The race to provide education should not ignore quality standards, Professor Nguyen Xuan Han, from Ha Noi National University spoke to the Lao dong Cuoi tuan (Labour Weekend) newspaper.
How do you respond to the news that over 72,000 graduates cannot find jobs?
I would say this is a consequence of the education sector's imbalanced policy between quantity and quality development. Human resource quality has become a challenge to Viet Nam for many years, but even now we have been unable to find a good and workable solution to the problem.
More recently, the Ministry of Education and Training has decided to change benchmarks for candidates to enter universities and colleges. To my understanding, this is a way to lower the required examination marks so that more students can enrol in universities and colleges.
However, the bigger problem is how to reduce the number of unemployed graduates. One solution we can think of is to export them. But do we export them as general workers or as "engineers"? If they are exported in the true sense as graduates, will they meet the quality requirements from importers? This is a question we have to find an answer to.
In your opinion, what are the reasons for a big number of university graduates not finding jobs?
There are various reasons, but, I think, the basic one is that the educational sector has failed to come up with a workable and comprehensive plan on human resources development for the country at present and also for the years to come.
Viet Nam is still a poor country, but the number of university graduates and post graduates are so many that more than 72,000 graduates are unemployed. I don't know if the people responsible have thought of training them to export them to European nations, where they is a huge shortage of qualified workers. In a nutshell, they should think more practically about the inputs and outputs.
Do you mean we should focus more on improving the quality to meet domestic requirements and also to export?
I am afraid the quality of our higher education training at present is poor. The eloquent evidence is that 72,000 graduates cannot find jobs! It is imperative to raise the quality of our higher education to international standard. This is also the goal set by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung for the educational sector.
Do you think this goal is too much for Viet Nam?
I don't think so. To improve the quality of our higher education, the first thing we have to do is to focus on quality instead of quantity. Compared with the number of students in 1987, the figure at present has increased 15 times as compared to the number of universities, which has increased by five. But, there is a paradox - we suffer from a huge shortage of teachers/lecturers, particularly leading lecturers. I still remember, at one time, every month, we had a new university. All in all, Viet Nam lacks a strategy on human development. This is vital for turning the country into an industrial and modern nation by 2020.
What are your suggestions for reducing the number of unemployed graduates and to improve training quality?
There is quite a lot of work to be done. But here I just want to mention three important factors. First, we need to elevate the training quality to international standards. Second we require good and standard university curricula and learning materials for students. Third, we should give a thorough thought on the human resources structure, particularly the training of vocational students.
What about human resources training for the next few years?
The first and most important task is to reform national education, of which vocational training plays a huge part. Second, human resources development should cater to both national and international demands. Third, we need to give due attention to teachers' contingency, text books and school infrastructure. At present, at the tertiary level, we are short of 20,000 to 30,000 teachers compared with the standard students-teacher ratio, particularly highly qualified teachers. And last but not least, our education quality must be on par with those of other countries. But it does not mean we copy their standards. — VNS