Friday, May 2, 2008

Vietnamese students display strong intellect: Belgian officials

Vietnamese students have good intellectual background but lack necessary command of foreign languages, two Belgian officials told Thanh Nien in a recent interview.
Professor Michel Hogge, the dean of the university’s School of Engineering, and head of the Wallonia-Brussels Delegation to Vietnam Christian Saelens visited Vietnam from April 10-20 to select scholarship recipients for graduate-level study at the University of Liege in Belgium.
Thanh Nien interviewed the officials regarding the quality of Vietnamese students and the local educational system.
Thanh Nien: You are looking for scholarship recipients from the universities of technology in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and the Hanoi-based University of Construction. What are the results of the trip so far?
Michel Hogge: Among the 40 candidates in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, we will shortlist about 25 and the top nine will be chosen to study graduate-level courses at the University of Liege starting this August.
This is a joint-cooperation program between Belgian and Vietnamese universities, which could last five years, depending on specific conditions and results.
The funding financed by the faculty for the nine selected candidates would be roughly €100,000 (over US$158,000) for one-year of study.
Announcement of the chosen candidates will be available soon.
We are selecting a number of teachers and graduates from the aforementioned local universities.
They will return to Vietnam to work as professors/lecturers after completing their studies, which is in accordance with the government’s policy to boost the number of young professors in the country.
Christian Saelens: We are also open to cooperating with other universities, including Can Tho University in the south.
The agreement for cooperation is still under discussion.
Since educational cooperation with Vietnam was launched in 1996, at least 300 Vietnamese students have graduated from the university.
What are your thoughts on the qualifications of these graduates?
Hogge: The only weakness plaguing Vietnamese students is command of foreign languages.
However, the intellectual background of engineering students in particular is very good.
Their educational background is rather theoretical, but at a high level.
Vietnamese students, additionally, have a good mental organization.
I have a message for Vietnamese students, young people, as well as relevant authorities: prioritize studying foreign languages such as French and English as it is very important for Vietnamese to explore things outside of Vietnam.
As a long-time collaborator with Vietnamese education, what is your view on the local educational system?
Hogge: Once again, I emphasize that students’ intellectual backgrounds are quite good; the only weakness is command of foreign languages.
In departments teaching heavy technologies, laboratories’ infrastructures are lacking as most are poorly equipped.
In the next step of cooperation, we plan to share materials with local labs but there is much more work to do.
However, in the discipline of biotechnology, I am quite impressed by the facilities in local labs as well as the quality of teaching and learning.
Students know many things that we don’t know in Europe.
Saelens: In Vietnam, educational background and potential are very high, much higher compared with other neighboring nations.
However, students should have a broader view of what is going on outside of their discipline.
In terms of educational management, local authorities should act more to improve quality to ensure sustainable development.
If local agencies and institutions look to import international standards into Vietnam, they should work to adapt these standards harmoniously with the local culture.
In previous years, we have faced difficulties with administrative formalities when launching cooperative programs.
Many academic authorities then did not really understand what international cooperation entails but things have progressively improved year by year.
With confidence and knowledge developed over time, we believe locals and foreigners could work well together to achieve the goal of boosting higher education in Vietnam.
Do you offer scholarships to students in other nations besides Vietnam?
Hogge: No, because our university’s policy only focuses on a limited number of nations.
Vietnam is one of our key partners in educational cooperation.
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