Last week Viet Nam News asked readers how they think of a policy recently announced by the HCM City-based Vietnamese American Vocational Training College (VATC) forbidding its lecturers from being involved in romantic relations with its students. We also asked if they think it's a measure to improve fairness and transparency or it's a violation of individual freedoms and how teacher-student romance are viewed in their countries.
Bui Thi My Vinh, French-Vietnamese teacher, Ha Noi
A teacher-student relationship can be quite tricky as it involves the question of ethics. In my personal experience, when I was a student at the La Sorbonne University of Paris, one of my classmates was involved in a relationship with our Literature teacher. The teacher in question was famous for being one of the toughest and if you managed to get a 10 on 20 you'd celebrate. But somehow, that student always got good grades, and he'd brag about how much he'd partied the night before the exam and everything.
When the entire class got an overall of 11 on 20, he'd always get a better grade than all of us and would pass all the orals and tests. I found it utterly unfair as some of us had spent our entire weekend studying. However, later on we learnt that their relationship ended in a pretty bad way, and it turned out that the teacher was already married and she had refused to get a divorce from her husband. After that incident, that student's grades went downhill, and the teacher eventually failed him in the subject.
So I think that forbidding teacher-student relations is a bit harsh in the sense that the more you try to prohibit something, the more it becomes "exciting,'' the forbidden fruit looks tastier, if you will. I think it is okay for teachers to get involved in a romantic relationship with students, but not their students, for obvious reasons.
Trung Hieu, student at the FPT University, Ha Noi
In my opinion, romantic relationships between teachers and students should not be allowed as they will most likely affect both sides in a negative way. Many students see their teachers as role models. Seeing them involved in romantic affairs with students may prove to be a major disruption in a role models' image and a distraction, which could make it difficult for other students to focus on studying.
From a teacher's perspective, it may also cause a lot of problems at work as personal and professional lives will be mixed up. It is quite normal for a student or teacher to develop feelings for each other and I don't think there is anything wrong with that except for the inconveniences mentioned above. However, it is absolutely important that they take steps to not affect others around them on the campus.
David Alexander, Canadian expat, Hai Phong City
It's a question of ethics. At the high school level, it's primarily about age. But at the university level, the students are of all ages where they can be in a relationship with someone older if they want. The problem is, when that person has authority over their grades. The student might think, "I want to break up with them! But if I do, I'll surely fail their class." This is the core problem with student-teacher relationships.
Is there a problem when a student has a relationship with a professor? No, clearly not. But there is a big problem when a student has a relationship with their professor.
Bui Bich An, media executive at CREATIO, Ha Noi
A teacher-student relationship has always been seen as unethical and unhealthy in Viet Nam. It was never taught by anyone, the teacher or parents, but it was assumed by most people that it would be a profitable relationship. I have read many articles criticizing teachers taking advantage of students or their pupils in general. Thus, this has created a negative attitude towards this type of relationship.
In Viet Nam, we are raised to respect teachers and it would be a shame if students have special feeling for their educators. The student might be teased by others or even bullied if the relationship is exposed. Even though I have never studied in a Vietnamese school, I feel an international environment also prejudices a person regarding this issue.
However, if we look at it from a different angle, if the couple is in a genuinely normal relationship, one's profession is a teacher and the other a student, I don't see where this could cause a problem or even pose a question of ethics. In my opinion, it only affects the true nature of the relationship when one is taking advantage of the other. Personally, it would be unprofessional and unfair for the other if a teacher expresses favouritism for a certain student that he or she is having an affair with.
Muhlheim Joachim, French expat, HCM City
In my opinion this subject has to be seen from two different perspectives. The love life and feelings of one person can be shared with anyone when both sides agree upon it, like a normal relationship. The other side of the coin is the question of morality and ethics that always animates this subject. Is it wrong or good? Could these relations create any bias between the professor and the student?
Taking this into account, I believe in the freedom to be with who we want, and that love and feelings should know no boundary. It is up to each of us to see the question of ethics in the world, where everything is built around the perception of other people, without often taking into consideration the feelings of the person actually involved in the relationship.
Steven Brooks, Britain expat from Thailand
I think forbidding that kind of relationship will only tempt people to do it more, forbidden fruit is often the most delicious. A student who fraternises with their teacher is potentially the subject of biased grading. However, what's to say that a filthy rich student can't bribe his teacher for higher grades. — VNS