạn như nếu tôi không giỏi về toán, nhưng giỏi về sinh học, thì tôi sẽ chọn sinh 3 units + hóa 2 units + lí 2 units + toán 2 units + Anh văn 2 units + linh tinh 1 unit = 12. Học sinh phải chọn sao cho có đủ 12 units.

Một khi đã chọn thì thí sinh chỉ thi HSC mấy môn ở bậc mình chọn. Chẳng hạn như nếu tôi chọn toán 2 units thì tôi không thi toán 3 units và 4 units. Tuy nhiên, nếu tôi chọn toán 3 units thì tôi phải thi hai bậc toán (2 units và 3 units); hay nếu tôi chọn toán 4 units thì tôi bắt buộc phải thi 2 bậc toán (3 units và 4 units). Cách thi này nhằm đảm bảo thí sinh thật sự giỏi chứ không phải chỉ tập trung toán bậc cao mà không biết gì bậc thấp.

Tính trung bình, mỗi môn thi đều có khoảng 40 câu hỏi, từ dễ nhất đến khó nhất. Chẳng hạn như thi môn toán 2 units thí sinh có thể gặp những câu hỏi dễ như… cách tính phân số! Người ta lí giải rằng cách ra đề thi như thế công bằng hơn là tập trung vào 5, 6 câu khó như ở Việt Nam hay làm. Thật ra, tôi nghĩ các đề thi ở Việt Nam là đánh đố, chứ không phải nhằm kiểm tra trình độ của học sinh. Các bạn có thể xem qua các đề thi năm 2007 ở trang web của Cục giáo dục bang NSW. Còn ai muốn xem đề thi toán của họ ra sao thì xem ở đây: môn toán, vật lí, hóa học, sinh học, Anh ngữ, và môn… tiếng Việt.

Không biết ở Việt Nam thì sao, nhưng ở bên này mỗi thí sinh được 3 người chấm điểm một cách độc lập. Nếu có khác biệt (hiếm, nhưng có) thì phải có người đứng ra dàn xếp. Do đó, điểm từng môn của thí sinh có thể nói là chính xác và công bằng.

Nhưng điểm tổng số HSC không chỉ đơn thuần là điểm thi, mà là tổng số 3 điểm:

(A) Điểm thi HSC.

(B) Điểm lúc theo học 2 năm cuối trung học, tức là điểm trong các kì test mỗi kì học trong năm;

(C) Điểm trong kì thi thử. Ở Úc, trước khi thi HSC thật, thí sinh phải qua một kì thi thử (gọi là trial examination) mà theo đó thí sinh thi như thật, nhưng chỉ thi tại trường, với đề thi do một nhóm thầy cô độc lập ra đề.

Ba điểm thi này có trọng số khác nhau. Hình như (tôi không nhớ, vì trọng số thay đổi theo thời gian) điểm A chiếm 50%, điểm B 25%, và điểm C 25%.

Ba điểm trên phải qua một mô hình phân tích thống kê để tính điểm tổng số. Điểm tổng số này rất phức tạp vì mô hình còn xem xét trường mà thí sinh xuất thân. Chẳng hạn như thí sinh có thể có điểm B tốt nhưng vì điểm trung bình của trường mà em theo học thấp thì hệ số sẽ bị giảm xuống thấp hơn so với thí sinh có điểm B tốt và điểm trung bình của trường cũng tốt. Nói tóm lại, điểm của thí sinh còn phải phân tích với điểm trung bình của trường mà họ theo học để đánh giá thực tài của thí sinh.

Nói tóm lại, tôi thấy Việt Nam chúng ta cần phải cải cách chương trình thi cử trung học cho thật tốt, để tránh không phải thi tuyển đại học. Nhưng cải cách phải bắt đầu từ việc phân chia môn học từ dễ đến khó để đáp ứng khả năng của học sinh. Chẳng hạn như tôi dở về toán, nhưng tôi khá về sinh học, thì chương trình học phải cho tôi cơ hội phát huy khả năng về sinh học của tôi. Nói đến đây tôi nhớ đến ngày xưa người ta xem trọng môn toán đến nỗi ai không giỏi môn này bị mang tiếng là “đồ dốt”, “ngu như heo”, “ngu như bò”… Bây giờ già chút tôi thấy cái lối cho nhãn hiệu như thế thật là bậy bạ và… ấu trĩ. Một xã hội mà dồn ép học sinh chỉ lo học toán thì xã hội đó không khá nổi. Tôi vẫn không hiểu tại sao có người nói phân môn học cao thấp như thế là không khả thi ở Việt Nam.

Ngoài ra, tôi nghĩ còn phải cải cách về cách thức ra đề thi, cách tính điểm, cách đánh giá thành tích học hành… Nhưng tất cả cải cách này đòi hỏi nghiên cứu, phân tích dữ liệu, và suy nghĩ. Tất nhiên, nói mấy thứ này ra thì các vị “nghiên cứu giáo dục” sẽ nói họ đều làm cả rồi, biết hết rồi, không có gì mới … nhưng tôi dám cam đoan là họ chưa làm, chưa biết, và họ cũng không biết cái mới. Thành ra, muốn cải cách thì có lẽ phải bắt đầu với con người mới, tư duy mới, và quan trọng nhất là có thực tài. Nước ta không cần những công chức với đủ thứ học vị hoa lá cành mà ngồi ì và không làm được việc.

N.V.T

Thứ Sáu, ngày 28 tháng 11 năm 2008

Cấu trúc hệ thống giáo dục đại học tối ưu?

Điều hay nhất mà mình đạt được trong Hội thảo về tự chủ đại học hôm nay là 3 cấp độ quyền lực (quốc gia, trường, và khoa/giảng viên), và 3 mô hình khác nhau về cấu trúc quyền lực trong giáo dục đại học.

Mô hình Mỹ: mạnh ở giữa (cấp trường), yếu 2 đầu (hình quả trám)
Mô hình Châu Âu: mạnh nhất ở đáy, yếu ở giữa, mạnh vừa vừa ở đỉnh (hình cái chày)
Mô hình Anh: mạnh 2 tầng đáy, yếu ở đỉnh (không biết gọi là hình gì!)

(và còn thêm mô hình của VN: hình chữ V - tức kim tự tháp ngược)

từ sự khác biệt về mô hình này, điều cần suy nghĩ (liên quan đến lý thuyết tổ chức): có phải giáo dục đại học Mỹ cũng như giáo dục Anh đang mạnh nhất hiện nay là do tổ chức mạnh hay không (vì tổ chức là một tập hợp những con người cùng mục đích để tạo ra giá trị gia tăng mà!)

và mô hình châu Âu bây giờ đang cố gắng giảm bớt quyền lực của nhà nước để trao quyền thêm cho trường để cho hệ thống giáo dục đại học của họ mạnh hơn.

nhưng điều cần suy nghĩ là: như vậy mô hình nào sẽ thắng thế at long last, that is: mô hình Mỹ (mạnh giữa, yếu đáy) hay mô hình Anh (mạnh cả 2 tầng dưới?)

câu trả lời của diễn giả hình như là Anh? và mình cũng muốn tin như thế.

let's wait and see!

Thứ Năm, ngày 27 tháng 11 năm 2008

Bao trùm xe, giầy lội nước!

đó là một bảng hiệu mà tôi đọc được chiều nay trên đường ĐBP khi đi làm về.

mới đầu, thực sự tôi không hiểu. nhưng rồi trời lác đác đổ mấy giọt mưa. và sực nhớ hôm trước bị lội bì bõm trên đường Đinh Tiên Hoàng, khúc vừa qua Cầu Bông, và mặc dù không bị ướt cái quần nylon (!!!) như bài hát vẫn được nghe hồi còn bé (Ai đang đi trên cầu bông, té xuống sông ướt cái quần ...), nhưng đôi giày Đông Hải xịn mà tôi mới mua đã bị ướt sũng, còn nằm phơi ở nhà kia ...

và chợt hiểu ngay ... Sài gòn mùa này (cũng) lắm những cơn mưa. mà không chỉ có thế! sài gòn mùa này còn lắm cả những lô cốt, lắm cả kẹt xe, mắt nhìn lưng, mũi ngửi khói, chân lội bì bõm trong nước, tai nghe tiếng động cơ ì ì, đúng là chỉ còn thiếu động tác nếm nữa thì đủ cả ngũ giác! (thị giác, khứu giác, xúc giác, thính giác, đủ cả!)

vả đây là giữa sài gòn, vào thời điểm cuối năm của mấy năm gần cuối thập kỷ đầu tiên của thế kỷ mới, thế kỷ 21...

có lẽ rồi mai tôi cũng phải đi mua bao trùm xe, giầy lội nước để đối phó với những cơn mưa sắp tới của sài gòn đi thội!!!

Thứ Tư, ngày 26 tháng 11 năm 2008

Is anyone out there who shares my dream?

I started this blog a while ago, thinking it may start stimulating some interest from people who share the same dream. And the dream is this: to start an English school for children. Maybe the school will be pink in color, with lots and lots of toys. and music. and flowers and trees.

and children who come will mainly play, and learn while they play. and English will get in naturally, incidentally. and they will just L...O...V...E the school and cannot wait to go to school during the weekend.

yes, it's such a nice dream and I cannot wait to get it started. the only question: when?

anyone shares my dream?

Is anyone out there who shares my dream?

I started this blog a while ago, thinking it may start stimulating some interest from people who share the same dream. And the dream is this: to start an English school for children. Maybe the school will be pink in color, with lots and lots of toys. and music. and flowers and trees.

and children who come will mainly play, and learn while they play. and English will get in naturally, incidentally. and they will just L...O...V...E the school and cannot wait to go to school during the weekend.

yes, it's such a nice dream and I cannot wait to get it started. the only question: when?

anyone shares my dream?

Chép lại từ blog cũ đã bị mất

Dành cho người yêu thơ: Mùa Xuân đọc thơ tình Viễn Phương (entry ngày 26/1/2008 trên blog anhvukim)

Tôi bắt đầu blog này cách đây đúng một năm, cũng vào dịp gần Tết, khi không khí ở SG có dịu đi và lòng mình cũng chùng xuống, chậm lại dù bên ngoài thì mọi người đều hối hả, tất bật với sự bận rộn chuẩn bị của những ngày cuối năm. Và trang blog này được lập ra trước hết là để chia sẻ thơ với những kẻ yêu thơ. Thấm thoát thế mà một năm rồi đó ...


Thơ của nhà thơ mà hôm nay tôi muốn chia sẻ với mọi người là của Viễn Phương, không phải Viễn Phương nhà thơ cách mạng mà ai cũng biết, với bài thơ nổi tiếng "Viếng Lăng Bác" đã được phổ nhạc. Thật ra đối với tôi, bài thơ này còn nổi tiếng hơn vì "phiên bản đường phố" của tuổi học trò, "Con ở miền Nam ra thăm Lăng Bác, Con thấy Lăng Ông … đẹp hơn Lăng Bác" (Lăng Ông đây là Lăng Lê Văn Duyệt, đại thần nhà Nguyễn mà bất kỳ người miền Nam nào thời đó cũng đều rất tôn kính vì công mở mang bờ cõi. Lăng này nằm ở gần khu chợ Bà Chiểu, trước năm 1975 là trung tâm của Tỉnh Gia Định thời đó).


Nhưng có lẽ ít ai biết đến Viễn Phương như một nhà thơ lãng mạn, với những bài thơ tình vừa có nét bác học nhưng cũng không hề thiếu sự chân chất đậm chất Nam Bộ, được ông viết vào những năm cuối của cuộc đời, như những món quà nhân hậu gửi lại cho ngày sau. Đối với tôi, đọc được những bài thơ tình của Viễn Phương (trong Viễn Phương tuyển tập mà tôi đã rất may mắn được tặng) quả là một khám phá thú vị - mặc dù có lẽ cũng chỉ thú vị đối với một thiểu số tuyệt đối những con người (ngày càng ít dần đi) đầu óc lơ mơ, nói theo ngôn ngữ ngày nay là "chập" như tôi. Và cũng như người đọc được một cuốn truyện hay, xem được một bộ phim hay, đã thích thì phải có nhu cầu chia sẻ. Mặc dù vẫn biết rằng thơ tình ngày nay có lẽ chẳng phải là sự lựa chọn của thế hệ mới ...


Vâng, chắc chắn là trước sự cạnh tranh (hay tấn công) của nào là games online, nào chit chat, nào blogging và chẳng biết là gì gì nữa, có lẽ thơ tình cũng chỉ giống như một nắm xôi đem so với hamburger, hot dog, pizza và KFC mà thôi. Nhưng đối với tôi, những nắm xôi đậu phộng (người Bắc gọi là xôi lạc) hoặc xôi vò vừa mềm vừa thơm vừa ngậy kèm với tiếng rao quen thuộc "Ai xôi vò, xôi lạc, xôi đậu xanh đâ…â...ây" sao mà ngon đến thế, cho dù đó là món quà sáng gần như duy nhất mà ngày bé tôi vẫn thường thưởng thức một cách dè xẻn mỗi sáng đi học, ấp ủ mang theo suốt đoạn đường đi bộ 15 phút từ nhà đến trường để rồi mới trịnh trọng giở ra ăn khi đến lớp ... .


Nhưng ai mà biết được, có khi ăn mãi một thứ cũng chán, mà thậm chí có thể bội thực, rồi dư đạm dư đường, rồi gan nhiễm mỡ vv, và người ta sẽ có nhu cầu đổi món, để vừa đổi khẩu vị, vừa đảm bảo sức khỏe với những khẩu phần thanh bạch và vì thế, lành mạnh hơn?


Mà nếu không thì chắc là đâu đó trên cuộc đời này cũng phải còn tồn tại dăm ba người cổ lỗ sĩ như tôi, ngày Xuân đem thơ tình ra nhâm nhi thưởng thức chứ nhỉ? Chỉ cần có một người như thế trên đời này, thì cũng đủ bõ công để tôi chép lại những đoạn thơ tình này để đưa lên trang blog này rồi.


Và đây, xin dành cho những kẻ yêu thơ với tâm hồn khờ khạo, ngơ ngác như Bờm, những nắm xôi vò xôi lạc mềm mại, ấm lòng …


Khói lên


Ngoài hiên áo rách còn nhiều

Tôi nghe giá buốt những chiều bão giông,

Mênh mông trời nước mênh mông

Những mùa đông … những mùa đông còn dài.

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Tôi nghe đời nặng đôi vai

Cánh chim én nhỏ lạc loài hoàng hôn.

Nắng trong tim … lửa trong hồn

Tóc sương nửa kiếp mỏi mòn bước chân.



Chiều nay bới đống tro tàn

Khói lên … hiu hắt … một làn khói lên.

(Tháng 12/1997)

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Khói lạnh, hương tàn


Thôi đừng nói chuyện tình yêu

Nhìn xem … nước chảy liu riu qua cầu.

Em ơi! Bạc nửa mái đầu

Đời ta nửa kiếp nhuộm màu quạnh hiu …

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Thôi! Đừng nói chuyện tình yêu

Hãy xem như ánh sương chiều thoáng qua …

Xa rồi … ngày ấy đã xa

Giờ đây đã thuộc … người ta cả rồi …



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Thôi đừng nói nữa em ơi

Để dòng nước lặng buồn xuôi một dòng …

Tim tôi giờ lạnh như đồng

Ấm làm sao nhúm tro lòng ngày xưa?

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Nhưng tôi … mơ … một chiều mưa

Dưới ba thước đất khép vừa áo quan

Đêm khuya khói lạnh hương tàn

Nhớ thương nửa kiếp … giăng tang giữa trời


Có hai đốm lửa giữa trời

Trong đêm lạnh gió … nói lời thủy chung.


(1999)

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Chiều nay gió lạnh


Nhớ khu rừng nhỏ ngày xưa

Chiều nay gió lạnh trở mùa xuân sang.

Ơi! Rừng hoang … vẫn rừng hoang

Ngàn mai nở rộ khoe vàng với ai?

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Có người thức trắng đêm nay

Hoa mai biết có hao gầy mấy phân?

Tôi đi suốt dặm đường trần

Rừng xanh vẫn giữ một phần hồn tôi.


(Tháng 12/1996)

Giáng sinh sắp đến rồi, các bạn ơi!

tôi nghĩ Giáng sinh đối với tôi thật có ý nghĩa, không phải vì tôi là người theo đạo Công giáo (vì thật ra tôi chỉ là một con chiên ghẻ thôi!), mà vì ... biết nói thế nào nhỉ, có lẽ vì những ảnh hưởng của nền giáo dục và văn hoá mà tôi đã được thụ hưởng, hoặc những điều rất tình cờ, ngẫu nhiên nào đó xảy ra trong cuộc sống...

nhưng tóm lại, Giáng sinh hay Noel hay Christmas quả là một dịp đặc biệt trong năm đối với tôi. có lẽ tôi sẽ phải có lúc ghi lại những gì đã xảy ra với tôi trong những lần giáng sinh trong đời (chắc chắn nếu có thì sẽ ghi trên blog này, nhưng bao giờ thì không rõ;-))

còn bây giờ thì hãy chép lên đây phần lyrics của bài hát The Twelve Days of Christmas đã. ai muốn nghe thì lên trang web nghenhac để download xuống.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
A partridge in a pear tree.

On the second day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the third day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fifth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the seventh day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the eighth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the ninth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
vv (cứ thế tiếp tục!!!!)

DEVELOPMENT OF VIETNAM’S HIGHER EDUCATION

DEVELOPMENT OF VIETNAM’S HIGHER EDUCATION
AND ITS QUALITY ASSURANCE
(Commissioned paper for UNESCO, draft only - Please do not quote. Comments are welcomed!)

LAM QUANG THIEP, VU THI PHUONG ANH

This chapter provides a brief introduction of the history of Vietnam’s education, the current situation as well as the trends of development of the educational system. The description is based on the Government’s guiding documents and the elaboration developed by Higher Education institutions themselves. The development of Vietnam’s higher education indicates a trend toward a massified, multi-layered, multi-functional and multi-ownered system, which well suits the country’s needs in its transition from a centralized economy to the market economy. A major part of the chapter focuses on the development of the perceptions about quality in Vietnam’s Higher Education and its operation in recent years toward the establishment of a quality assurance system, connecting Vietnam’s higher education to the regional and the international Higher Education arena.

1. COUNTRY PROFILE
1.1. Recent history
Vietnam is situated on the east of the Indochinese Peninsula, sharing borders with China to the north, and with Laos and Cambodia to the west. With an area of 330,000 square kilometers, Vietnam is well endowed with natural resources, sizable forests, and reserves of coal, petroleum and hydro-electric potential.
Vietnam has a population of approximately 85 million (2007), about 70 per cent of which live in rural areas. The population growth rate is about 1.3 per cent per annum. It has 54 ethnic groups but about 87 per cent of the total population of Vietnam is Ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) and the Vietnamese language is the state language. Popular foreign languages are English, French, Chinese and Russian.
The 30-year war, which ended in 1975, caused heavy difficulties for Vietnam. After reunification in 1975, Vietnam first pursued development as a centralized planned economy. The country was in its worst stage of socio-economic crisis: production stood still, inflation skyrocketed, the country was in an economic blockade, and people’s lives were extremely hard. The American embargo made these difficulties more serious. After lifting US embargo, US-Vietnam relationship has normalized in 1995.
In 1986 the Government has adopted a policy of transition from the centralized planned economy to the market economy, known as ‘Doi Moi’ (renovation). After 2 decades of persistent efforts to implement the renewal policy, Vietnam achieved very important successes in socio-economic development, in politics, and in internal and external relations. In terms of international relations, some important milestones to Vietnam so far are the signing of Bilateral Trade Agreement between Vietnam and the US in late 2001 and Vietnam's official membership of World Trade Organisation in early 2007.
Together with its commitment to a market economy and the international integration, Vietnam’s economy has gradually recovered and improved. After more than two decades of renovation, especially in the recent decade, Vietnam’s economy has undergone dramatic changes, which can be seen in the GDP from 1995 to 2007 as follows (1).

Year 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
(estimates)
GDP/capita
(USD) 289.0 402.1 412.9 440.0 491.9 552.9 639.1 725.1 835.9
Despite its relatively rapid growth, with a per capita income estimate of approximately US$ 835 in 2007, Vietnam remains among the poor countries. In addition to its economic growth, some of Vietnam’s infrastructures have also developed. In the field of communications, for instant, there were approximately 33 million of telephones and 18 million of Internet users in Vietnam in 2007.
According to the national development plan, the goals of industrialization and modernization are to turn Vietnam into an industrialized country with a modern material-technical base, an appropriate economic structure, advanced production relations suited to the development level of the productive force, high material and spiritual life, and firm national defense and security. The common national aim of Vietnam is a rich people, a strong country, and an equitable, democratic and civilized society.
1. 2. National education system
According to the Education Law, made in 1998 and amended in 2005, the national education system of Vietnam consists of four sub-systems: Pre-school Education, Primary and Secondary Education, Vocational-professional Education and higher education with the structure 5-4-3-4 (5 years for primary, 4 - for lower secondary, 3 - for upper secondary and 4 - for undergraduate higher education). (Figure 1) (2):


Years























Fig.1: SYSTEM OF HIGHER EDUCATION DEGREES IN VIETNAM
Pre-school education carries out the nurturing, caring and education of children between 3 months to 6 years of age, but is not provided for all;
Primary and secondary education consists of: (1) Primary education which is the compulsory education level for all children between 6 to 14 years of age; (2) Lower secondary education which is conducted in four years of schooling, from the 6th to 9th grade; (3) Upper secondary education which is conducted in three years of schooling, from the 10th to 12th grade.
Vocational-professional education consists of: 1) Professional secondary education which is conducted over three to four years of study for those with lower secondary education diploma; or one to two years of study for those with upper secondary education diploma; 2) Vocational training which is given to those with educational capacity and health suited to the trade to be learned, and conducted in less than one year in short-term and from one to three years in long-term vocational programs.
HE includes undergraduate education and postgraduate education.
The modes of education are formal education and non-formal education. Some important statistics about the status of education (academic year 2006-2007):
Literacy rate (for population over 10 years) 94 per cent;
Primary education is compulsory;
Total number of students for all levels of education is nearly 23 million;
The average number of school years for the population over 15 years is about 9.6.
2. CURRENT STATUS OF HIGHER EDUCATION SYSTEM
The Ancient Higher Education system was established in Vietnam in the 11th century with QuocTu Giam (National University). But the modern system of Higher Education does not have a long history of development. Only in 1906 was the first modern university set up in Hanoi to serve the entire Indochina Peninsula. Since the August Revolution of 1945, and especially after the victory in the war of resistance against the French in 1954, the number of colleges and universities has increased vigorously in both North and South Vietnam. Since 1975 all colleges and universities in Vietnam have been united under one system.
2.1. Some general statistics for 2003 academic year
For a general overview of Vietnam Higher Education, this table provides statistic data for the academic year 2007-2008
Table 1. Statistic data on Vietnam's higher education
Academic year: 2006-2007
Number %
Number of higher education institutions
Total:
where
- Senior colleges and university
- Junior college
- Public
- Non-public
322

139
183
275
47
100

43
57
85
15
Number of students
Total
where:
- Senior colleges and universities
- Junior college
- Public
- Non-public
- Female
- Minority
1,540,201

1,173,147
367,054
1,346,730
193,471
852,081
11,592
100

76
24
87
13
55.3
0,7
Faculty
Total
where:
- Female
- Professors
- Ass. professors
- Ph.D. and Doctor of Science
- Master and advanced professional
53,518

15,327
463
2,467
5,882
18,744
100

28.6
0.8
4.6
11
35

Source: Vietnam Educational statistical data, http://edu.net.vn/thongke/index.htm

Higher education in Vietnam has four main types of formal programs leading to degrees as follows (See Fig.1):
1. The undergraduate long-term training program lasts 6 years for students of medical and dental sciences, 5 years for students of industrial engineering, and 4 years for the majority of the other institutions.
Graduates of the full-time or long-term training program will be granted a degree with the title related to their specialty, such as cu nhan (bachelor), ky su (engineer), bac sy (medical doctor), or luat su (lawyer), etc...
2. The undergraduate short-term training program (for junior colleges) lasts 3 years. At present, the short-term training program is being carried out by junior colleges (teachers' and non-teachers’), and by some universities, as additional programs. Students who have finished the short-term programs mentioned above will be granted a degree with the title of Cao dang (Associate degree).
3. The master program: This program admits graduates of the long-term H. E. training programs and lasts 2 (full-time) or 3 years (part-time). Students finishing the graduate program will be awarded a degree with the title Thac si (Master).
4. The doctorate program: Students will be admitted as candidates of a doctorate of science program are from two sources: the graduate with excellence, and those who have earned the Master Degree. The most important requirement for doctoral degrees is that the student has to defend a dissertation. If s/he successfully defends their dissertation, s/he will be awarded a doctorate degree with the title Tien si (equivalent to the Ph.D.) of a given specialty or profession.
There is also informal mode of education providing study opportunities for working people, continual learning and life-long learning, including also programs leading to degrees by part-time and distant education.
Until 1993 Vietnam did not have large multi-disciplinary universities. There were only small colleges grouped according to their specializations and some comprehensive universities that offered programs in the humanities, social and natural sciences. The monodisciplinary institutions, inherited from the Soviet models, hampered the tendency of training on a wider spectrum and the capacity to link research with social service in a comprehensive way.
Starting at the end of 1993, a number of leading higher education institutions, which formed the core of the overall system, was established consisting of:
• multi-disciplinary universities (Hanoi National University - founded in December 1993; Ho Chi Minh National University - January, 1995; Hue, Danang, Thainguyen Universities - April, 1994);
• open universities (Semi-public Open University of Ho Chi Minh City - July 1993, Hanoi Open University - November 1993);
• a number of newly established people-founded (private) universities and colleges, and
• a number of community colleges.
Besides higher education institutions, there is in Vietnam a system of research institutes which belong to the Centre for Science and Technology and the Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences and to some ministries. According to the Law of Education and related regulations, many of those research institutes are eligible to offer master programs with the co-operation of higher education institutions and to offer doctoral programs independently.

3. QUALITY ASSURANCE IN VIETNAM’S HIGHER EDUCATION
3.1. Perceptions of quality in Vietnam’s higher education in its different phases of development
3.1.1. Prior to 1985: Quality = high selectivity
Vietnam’s Higher Education prior to 1985 was primarily an elite system, with merely 120,000 students in all Higher Education institutions of a country of over 70 million people. Quality was not an issue, as the key players in the educational scene – students themselves – were regarded as people of outstanding calibre, carefully chosen from the start with a very high level of selectivity. It can be said that for a long time in Vietnam’s Higher Education, quality management was thought to be synonymous to the control of student intake through highly competitive university entrance examinations.
During this time, the method used in quality management was ‘quality control’. The quality of input was controlled by applying stringent selection standards, and the quality of output was also controlled through examinations, as well as approval of graduation status, and certifications and credentialing. Besides, quality control also existed in the form of the inspectorate system which monitored the key operations in the educational process. However, this inspectorate system did not seem to work with high efficiency; nor did it have much impact on the system, as the focus was only on uncovering and punishing deviations from fixed norms and ready-made regulations, but not on total and continuous improvement to better meet the ever-changing demands of reality.
Such a closed and inwardly-looking system, even with outstanding students as input, could not have fully met all the demands of society. However, in the context of relative social and political stability due to Vietnam’s isolated position from the rest of the world at the time, the need for changing university governance was not urgently felt. It was only after the beginning of the ‘doi moi’ (renovation) policy in the mid 1980s when everything in Vietnam began to change quickly, including tertiary education.
3.1.2. From 1986-2003: Quality = Adequate resources
The year 1986 marked the beginning of the start of Vietnam’s Higher Education , with one important goals being to increase the ability for educational provision of Vietnam’s Higher Education institutions, thereby improving educational access for all students. To achieve this, the last two decades since the beginning of the renovation of Vietnam’s Higher Education have seen the implementation of various measures which resulted in the exponential growth of the numbers of students as well as Higher Education institutions in Vietnam. Those measures include (1) a sharp increase in government spending on education, (eg, from 10.8% of the national budget in 1996 to 17% in 2002); (2) the relaxation of rules restricting the role of the private sector in education and training, which led to birth of several people-founded (a euphemistic way to refer to ‘private’ which was then still seen as politically incorrect) higher education institutions, the first ever after 1975; and (3) the introduction of (limited) tuition fees in public institutions, also the first time in the history of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s education(4) The growth in both scope and scale of Vietnam’s Higher Education was considered successful planning , but this was without a thorough understanding about the potential problems this might cause. As Vietnam’s Higher Education grows, so does the demand for two foundational conditions: (1) the proportional increase in resources (in terms of personnel, infrastructures, and finance), and (2) a new governance mechanism equipped with appropriate leadership and management competencies for this new size and volume, just to maintain – not to mention the need to improve – the quality of Higher Education . However, in the past two decades of renovation, Vietnam’s Higher Education seems to focus solely on the provision of resources (through the two main sources: tuition fees from students and families, and state funding), and not much attention has been paid to the decisively important role of the governance mechanism as well as the competencies of the new system. This clearly reflects a new view of quality as adequate resources, which in turn reflects a lack of understanding of the country’s leaders and administrators of the importance of governance in successfully reforming the country’s higher education sector.
The view of quality as adequate resources revealed itself through the increase of funding for national universities and those universities selected to be in the “investment foci” list, even in the absence of a complete set of mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of resource exploitation and utilisation in those universities to achieve their goals. Because of this inadequate view, the result of the two decades of renovation in Vietnam’s Higher Education with steady increase in investment for education from state funding is NOT an improvement(5) but, on the contrary, there seems to be a serious deterioration of Higher Education quality, as is constantly mentioned in the heated debate concerning the status of Vietnam’s higher education at present. This situation shows that a new method of governance is urgently needed in this new phase of development to assure and improve the quality of Vietnam’s Higher Education.
3.1.3. From 2004 till present: Quality = Meeting standards
If a milestone is needed to mark the turning point in the development of quality management in Vietnam, then it is the year 2004. In this year, a series of important government’s documents at the national level were issued, clearly stating the plan to introduce accreditation as a new mechanism in the management of Higher Education. Accreditation is a way to manage quality of Higher Education which originated in the United States but its use has been spread all over the world since the 1990s:
Resolution 37-2004/QH11 of the National Assembly Session XI approved on December 3, 2004 pointed out that "quality management should be the focus; accreditation activities are to be conducted yearly”.
On August 2, 2004, the Minister of Education and Training issued Directive 25/2004/CT-BGD&ĐT outlining the tasks for the whole education system in the academic year 2004-2005, demanding the administration at all levels (to “urgently establish and perfect the structure and mechanism of the testing and accreditation system, and start putting this system to work”.

On December 2, 2004, the Minister of Education and Training signed Decision 38/2004/QĐ-BGD&ĐT to issue the Provisional Regulation for Accreditation of Universities’ Quality.
(Training Document for Conducting Self-Assessment for Accreditation, MOET 2006)
The provisional regulation for university accreditation was promulgated by MOET after 2 years of drafting and revisions based on input provided by universities and experts, both local and international. The process by which MOET received input from institutions, as always, an administrative one in which the heads of institutions were sent the draft regulation and requested to give comments in a given period of time, after which some changes might be made in the regulations before it was signed by MOET leaders. It was not clear, however, whether all comments sent were taken into consideration or not, and if not, then how they were selected. The same process applies to comments made by local and international experts, the only difference is that experts were selected by invitation, even though the criteria for their selection were not known either.
Notwithstanding the inadequacy of the process by which input from institutions and experts was obtained to improve the regulation, with the promulgation of this provisional regulation, for the first time in Vietnam’s education history, a transparent and coherent set of quality standards for universities came into existence. Being part of the provisional regulation, the 2004 set of standards was not considered a perfect final product; the adequacy and appropriateness of the standards and criteria remained a debate. However, on the whole this first set of quality standards was able to define the main requirements in terms of mission, goals, structure, conditions and resources, and most of the activities carried out in a Vietnamese Higher Education institutions.
Following the appearance of the regulation, in almost 3 years after that – from 2005 to mid 2007 – 20 universities in Vietnam, 18 of which public and 2 private, all of which represented the best of its kind in a particular geographical location of the country, were chosen for the first (pilot) round of accreditation. After be trialed out with 20 Higher Education institutions, the set of standards was corrected, adjusted and supplemented, the result of which was the live regulation issued by MOET in November, 2007.
According to the 2007 regulation, the quality standards for Vietnamese Higher Education institutions comprise the following 10 aspects:
1. Mission and Goals (Standard 1)
2. Organization and Governance (Standard 2)
3. Curriculum (Standard 3)
4. Educational Processes (Standard 4)
5. Managerial, Teaching, and Support Staff (Standard 5)
6. Students (Standard 6)
7. Research and Development, Innovation, and Technology Transfer (Standard 7)
8. International Relations (Standard 8)
9. Library, Learning Equipment, and Other Facilities (Standard 9)
10. Finance and Financial Management (Standard 10)
Each standard is further broken down into what is called ‘criteria’. The 10 standards altogether comprise 53 criteria which clearly state the conditions required for a university to be assessed as ‘meeting standards’. A quick look at the criteria will show that they just follow international norms and conventions, but for Vietnam they are seen as really revolutionary because they refer to a reality that is radically different from that of Vietnamese higher education. For example, Criterion 1 of Standard 1 (mission and goals) requires universities to have clearly stated mission statements which are widely publicized to all stakeholders – a requirement that had been unheard-of and unthinkable before the Accreditation Standards came into existence. Also, Criterion 2 of Standard 4 requires all universities to organize their curriculum and instructional activities around a credit-based system, another improbability for most of Vietnam’s higher education institutions whose leaders were educated in the former Soviet bloc where a very different system was in operation. A rough translation of the 53 criterion of the Accreditation Standards is included in the Appendix.
It can be said that the above-mentioned 10 standards with the 53 accompanying criteria have covered almost all aspects relating to the governance and operations of a modern university, with not too much difference from regional or international standards. The existence of a transparent set of standards to manage the quality of a university can be celebrated as a breakthrough in the educational administration mentality of the country’s leaders, showing a strong determination for global integration by the Higher Education sector, and promising to bring about positive changes in terms of quality improvement in the time to come.

3. 2. Quality assurance system and mechanism in Vietnam at present
3.2.1. Quality assurance (QA) system: Internal QA and external QA
The promulgation of the quality standards for Higher Education in Vietnam, together with the plan for accreditation base on these standards, inevitably requires an accompanying organizational structure and governance mechanism in order to put these standards into life. During the past few years, a complete national QA system has been emerging in Vietnam. At the top of this system is the General Department for Educational Testing and Accreditation (GDETA) of MOET, whose role is to act as a national governmental agent to oversee all QA activities for the whole education system, while at the institutional level QA cells are being established within stronger and more long-standing Higher Education institutions. Unlike the American system of accreditation which Vietnam is trying to learn from, this national agent does not involve representative from universities, but is very similar to other functional departments MOET whose main function is to provide national QA goals, approve QA implementation plans, and monitor QA activities of individual universities under its supervision.
In spite of the lack of direct involvement and participation from universities, the establishment of the national agent for quality assurance can be said to be a revolutionary change in the organizational and governance structure of Vietnam’s education system. The establishment of this agent resulted from a gradual separation of the administration of assessment function from that of the training function. First, an accreditation unit was established inside the Department for Undergraduate Education (now the Department for Higher Education) of MOET in January 2002. After that, in July 2003, this unit was separated from the Department of Undergraduate Education to become the GDETA directly under the supervision of MOET according to Decree 85/2003/NĐ-CP. GDETA is granted governmental administration function to oversee all QA activities in the whole education system (GDETA, Training Materials 2006). Presently, GDETA is the highest advisory body which can participate in the decision-making process at policy level such as establishing quality standards and regulate the operational mechanism for QA processes of the national education system.
At institutional level, the two national universities (one in Ha Noi and one in Ho Chi Minh City) with a higher degree of autonomy are the two first institutions which pioneered in establishing their own QA centers in the late 1990s. These centers play double roles in carrying out QA activities within their own institutions: on one hand, they perform internal quality assurance function by assisting the member universities in carrying self-assessment activities, and on the other, they act as external agents to conduct site visits and evaluation of the member universities. However, before the establishment of GDETA, without a national regulatory framework for QA activities, the efforts made by the two national universities were seen as only experimental in nature, to test whether a QA mechanism could really work in Vietnam or not. Other universities, mainly regional universities whose organizational structures are similar to national universities (with two levels of administration, the macro level responsible for policy making, monitoring and evaluation, and the implementation level responsible for carrying out all operational and support activities for education and research), using loan money from the World Bank, have also established their own QA units in the early 2000’s. However, not counting the two QA centers under the two national universities which are staffed by people with professional training in QA and have been in operation since their establishment, the other QA units only started to actually operate in the beginning of 2005, at the same time with the start of the first accreditation round for 20 universities in Vietnam.
It is important to note that presently the existence of a QA unit in the organizational structure of a university has become a compulsory requirement written down in the new University Quality Standards promulgated by MOET in late 2007 (the first University Quality Standards did not have this requirement). With this requirement, the QA system in Vietnam can be seen as rather complete (at least in principle if not in reality), with internal QA units within all Higher Education institutions, and the national external QA agent being GDETA which operates directly under MOET. This is also the model that has been in use by the two national universities.
3.2.2. Quality assurance mechanism: the relationship between the QA system and other governmental bodies
Speaking of QA mechanism, one of the most important factor to consider is the relationship between IQA (the responsibility taken by Higher Education institutions themselves), EQA (the task taken by an agent outside Higher Education institutions), and other governmental bodies which oversee the activities of educational institutions. Depending on the specific circumstances and purposes, different countries will select different QA mechanisms for their education system. Ideally, the two components of the QA system should be independent from each other, and as a whole they should also be independent from any governmental body (in this case, MOET), in order to separate the three different stages in the accreditation process: self-assessment, peer evaluation (also known as external evaluation), and recognition of the evaluation result. However, in the majority of cases in developing countries, the governmental body in charge of education administration is also the one which administer external evaluation, a practice which is not to be encouraged because the lack of independence may be the source of bias in evaluation results. Unfortunately, this practice is currently in operation in Vietnam and in the not too far future there seems to be no solution for this situation. In her paper written for the World Bank in 2004, Lenn has pointed out the four distinguishing factors in the QA mechanisms of different countries, namely: (1) the founding and governance of national QA agents (governmental or non-governmental); (2) mode or type of EQA activities (accreditation, audit, or assessment); (3) funding (government or Higher Education institutions), and (4) the presence or absence of international participation.
Table 2 (6) gives a summary of the characteristics of Vietnam’s QA system in comparison with those of other countries in Asia Pacific region, based on Lenn’s four distinguishing factors.
It can be seen from the summary that Vietnam’s Higher Education QA system as it is now is still lacking in diversity and independence from the government, in particular MOET: the national QA agent was founded and governed by MOET, with no independent status from MOET because it is under MOET’s direct supervision, its funding comes from the state through MOET, and there is no international participation in both critical stages in the accreditation process, namely the conduct of external evaluation and the final result of the accreditation itself (*). This lack of diversity and independence shows that Vietnam’s QA system still leaves a lot to be perfected, so that positive impacts can be brought which will change the face of Vietnam’s Higher Education, as outlined in the Higher Education reform plan by the country’s education leaders.
3.3. QA activities in Vietnam’s higher education: achievements, issues and future directions
3.3.1. Achievements so far
Looking back at the QA activities that have been conducted in the past years, one can say that the still very young QA system of Vietnam’s education has made a number of significant achievements. Indeed, at the start of the new millennium, the whole of Vietnam’s education system was completely unfamiliar with terms like quality, standards, fitness for purpose, self-assessment, external review, audit, accreditation, or recognition. However, only a few years after that, compulsory accreditation of all Higher Education institutions in Vietnam has become institutionalised, and the implementation of QA activities is carried out with great rigour. Some of the achievements made in the field of QA in Vietnam’s Higher Education during the past years include:

Tab. 2: Lenn’s four distinguishing factors in the QA mechanisms

Source: Lenn (2004), page 17 (4)

1. Establishment of the national QA agent (GDETA);
2. Development of regulations concerning accreditation activities for Vietnam’s Higher Education institutions;
3. Initiation and perfection of the horizontal structure of the QA system in Vietnam’s Higher Education (GDETA, the QA centers of the national and regional universities, and QA units within all Higher Education institutions);
4. Development and implementation of the National Accreditation Plan for Vietnam’s Higher Education to the 2010;
5. Capacity development for QA specialists and key personnels, including administrative staff working in the field of QA for the whole country;
6. Participation in regional and international QA networks (e.g., AUN, APQN, and INQAAHE)at national and institutional levels (mainly the two national universities)
3.3.2. Issues and future direction for Vietnam’s higher education QA movement
In spite of the above-mentioned achievements, it would be mistaken to think that Vietnam currently has a sufficiently strong QA system and a proper mechanism to act as an important catalyst in bringing about important changes in the assurance and enhancement of the quality of the country’s Higher Education. This is the view shared by QA experts both within and from outside of the country, which has been voiced several times in Quality Conferences which abounded in Vietnam during the years 2005-2007. Drawing from the various discussions nationwide, the authors of this article believe that that the progress of Vietnam’s Higher Education QA movement could be halted if the following issues remain unresolved:
1. The national QA system is far from being perfect; the national QA agent is still under MOET’s direct supervision and governance; the (independent) National Council for Accreditation has not been established;
2. The implementation of IQA within Higher Education institutions has resulted from the need to meet the requirement by GDETA and MOET, not from an inner drive for quality, nor a need for continuous improvement to stay competitive;
3. The current QA mechanism has not allowed the separation and independence of the three stages in the accreditation process: self-assessment (conducted by Higher Education institutions themselves), external review (conducted by a professional QA body), and recognition of accreditation results (conducted by a governmental body or a non-governmental association of Higher Education institutions);
4. The use of only one set quality standards promulgated by MOET has not allowed for the stratification and diversification very much needed for the development of Vietnam’s Higher Education in its present stage;
5. There remains a serious lack of human resources working in the field of QA in Higher Education, in both quantitative and qualitative terms.
6. The use of an effective management information system for efficient and useful assessment of Higher Education inbstritutions performance is still largely unheard of in the whole system; and there is very low transparency of management information in Higher Education institutions.
In order for the QA movement in Higher Education in Vietnam to further develop, based on the experience gained from the work carried out at VNU-HCM and learning from international QA models, the authors of this article propose that the following recommendations to be immediately acted upon:
1. Develop and adjust policies at the macro level in such a way that the implementation of QA activities should come from Higher Education institutions themselves for their own benefits;
2. Establish a QA agent independent from MOET to conduct external review for accreditation, which is responsible for setting up quality standards, conducting quality reviews, selecting and training of external reviewers, and issuing accreditation certificates;
3. Establish the National Council for Accreditation outside of and independent from MOET to provide professional recognition of accreditation results and the legal status of these QA agents referred to in 2 above;
4. Increase the number and develop the competence of people working in the national QA system, focusing on internal quality assurance and enhancement;
5. Develop and put into use an effective management information system for Higher Education, construct key quality indicators for Higher Education, and put forward regulations concerning the administration and use of management information aiming at universal access and transparency;
6. Introduce programmatic accreditation together with the current institutional accreditation in order to encourage cooperation as well as competition between different Higher Education institutions for the purpose of quality enhancement.

4. ORIENTATIONS FOR HIGHER EDUCATION DEVELOPMENT
4.1. Proposed orientations for higher education development:
Together with Vietnam’s dynamic economic growth in the last decade, the education system in general and the Higher Education system in particular are considered to be slow in their response to the socio-economic developments and Vietnamese people’s learning demands, especially to the needs for a well-trained work force to carry out the country’s industrialization and modernization. Vietnam’s government has some incentives to speed up the Higher Education development in which the most important one is the Resolution on the fundamental and comprehensive reform of Higher Education in Vietnam 2006-2020 (Resolution No. 14/2005/NQ-CP issued on 2/11/2005).
The general objective for the development of Vietnam Higher Education system is outlined in the Resolution 14 as follows: To substantially and comprehensively renew Higher Education and make substantial changes in education quality, efficiency and scale, thus satisfying the requirements of national industrialization and modernization, international economic integration and people's learning demands. By 2020, Vietnam's Higher Education shall attain the regional advanced standards, approach the world's advanced level, have a high competitiveness and suit the socialist-oriented market mechanism.
Some important tasks and solutions are mentioned in the resolution number 14 as follows:
1. Renewal of educational level structure and improvement of the network of Higher Education institutions: Regarding educational level structure, postsecondary education will be divided to two streams: academic and vocational-technology, in which the second stream will have priority in the scale (about 80%). The development of private sector will be paid attention so around 40% of the total number of students studying at private higher education institutions by 2020. To concentrate investment on, mobilize domestic and foreign specialists and adopt an appropriate mechanism for, building some universities up to international standards.
2. Renewal of training contents, methods and processes: To restructure framework programs; to ensure the transferability of educational levels; to renew training contents, and closely associate them with practical socio-economic development. To promote for students the creative thinking, professional skills and capability of working in a group. To renew teaching and learning methods along three directions: teaching students how to learn, promoting their active participation, and effectively using information and communication technologies in teaching and learning. To improve college entrance examination with the application of modern educational measurement technology.
3. Renewal of the planning, training, fostering and employment of instructors and administrators: To work out and implement a plan for preparation of higher education faculty and administrators, ensuring sufficient quantity and raising quality thereof, satisfying the requirements of Higher Education renewal. To shift from the civil servant regulations for instructors to the mechanism of long-term contracts; to ensure the equality between instructors in public educational institutions and those in private ones. To reform the procedures for appointment and discharge of professor and associate professor titles along the direction that Higher Education institutions shall carry out such procedures according to the general standards set by the State, and the title appointments will be engaged with the nomination.

4. Renewal of organization of scientific and technological activities: To allocate at least 1% of the annual state budget for Higher Education institutions to perform their researches according to the Science and Technology Law.

5. Renewal of mobilization of resources and financial mechanism: Localities shall adjust the planning and reserve land fund for building modern Higher Education campuses witch attain the regional and international standards. The State shall adopt policies on preferential treatment of, supports and incentives for, domestic and foreign investors to invest in Higher Education; and secure the lawful ownership right and material and spiritual benefits of investors. To reformulate policies on tuition fees, scholarship and student loan on the basis of setting principles for sharing Higher Education expenditures among the State, learners and the community. The State shall provide full or partial tuition fee supports for policy beneficiaries, the poor and allocate such supports directly to learners.

6. Renewal of the management mechanism: To increasing the level of autonomy for Higher Education institution in all areas of their activities. To concentrate the state management on the formulation of the development strategy, the perfection of the legal environment to give Higher Education institutions autonomy and at the same time to require them accountability. To elaborate the Law on Postsecondary Education.
7. Regarding international integration: To formulate a strategy on international integration, raise the cooperation capability and competitiveness of Vietnam's Higher Education in the implementation of international treaties and commitments. To organize teaching and learning in foreign languages, especially in English; to encourage study "at home" under foreign training programs, to increase the number of foreign students in Vietnam. To create favorable conditions for prestigious Higher Education institutions in the world to open campuses in Vietnam by themselves or by cooperation with Vietnamese Higher Education institutions.

4.2. Some issues of the higher education development:
The Resolution 14 on the development of Higher Education is very comprehensive and ambitious, but its implementation has encountered many difficulties and challenges. For a complete perception of the true development of Vietnam’s Higher Education, the recent years’ issues should be taken into consideration:
- The development of Higher Education scale: There has been a rapid increase in the number of higher education institutions since 2005; on average, there has been one new higher education institution in a week. Obviously, this development is too fast, and also inadequate in that the number of universities is three times higher than that of junior colleges and public institutions outnumber private ones. The fact that new universities and colleges outnumber junior colleges means the academic factor is emphasized more than the vocational one in training; the public institutions outnumbering the private ones means the inappropriate consideration of the private sector mobilization. This situation goes against the orientation of the Resolution 14. In addition, while the number of university students increases from 1,363,167 to 1,540,201 (11%), the number of teachers just increases from 48,579 to 53,518 (10%), which means the student/teacher ratio increases also from 28 to 29. One more thing to be considered is that the student/teacher ratio of the 14 national major higher education institutions – standard ones in terms of academic training quality – is also too high, from 35 to 85 (except two medical universities with the ratio of less than 10). The above-mentioned numbers indicate that the Higher Education development does not improve the shortage of university teachers; in fact, it puts more pressure on the situation.
- The improvement of the university entrance examination: The university entrance examination is just one part of the university training, yet in Vietnam, it is a sensitive activity which receives considerable attention from the whole society. As a result, it affects not only the Higher Education quality but also the education development in general. Since 2002, the Ministry of Education and Training has been responsible for a common entrance exam and all universities recruit their students based on the exam results. Only 20% of examinees are recruited annually so the entrance examination is always a tense activity. Since 2006, the objective tests have been used for the entrance examination. At present, there are two separate national examinations: high school leaving and college entrance ones. The Ministry of Education and Training plans to organize only one national examination for both purposes in which multiple-choice tests are the major method to assess examinees. One orientation of the Resolution 14 is “…to improve the entrance examination with the application of modern educational measurement technology”, however, this application has not yet to be carried out.
- The improvement of the faculty: The Government proposed some powerful measures to improve the quality of the university faculty, one of which is the plan to train 20,000 doctors for Vietnam’s Higher Education system by 2020. This training is planned both domestically and internationally. However, there are difficulties in recruiting candidates with professional competence and language command to send abroad and challenges in training doctors at domestic institutions.
- Curriculum reform and credit-based system application: The Education Law gives university institutions autonomy in management while requires them to follow the ‘standard curriculum’ developed by the MOET. The concept of the standard curriculum can be understood like that: the development of each Higher Education curriculum must follow a fixed curriculum framework in terms of contents and time duration, and there are some compulsory subjects for specific specializations. There have been some standard curricula so far. However, there has been no high consent in the development of standard curricula for the Higher Education system. A noticeable change in recent years is the decrease of the time for ideology subjects by a half, and the number of subjects is reduced to three.
The MOET plans to apply the credit-based system to the whole Higher Education system by 2010. However, apart from the re-development of the training programs and the preparation of the infrastructure to meet the requirements of the credit-based system, the innovation of teaching and learning methods is also a big challenge. In essence, the credit-based system is the individualization of learning in a mass education. As a result, some factors that need to be emphasized when the credit-based system is applied are the innovation of teaching and learning methods to improve students’ activeness and self-study. Due to the deep-rooted passive teaching and learning habits among teachers and students, this kind of innovation can not be carried out in a short time but take generations to be fulfilled.
- Non-public higher education institutions: It can be seen in a large number of the Government’s documents that considerable attention has been paid to the sector of non-public higher education institutions . From 2005 to 2007, 17 non-public higher education institutions have been established, contributing to the number of 47 non-public higher education institutions (30 universities and senior colleges, 17 junior colleges). However, the administration of these institutions has faced big issues. First of all, there are insufficient legal documents and inconsistencies in some legal documents in terms of the Government’s orientations. It is regulated that non-public institutions be established as private institutions regardless of their for-profit or not-for-profit status, and the not-for-profit institutions are encouraged. However, there have been conflicts and ambiguities related to important concepts such as individual ownership vs. collective ownership and the not-for-profit vs. for-profit mechanisms. In addition, some policies concerning the equality for public and non-public teachers and students are only mentioned in the Resolution 14, not as regulations. For instance, non-public students are not entitled to the Government’s scholarships (while most of them come from low-income families) and very small number of non-public instructors can entitled to the Government’s training programs abroad. In case the non-public system is not encouraged to develop properly due to the lack of consistent policies and the Government’s investment to some extent, it is hard to reach the target of 40% quality students.
- Some issues related to Higher Education management: The most important idea of the Resolution 14 is the increase of autonomy and accountability for higher education institutions while governmental agencies stand behind with their governing roles. Some important institutions have been issued to carry out this idea. The board of trustees mechanism has been applied to increase autonomy, guarantee security, and avoid dictatorship in management. The board of trustees is an important powerful organ existing above and beside the rector’s administration. However, only a small number of institutions have accepted, with hesitation, this new mechanism so far, and the administrative and personnel departments of institutions are reluctant because it takes away their centralized managing habits. The second important mechanism to assure the accountability of university institutions is the quality assurance and accreditation of the Higher Education system. This issue was mentioned in part III of this chapter.
- Higher Education cost sharing: The cost sharing among the Government, learners, their parents, and communities is the most important solution to the problem of Higher Education costs. This is a great difficulty for countries with commitments to a subsidized Higher Education (rich countries in West Europe and former socialist countries including Vietnam). The Government proposed the high tuition/high aid model, and agreed to provide entire or partial support to poor learners and welfare recipients in the direct manner. However, there has been great difficulty in implementing this policy. The issue of tuition increase has been discussed twice in the Congress in the last decade but it has been turned down. At the beginning of the school year 2007-2008, the Prime Minister took a powerful course of action when proposing a loan program for disadvantaged learners, and giving an appropriation of about 2 billions US dollars to the loan program for nearly one third of all Higher Education and vocational students. Hopefully, the tuition increase policy following the above-mentioned loan program will get consent in society.
- International integration of Higher Education:
With Vietnam’s participation in the WTO in late 2006, Vietnam’s Higher Education has to obey some regulations set up by GATS to which Vietnam has commitments. However, Vietnam’s Higher Education is not strong enough to compete in the market of open Higher Education service. Consequently, the development of strategies for Vietnam’s integration into international Higher Education is a matter of great concern when the Resolution 14 emphasized, yet there have been no activities focusing on this objective so far.
4.3. Causes of inadequacies in the development of Vietnam’s Higher Education:
It can be seen in the Resolution 14 that Vietnam’s Government proposed sensible orientations to develop Vietnam’s Higher Education, yet there have been a large number of conflicts in the implementation. What are causes for these inadequacies and conflicts? Firstly, although policy makers have suitable knowledge and vision, administrative departments’ habitual implementations of policies based on a centralized mechanism is a great hindrance. This leads to the fact that current administrative system of Vietnam’s Higher Education becomes inadequate before the requirements of the Higher Education renovation. Secondly, it is a no less important causes that the professionalism of education management in general and Higher Education management in particular is still low, which gives rise to the inconsistencies in the issued regulations and the shortcomings of legal documents. Furthermore, as some people in the academic community state, a small number of renovation policies in the Higher Education system alone are not enough. This is because profound changes of Vietnam’s socio-economic context during its transition into a market economy and dramatic changes of the world in the process of integration and globalization require a fundamental educational reform of Vietnam in the new era.

REFERENCES
(1) Economy of Vietnam and the World 2007-2008, Vietnam Economic Times, Jan., Hanoi, 2008.
(2) Lam Quang Thiep - "Vietnam", from "Handbook on Diplomas, Degrees and other certificates in Higher Education in Asia and Pacific", 2nd edition, UNESCO Bangkok, APEID, 2004.
(3) Asia Development Bank - Education and Skills: Strategies for Accelerated Development in Asia and the Pacific, 2008.
(4) Nguyen T. Hien - The Impact of Globalisation on Higher Education in China and Vietnam: Policies and Practices. Paper presented at ECE Conference 2007, University of Salford, UK. Available online at http://www.ece.salford.ac.uk/proceedings/2007?t=1
(5) Tran-Nam Binh, Education Reform and Sustainable Development in Vietnam: A Preliminary Analysis, Conference on Sustainable Development in Vietnam, University of Maryland, 2003
(6) Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education: Higher education in Asia and the Pacific 1998-2003 - Regional report on progress in implementing recommendations of the 1998 World Conference on Higher Education. UNESCO, Paris, 2003.
(7) IIEP, External Quality Assurance: Options for Higher Education Managers, UNESCO, Paris, 2007.
(8) Lenn, M. P - Strengthening World Bank Support for Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Higher Education in East Asia and the Pacific. World Bank’s Working Paper Series, Paper No. 2004-6, 2004

Appendix: A comparison of Vietnam’s Higher Education Accreditation Standards and AUN-QA Criteria. Document prepared for APQN-sponsored workshop on Internal Quality Assurance at Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City 2007.

Thứ Ba, ngày 25 tháng 11 năm 2008

Chủ Nhật, ngày 09 tháng 11 năm 2008

How to write good English tests?

Many students write to me and ask this one question: How can they write good English tests?



For me it is a very strange question, because if they are teachers then they must know the syllabus to teach it, and test what students learn of what they teach is a natural part of the process!



But if they want to write good tests as a professional, then that is a very different question. And the answer for that is: they must first know how to recognise the "performance indicators" of different levels of language proficiency.



And this is where the ALTE can-do framework can help. Please go there, read, and ask in class! The link is below:



http://www.alte.org/

The Montessori method

If my dream school is one day established, it would follow the Montessori Method!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montessori

But what is this method? This is what Wipidemia has to explain it:

The Montessori method is a child centered alternative educational method for children, based on theories of child development originated by Italian educator Maria Montessori (1870-1952) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is applied primarily in preschool and elementary school settings although some Montessori high schools exist. [1][2]

The Montessori method is characterized by an emphasis on self-directed activity on the part of the child and clinical observation on the part of the teacher (often called a director, directress, or guide). It stresses the importance of adapting the child's learning environment to his or her developmental level, and of the role of physical activity in absorbing abstract concepts and practical skills. It also characterized by the use of autodidactic (self-correcting) equipment for introduction and learning of various concepts.

The Montessori name has achieved some attention, is not a trademark and is associated with more than one organization. There are schools 'influenced' by Montessori which have received substantial criticism and bear little resemblance to other institutions with closer lineage to Maria. The rest of this article refers to Maria's work, the work of her colleagues and their successors.

The Montessori method teaches reading via phonics and whole language, the comparative benefits of which are presently being recognised. [3]

The Montessori method

If my dream school is one day established, it would follow the Montessori Method!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montessori

But what is this method? This is what Wipidemia has to explain it:

The Montessori method is a child centered alternative educational method for children, based on theories of child development originated by Italian educator Maria Montessori (1870-1952) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is applied primarily in preschool and elementary school settings although some Montessori high schools exist. [1][2]

The Montessori method is characterized by an emphasis on self-directed activity on the part of the child and clinical observation on the part of the teacher (often called a director, directress, or guide). It stresses the importance of adapting the child's learning environment to his or her developmental level, and of the role of physical activity in absorbing abstract concepts and practical skills. It also characterized by the use of autodidactic (self-correcting) equipment for introduction and learning of various concepts.

The Montessori name has achieved some attention, is not a trademark and is associated with more than one organization. There are schools 'influenced' by Montessori which have received substantial criticism and bear little resemblance to other institutions with closer lineage to Maria. The rest of this article refers to Maria's work, the work of her colleagues and their successors.

The Montessori method teaches reading via phonics and whole language, the comparative benefits of which are presently being recognised. [3]

The Montessori method

If my dream school is one day established, it would follow the Montessori Method!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montessori

But what is this method? This is what Wipidemia has to explain it:

The Montessori method is a child centered alternative educational method for children, based on theories of child development originated by Italian educator Maria Montessori (1870-1952) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is applied primarily in preschool and elementary school settings although some Montessori high schools exist. [1][2]

The Montessori method is characterized by an emphasis on self-directed activity on the part of the child and clinical observation on the part of the teacher (often called a director, directress, or guide). It stresses the importance of adapting the child's learning environment to his or her developmental level, and of the role of physical activity in absorbing abstract concepts and practical skills. It also characterized by the use of autodidactic (self-correcting) equipment for introduction and learning of various concepts.

The Montessori name has achieved some attention, is not a trademark and is associated with more than one organization. There are schools 'influenced' by Montessori which have received substantial criticism and bear little resemblance to other institutions with closer lineage to Maria. The rest of this article refers to Maria's work, the work of her colleagues and their successors.

The Montessori method teaches reading via phonics and whole language, the comparative benefits of which are presently being recognised. [3]

Thứ Bảy, ngày 08 tháng 11 năm 2008

First entry for my dream English school

It all started as a dream, in early 1994. I had just arrived in Australia for my 3 years of hard labour (!) working on my doctoral education. My son was only 7 then, and my thesis supervisor was an expert in bilingual education whose strong belief in children's natural ability in acquiring language ignited in me the interest in establishing an English school for children (with my son foremost in my thought). But of course it was only a dream, for at that time I did not know how I would earn enough to support myself and my family, let alone having enough money to establish and English schooi.

It's late 2008 now and my dream is still alive (my son is now 21, by the way, but I have a daughter who is only 11, so if I established a school quickly enough my daughter may be able to benefit ;-)). And I think if I am persistent enough, it will come true!

So this blog is to keep the dream alive, lest I forgot what I want. I'll come frequently to share with you things that have happened to my dream. So watch out!

Cheers

First entry for my dream English school

It all started as a dream, in early 1994. I had just arrived in Australia for my 3 years of hard labour (!) working on my doctoral education. My son was only 7 then, and my thesis supervisor was an expert in bilingual education whose strong belief in children's natural ability in acquiring language ignited in me the interest in establishing an English school for children (with my son foremost in my thought). But of course it was only a dream, for at that time I did not know how I would earn enough to support myself and my family, let alone having enough money to establish and English schooi.

It's late 2008 now and my dream is still alive (my son is now 21, by the way, but I have a daughter who is only 11, so if I established a school quickly enough my daughter may be able to benefit ;-)). And I think if I am persistent enough, it will come true!

So this blog is to keep the dream alive, lest I forgot what I want. I'll come frequently to share with you things that have happened to my dream. So watch out!

Cheers

University entrance admission practices and quality of education

Entry for August 08, 2008 - from Talk Taiwanese
University entrance admission practices and quality of education

10/21/2007

http://johangijsen.blogspot.com/2007/10/academic-admission-requirements-and.html


With this post, I focus on a personal hypothesis as to the link between university student admission policies and quality in academic English education in Taiwan.

QUANTITY

First some figures which, although not directly related to academic quality, I want to point out to the numerous Taiwan critics of Belgium’s “harsh” university system:

a. Taiwan has nearly 23 million people, Belgium 10.5 million.
b. Taiwan has over 100 universities, Belgium 14.
c. Taiwan has one university ranked in the world’s top 200, Belgium six.
d. Taiwan has over 50.000 students admitted to masters and doctoral programs each year, Belgium less than 7.000 .
e. Belgium’s share of total education expenditure (2003) ranked twelfth (of thirty reported) in the world. Taiwan did not rank among the top 30.
f. University education in Belgium is heavily subsidized. Bursaries for undergraduate students in Taiwan are more exception than rule (too many students to ‘cater for’?)
g. Belgium’s ‘weeding-out’ of students at university level is notorious; while admission to a university is cheap for locals (government subsidized), passing rates at freshman level stand at a mere 50%-60% for the Humanities for all universities combined. In other words, anyone with a secondary school degree can enter any Belgian university without admission test (with the exception of medical and law studies). Once inside, however, competition is very stiff.
h. Taiwan is quite the opposite: ‘weeding-out’ of students happens before they enter tertiary education. Admission to a university in Taiwan is – for EU-standards – expensive. Passing rates at freshman level arguably* stand at over 80% for the Humanities (*figure from three English departments in southern Taiwan – 87%).

QUALITY

In theory, universities in Taiwan are open to all pupils from all secondary (high) schools. Admission is regulated by entrance examinations organized by the universities themselves, as well as by recommendations made by the pupil’s school authorities or by outstanding results in other fields (e.g. sports).

As a result, previously “top universities" (a term frequently used by Taiwan’s media) now know a greater influx of students – though arguably less qualified compared to the students in the past. Previously non-elite universities (the “average” or even the “inferior”, a term understandably shunned by the MOE but therefore not less real) equally know a greater influx of (less qualified) students. While this phenomenon does not necessarily have serious negative consequences for top universities, it does create a unique situation for the (below)-average level universities in Taiwan.

Many private universities, in particular, are vying hard to achieve a sufficient student intake. For an average English department this quota stands at about 120 freshman students. Entrance examinations are set up by the departments themselves.

Ever more so, entrance test results show the following trend: of the - let’s say – 200 students who participated, 110 did not obtain 60% (the passing grade in Taiwan). Of the remaining 90 students, 40 obtained a score of between 60% and 70%, with 50 students having achieved a score of over 70%.

The chairperson of the English department then attends a “quota meeting” together with other chairs to, quite literally, draw a line somewhere between two names of the original list of 200 students who wrote the entrance exams. The department needs 120 souls to fill the empty freshman classrooms. The meeting is often chaired by the president (rector) and the academic dean.

model quota list:
(name student)/ (test grade) / (code)

1. Chen, Ya-ling / 92% / 1.15
2. (name) / 90% / 1.23
3....
(etc.)
90. (name) / 58% / 3.55
(etc.)
120. (name) / 48% / 3.96
121...
122...

For the department needing 120 students, the chairperson would normally have to draw a line around student nr. 90 (by stating the code). This, however, would not fulfill the quota requirements of the school for this department. So, would the chairperson do so, s/he would be “made aware” of his or her ‘mistake’ by the people presiding the meeting. Not surprisingly, the chairperson avoids this from happening; s/he neatly draws a line under student nr. 120. Even though this means the department just admitted thirty students (15 each in a class of 60) who actually failed the entrance test.

In a gesture of fairness to the chairperson, no other department chairperson has a copy of his or her entrance exam grades. The only hint would be the “codes” called out by the chair to the rector or dean. So no one in the meeting, and less outside the meeting, knows that the cut-off quota for next year’s intake of freshman students lies at 48%.

THE YEAR AFTER

Chen Ya-ling (heading the list above) is a freshman student in the English department. She obtained 92% on her entrance exam. Her class counts 60 students, ten of whom also obtained excellent results in the entrance exam. Fifteen of her classmates were not that lucky: they failed but “somehow” still made it into the department.

Ya-ling’s teachers’, though keenly aware of her superior English skills, have to adapt their teaching style (and after a few years also the curriculum) to the one-third or so of students having significantly inferior English abilities to those of Ya-ling. This slows down teachers and influences their standard of evaluating (giving scores to) students. Ninety-nine or even one hundred percent grades are quite common for students like Ya-ling.

Well into the second semester, however, our good student has become somewhat bored and frustrated by the lack of challenge. Some of her teachers have started questioning what “happened” to the previously outstanding Ya-ling. Is it attitude? Motivation? Has she become lazy? And why did such an exceptional student “end up” in this department in the first place?

As for Ya-ling’s classmates (the one-third trying to keeping afloat academically – or not), student life is not necessarily a nightmare, seeing their teachers are absorbed by (1) all students academic well-being, and (2) students’ evaluations of teachers’ performance, and (3) the pragmatic demands (“give the client what they want”) of an expensive university.

Universities with a well-established English graduate school can rely on some of their graduates offering tutorials to these students. Other English departments, however, are asked by university authorities to set up remedial classes to help less language-gifted students. Such courses, offered by the same lecturers, are payed for by the university; students have to submit their names two months into the academic year.

This kind of meta-situation, briefly sketched in this post as an hypothesis (i.e. academic admission practices influence the quality of education negatively), is one we might want to keep in mind. It might override efforts to improve universities' language education in Taiwan.

Posted by Johan at 11:51 AM

10 comments:

Julia said...

Johan,
What you just posted about the reality in university is really new to me because it is very different from years ago when I went to university in Taiwan . Based on what you have described, now I have very grave concern about the quality of university education in Taiwan. Somehow, the education authority, either the MOE or scholarly institutions, have some misconception about the role of a university. A university should be an institution of a higher esteem for specific theory and research study, which is different from a college or a regular high school, isn't it? From what you have described about how the faculty tried to help students “catch up” with the standard in an English department screamed “high school” to me. That is what we do in public education- we help all students high or low to meet their individual needs with remedial support in order to pass on to the next level, either to a college or a university, because it is compulsory PUBLIC EDUCATION.

I would expect university students to have certain self-reliant discipline to function in a highly challenging academia. I call this maturity of self-discipline as positive “learning behavior” which requires independence and diligence. Students without this kind of adequate learning behavior would not and should not be ready for university study. Maybe they should not be there to begin with.

Many young adults here in Canada are going back to universities after years of working because they finally have the maturity and direction to pursue higher study. For the same token, many university grads are going back to college to learn practical skills in order to function in the trades or professional fields they are in. That is the distinction between skills and research study. I know all parents, regardless Taiwanese or Canadian, would hope to see their children go through university education. The truth is that not all students are cut out for the university route, and university is not the only way to get ahead in the world.

I disliked the old Taiwanese exam system but it certainly helped me and many “oldies” (not Me. Hahaha) establish a strong work ethics for later study. From my personal experiences, I don’t think Taiwanese students are smarter than students from any other country per se, but the discipline and work ethics that my schooling used to instill in me definitely helped me be able to level myself with my Canadian counterparts.

When I went to university, it was not easy to pass the entrance exam and the universities were few and far between in Taiwan . (I guess those are the so-called superior universities now.) If you were lucky to get in but you could not meet the standard required for the department, you would ultimately fail as well. You would either have to take the credit again or drop out. Even so, it was still considered as being relaxed for the university students, which was why we had a phrase then for university as “let you play for four years".

I assumed that once a student has been admitted to the university, he/she needs to establish the individual discipline required for scholarly study. “Sink or float” is up to the individual because each academia has its own high standard to hold and no less would be accepted. I strongly believe that students do need guidance, but I am totally against this “dumb down” approach to help keep students stay in the university. No matter how much you help the students, the institution should not lower its standard to accommodate those who should not be there in the first place, and may be able to accomplish more in other fields otherwise.

I've heard from many people of the baby boomer generation who complained about the dwindling of Taiwanese quality university education. So, why wouldn't the university weed out the students after admission or the freshman year? The drop-out rate is usually high at the first year of a Canadian or a US university, anyway. Does it all come down to the root of all evils - money? Universities need sufficient amount of funds from students’ high tuition to support the academia, so the more students the merrier? BTW, I am strongly against high tuition because the higher tuition may curb students of lower quality to opt out the university route but also block the opportunities for poor students of higher quality to entre a university.

I have many questions and I know you would have a different perspective from a Taiwanese teacher's point of view because you have seen different education systems as a travelling scholar.

Shouldn't the Ministry of Education set the number of students each year for the university's admission based on the capacity and the needs for Taiwan, or the labor demands in Taiwan?

Shouldn't each university set a bench mark for students’ admission instead of quota? I know for a fact that many Canadian universities are looking for students with community volunteer experience or social contribution as well as high academic performances. (I want a smart family doctor with compassion and social conscience as well. Hahaha.)

What if the university does not recruit sufficient number of students to meet the quota, would they then lower their standard again to admit more students with even lower quality to meet the quota?

Shouldn't the faculty hold a set of high standard of expectations for students’ performances, or at least the minimum required standard?

Shouldn't students exhibit certain level of discipline for scholarly study?

What would the university do if all efforts fail to ensure the student meet all level of adequate learning behavior?

Should it be the university’s role to inform the general public (students and parents) that students would be let go if they have not met the required expectations? (Money can not buy a degree. There is a distinction between a highly reputable university and a university mill.)

Are all universities conducting the same way in Taiwan , superior ones included, to help students who lack behind to graduate?

Oh, Heaven forbid. Don't tell me it is the same for the graduate school students in Taiwan!

October 24, 2007 2:08 PM

Scott Sommers said...

I have a very different interpretation of this situation and have written about it here
http://scottsommers.blogs.com/taiwanweblog/2007/10/english-and-mas.html

And while Julia may feel that the situation in Canada is much closer to the Platonic form of a university, my friends who teach in Canada tell me the same stories I hear from faculty in Taiwan.

Taiwan is long overdue for a transition into mass education. The impression of the current situation is not positive. The central government here, be it DPP or KMT, have long histories of 'over doing it' when it comes to market liberalization. But just as financial markets had to be liberalized, cable TV markets had to be liberalized, and newspaper markets had to be liberalized, so educational markets have to be liberalized. The tight control of the military government did not allow for the flexibility necessary to control a Taiwan with democracy and open markets.

October 25, 2007 2:13 PM

dl7und said...

Unfortunately, this is all very true, and it is even worse at lower-level schools. The requirements are reduced every year, because there is no other way to get enough students into the school. The reduction often comes along with the promise that "graduation will be easy as pie".

The result? At certain "universities", not only will you end up with "weak" students, but with students who have no interest in anything at all, who are here because they have been sent by their parents for the sole reason to get that piece of paper that is called a "university degree"...

But what do you want to expect, when universities themselves only want assistant professors or above, regardless of the field and with skills being only a minor criterion?

Put the letters "BMW" on a Yulong and it will magically become a BMW...

October 26, 2007 7:28 PM

Johan said...

In reply to Scott,
Although I called it "an hypothesis", my post is not an "interpretation". It's written from personal experience (as a chair) and from exchanges with colleagues at other departments in southern Taiwan. I should probably have stated this at the outset of my post, sorry.
I read your article and also agree with what you write. I guess we look at the same issue from a different different point of view. You point out the necessity of what's happening in university education; I pointed out some negative side-effects.

October 28, 2007 1:12 PM

julia said...

Scott.

“while Julia may feel that the situation in Canada is much closer to the Platonic form of a university, my friends who teach in Canada tell me the same stories I hear from faculty in Taiwan .”

I don’t think I stated that Canada has an almost “Platonic form of a university” education. I did say that the dropout rate for the freshman year is high in Canada , or at least in the province I live in. Many Canadian young people go back to the university or college based on the findings of their own needs. Some universities (e.g., medical schools) do look at a student’s community volunteer work experience as well as their academics to help decide who gets in and who’s not (I get calls all the time for that kind of reference). Most Canadian as well as Taiwanese parents want their kids to go to university. Public education has the responsibility to help their students meet their needs because it is public education funded by taxpayers. I teach in Canada and I do know for a fact that Canada has her own share of educational problems. However, the focus for Johan's article here is about Taiwan .

I do question the ideology of mass education but I certainly have no problem with the concept. With the idea of mass education, the quality control then would fall on the individual university's ethics to ensure that students meet certain standard to entre and exit the university. So, what if a self-governing university can not follow that quality control? Ask MOE to shut down the private university? You know how complicated that would be! That is why, after reading Johan's description of the selecting process and their efforts to bring students’ quality up to the standard, I questioned the true function and the sole purpose of a university. I think universities should carry some of the weight as research institutions whose function is more than preparing students for future job market. (Some jobs are probably not invented yet.)

Taiwan's university education system was based on past historical and cultural establishment - exam. As you know, most countries that were greatly influenced by Confucianism throughout Asia have the similar system. I went through the system myself and I hated it with a passion. I agree that an educational reform is long over due; however, do we want an almost “free-for-all” type of university system to replace the old “drill-and-kill” one? Because of this “liberalization” of university education, there is a sudden influx of universities in Taiwan . Now, it is becoming a buyer’s market, which makes a university at the lower totem pole unable to find sufficient number of qualified students (I haven't read much about the staffing situation for each faculty yet). So, do we truly want the university to go as low as they can to meet the quota? In a liberalized market, companies shut down their business due to insufficient clients and profit. How about a Taiwanese university that can not get or produce enough quality students? I don't have an answer, but I do believe that education is more than just liberalized business enterprise.



Julia

October 29, 2007 12:05 PM

Scott Sommers said...

Julie,

I have been known to overstate the opinions expressed in other's comments. I suppose that's what I did when I referred to "Platonic forms". It's just that I live and work in a world of educators, almost all of whom remember that their world of study is a more serious one that their students live in.

Conditions of dramatic change often leave stakeholders feeling quality has been effected, either for good or bad. There may be a way to implement mass education without the creation of the impression that "standards are declining." I am not aware that this has ever been done successfully. I really don't think that "quality has been effected" in Taiwan education in any meaningful sense. Many of us who have been teaching for several years have found our school's role in the system to be redefined and are not happy with this. That does not mean that mean the same thing as declining standards.

And in an unrelated point, I do not believe the emphasize on examination in Taiwan or any other East Asia nation is related to Confucianism. This is a rhetoric used in Taiwan and China by governments that claim to the legitimate government of China. It is not the rhetoric in Japan. Ironically, it is Japan in which modern schools first began using examination as an entrance requirement and in Japan in which the first commercial exam prep schools appeared. It is the early modern schools of Japan upon which all other modernizing Asia nations modeled their development. Historians of education in Japan, however, do not credit Chinese or Confucian influence.

October 29, 2007 3:45 PM

Anonymous said...

I thought I was pretty good at Ancient Chinese history, but don’t quote me on this one. (Hahaha. Please do correct if I am wrong.) Japanese did redefine the modern exam system; however, my understanding was that since Song Dynasty (about the Twelfth century), Chinese had formally established the exam system which encouraged the Confucian intellects who might not have a noble background (nobility by birth) to be able to move ahead based on their intellectual achievement through centralized exam system. The system was widely spread to many countries in Asia. That was the historical and cultural influence I was talking about in my previous post. Historically speaking, we Chinese have long history of taking exams for many things and almost every thing for advancement. Sad but true.

Julia1492

October 31, 2007 3:50 AM

Scott Sommers said...

I am certain that you know the facts of Imperial testing better than I. The existence of these tests is not the point. The caricature of the position you cite that I often use is "Tests then, test now - must be the same."

The argument made by Japanese historians is that imperial testing influenced the development of tests in Europe, which was then transmitted to the USA, which was then transmitted to Japan via the influence of American educational advisers during the late Meiji Period. The major force that is often cited is educational adviser David Murray who was in Japan during the 1870's.
Amanao, Ikuo. (1990) Education and examination in Modern Japan. University of Tokyo.

My point about the KMT testing system is somewhat more subtle. The KMT established an examination Yuan and MOE in Republican China. These institutions had little effect on public or private life there. While the official position is the EY was reestablished in Taiwan following KMT defeat, it can hardly be said that the structure and functions of the EY and MOE were descended from Republican China. How could they be? They were tiny institutions with little efficacy compared with what was established in Taiwan. There is no way we can argue, for example, that the EY's definition of 'Mother Country Geography' has not been influenced by its role as a mechanism of social control in Taiwan. The acceptance of this definition, at least in public life, is necessary (should I say compulsory?) for profession advancement in Taiwan.

I could easily disagree with Japanese historians and say that testing in Taiwan is descended from Imperial China, and start searching for historical relations between the two phenomena. It would be more accurate to say that the military government in Taiwan utilized a traditional form of Chinese education to pacify the Taiwanese people and then start a search for why the military government structured testing in the way they did.

November 2, 2007 2:44 AM

julia said...

Scott,

I enjoy such an interesting discussion with you as always. (Sorry, Johan, I am taking up so much space here.)

The mechanism of any examination established in ROC was set up ideally to promote equity as well as to discourage century-old cultural defect of using personal connections or the so called “back door” politics, which is quite rampant if you have lived in Taiwan or China long enough. Chinese believe that any personal connection enhances opportunities and brings closer the interactions among people; however, the “back door politics” could often burden any personnel within an institution with nepotism or discrimination. Such a societal defect of human nature is not only limited to Taiwan or China though. You cited from Orgtheroy regarding less qualified students who were accepted to the Ivy League universities because of their family connections. In order to avoid this type of problem, an institution, such as EY or any institution for admission exam in Taiwan, was then established to function as an overseer to ensure that equity and fairness in large-scaled exams is enforced.

I may personally distaste exams, but I know, as a professional, that there is always a place for using exams as a tool for assessment and evaluation. As long as the exams were well designed, the statistical distribution of the results can give teachers some informative indications of the students’ performance. Based on Johan’s personal recount, I don’t know if the new education reform for university admission is designed for the better or the worse. On the statistical distribution of a bell curve, where do we cut off as the threshold for the university students? 60%, 80% or 98%? If the university would take anybody as low as the score of 18 point to fill the vacancies, then why bother having the national exam? Why not just take them all in, and let each university decide who stays and who goes after the first year? Would each university take the stand to refuse the “back door” politics and avoid the connection tactics to ensure the quality of each student is up to par within their own holy ivy tower? Should we even burden the university with extra work load to bring students up to the minimum standard? We are talking about elite university education. Do we want to give cram schools another avenue for a new venture to help those university students "catch up"?

I am not going to get into the discussion about why certain subject areas were put in the curriculum or exams for governmental exams. Whether it was due to the KMT governing era or not, this discussion here is not about politics but about education. However, I do want to point out that, in the old high school curriculum, Taiwanese students didn’t just learn and be tested on “Mother Land’s” geography or history, we practically learned about Chinese as well as the World history and geography in the East and the West in general. (As a student then, I might have also questioned why on earth we needed to draw a map of North America or learn about Australia in my geography class?) I simply don’t see anything wrong for students to have some general knowledge about Chinese, American or European geography per se. In fact, all global citizens should exhibit some general knowledge about their own country and the world.

Julia1492

November 4, 2007 7:54 AM

Ken said...

I have been teaching full time in the English language department of a private university of technology in Taiwan, and I find this topic highly relevant. Although a "university of technology", the school reminds me of a community college for remedial students in the USA. A place for young people to spend four years (or more) since they do not want to work in very low paying jobs and do not have any skills for higher paying ones. The stagnant economy makes this remedial education even more appealing.
In addition, the private university of technology treats these students as "customers" (more like cash-cows) and admits very low scoring students and combines them with those few relatively advanced students to create a class of tremendous diversity in language proficiency. Imagine the consequences.
In a nutshell, students generally come here because they have very little other options (poor academic record and little or no skills in a bad economy) and schools need them to survive.
As for English teachers such as myself, the challenges are enormous on several levels, especially if you are a "homeroom teacher" (faculty adviser) to one class of students.