Monday, March 29, 2010

Education is culture, not business

I just came back form Singapore and on the plane I was thinking about what is the difference between Singapore and Vietnam. Of course, Singapore is way more developed. But what's the reason for that? I think at least on reason is education.
In Vietnam, education is a business and it's business driven. People are focussing on certificates and degrees, no matter what it is about. The curriculums are outdated, teacher's are clueless, and parents as well. Kids have to go to a international schools, but nobody cares about what they learn. So it's all about business and impress neighbors with the kids school uniform. (Doesn't mean by the way that this is not also reality in western countries).

But education is more, and that really makes the difference. It's culture. You not only learn, you have to learn THINKING. It's not so much about the result of the test, it's about your approach. It's about think different, be curious, think out if the box. Look for alternatives, try a different way. Learn from others, research information, share your knowledge. This is the fundament of good and successful education, but it lacks in Vietnam.

The state of the country is quite obvious when you look on women's fashion. It tells you a lot about the current status of development. The average middle class woman in Vietnam buys clothes because of famous brand names (although it's a fake) and try to be dressed sexy (although she looks like a prostitute). There is no real sense of how to combine colors and materials. Even better is the way people dressed on the motobike. No problem with sun protection, but why the hell everyone is just wearing what was available at the next corner? Because there is no sense of it.
Fashion is deeply connected to education and culture. The better you education, the more you understand (the need of) culture. The better you are dressed. and i am not talking of be dressed in western style. Actually there is nothing more attractive than asian women in traditional clothes. Transform the old patterns, fabrics and use of colors and you would have a nice local, but high level fashion trend.
Instead, its all about money. Look at average interior design of houses. I have seen only a few where you felt comfortable in - one was an ancient Vietnamese house from 18something somewhere n=in the Mekong Delta.

I am not complaining, I try to analyze and give some advise. What is part of education as well. So called soft skills are so important in these days, but I haven't seen any approach to teach this in Vietnam.

Experts are warning about the middle income trap for Vietnam. That actually means the Vietnam will not develop much further. I think that is a real threat. Cheap labor will not last forever, and then? Without having not only young, but creative, well educated people there is no way out.

12 comments:

Tim said...

Great piece Thomas, specifically the relationship between education/culture and aesthetics. In Vietnam, money is all that matters. Aesthetics are ignored. Why spend $$$ making your restaurant or cafe stylish & comfortable when you can just throw a load of plastic chairs and metal tables in and make money anyway? And the locals won't complain because they settle for second best every day.

The only place in Vietnam where bars/restaurants conform to some sort of aesthetic standard (the same standard seen throughout places such as Luang Prabang, Siem Reap etc) is Hoi An, and that's because it's enforced by UNESCO. Imagine what would happen to Hoi An if UNESCO pulled out...

Thomas Wanhoff said...

Tim, actually there seem to be a young avandgarde with a much higher sense of culture. You can see this in some rare designer shops in Saigon, or coffee shops like Maison de Dorly in Quan 4 or Ca Phe Thu Bay in District 3.

Tim said...

Yes I think the big hope for the country is the young students who are studying abroad - they learn that dirt, chaos & ugliness are not the norm and come back with fresh ideas.

Docwood said...

This link is related to news about how corruption in Education ruins the entire generation. http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/Shady-education-practices-corrupt-young-minds.aspx

Docwood said...

Hey Tim,
The national dress code for Vietnamese Women since the early 1950’s actually has been the standard “Ao Dai” which is usually worn by mostly students and office workers especially during official functions or conferences. This “Ao Dai” standard dress code for Vietnamese Women was created through the legislative process championed by the very first First Lady of the Republic of Vietnam Madam Ngo Dinh Nhu in the early 50’s. I think the sexy wares of a variation of versions you were referring to, is not the official sanction standard but they are mostly forced upon to ware by mostly local business owners such as Cafes; restaurants; Beauty Salons and Massage Parlors etc… Therefore, these women are mostly from the countryside trying to make a living and help out their folks back home. Of cause prostitutes are the same throughout the world.

ship said...

How much do you know about Vietnam?

Thomas Wanhoff said...

@docwood: the ao dai is only in high school a uniform.

@chip: as much as i could in 2 years. i dont blame "the people" i just did an analysis. and i think that education is just the weakness. proof me wrong

Docwood said...

The Standard Ao Dai is worn not just in primary and secondary education, but also official functions and government and business conferences etc... Most Vietnamese women wear them to church also. Most of them are traditional wares although there are always exceptions that some of them can be seen though under strong Sun light because the fabric is extremely thin. Here is a true story. On one occasion, a woman from a shipping logistics company one day came to my office to see me to present and market logistics services, but I saw her lace panties by accident due to strong Sun light.

Thomas Wanhoff said...

Docwood I am sorry but since I live in Vietnam and under Vietnamese Jurisdiction I cannot publish the other comment you wrote although I like it very much

Cuong said...

Education is highly regarded in vietnam and among vietnamese tradition. The reason why singapore is much more advanced is because of history. If vietnam was helped by a developed nation to rebuild after the wars, i believe that the infastructure would of been there to foster growth similar to japan, south korea.

Thomas Wanhoff said...

Cuong, I disagree. Even if education itself is regarded, the quality isnt. Vietnam opened the doors roughly ten years ago, but there is still a lack of open minds. The openness is only about short-term money. There is a reason why middle-class people still send their kids abroad for a better eduction. And as you said, the awareness is there in VN, but that doesnt result in action.

Docwood said...

Cuong, I disagree also about Japan and Korea. These are very different kinds of hosts. All the monies in the world will not change stuff overnight. It will take time, perhaps the another generation. Having all the educations and certificates but lack of creative adaptation and strategic thinking is the difference. The early worms get eaten by the early birds, so It pays to sleep late. Although the ox is slow but the earth is patient, the whole world doesn't need to be patient.