by To Nhu
Can Viet Nam dream of its very own Mark Zuckerberg?
Young Vietnamese high school students will be given a grounding in the basics of business for the first time starting this coming school year.
The Ministry of Education and Training plans to roll-out business classes across 15 provinces, with 10 high schools representing each province.
Even though the classes will be optional, it signals the start of a concerted effort to provide realistic and relevant knowledge to students from an early age and offer them a valid alternative to the traditional post-school scramble for college and university places.
Since 2006, the International Labor Organisation, in collaboration with the Vietnam Institute of Educational Science (VNIES) has already piloted business lessons in seven high schools and four regular educational training centres across four provinces: Thanh Hoa, Quang Ngai, Binh Phuoc and Tra Vinh, covering about 2,000 students. After the training, nearly 70 per cent said they found the teaching beneficial.
It seems high time we taught kids the bare necessities of business.
Nowadays, it's not uncommon to find shops and small firms in Ha Noi and HCM City being run by children of school-age.
For the kids who like to think outside the box, surely learning about business will give them a chance to hone their entrepreneurial instincts.
Le Ky Viet, a student at Bim Son regular educational training centre in Thanh Hoa Province, says his family could not afford to send him to college, so he started a small shop offering basic computer services. As part of the ILO-VNIES pilot program, Viet was taught marketing, communication and management skills which helped him turn his start-up into a profitable business.
Another student at Bim Son is Nguyen Van Trung, who, together with friends, managed to open a shop designing billboards, advertisements and invitation cards generating revenues of up to VND20 million (US$950) per month.
Hoang Ngoc Vinh, director-general of the professional education department, said hopefully teaching would start sowing the seeds to grow future business leaders and enable students to get creative.
Vinh said the thinking that business classes are only suitable for college-age students is misguided.
His argument is definitely not groundless.
Officials estimate that about 30 per cent of Vietnamese students who graduate from secondary school do not enter high school and about 80 per cent who graduate from high school do not enter college.
But despite the obvious advantages, the scheme has still attracted critics.
Some parents believe students are already overloaded with normal coursework and ask "why should they learn a subject that does not prepare them for exams?"
Dao Thi Thuy, a teacher at Trung Hoa Elementary School in Cau Giay District, said her child is in 11th grade and studying to enter university remains the top priority.
Many people are also concerned that some teachers are not up to the task of covering such an uncharted subject and students could be wasting their time.
Still, we believe this new effort is a positive step. Maybe we can get students to learn outside the normal curriculum and discover new skills.
Even for those who do not follow the path of becoming business leaders or owners, it's never superfluous to learn about teamwork, communication, negotiation skills.
However, it takes time to make things interesting and perhaps teachers and schools can liaise with business leaders to set students on a smoother path to prosperity. — VNS