|Students at Eastern International University in Binh Duong Province. Vietnamese universities and colleges need to prepare graduates to meet the demands of the labour market. — VNA/VNS Photo Minh Quyet
HA NOI (VNS) — Viet Nam's higher education institutions should focus more on building market-oriented curriculum to produce the qualified candidates businesses desperately need, officials said yesterday at a conference.
The national higher education system has experienced rapid growth in recent years. It accommodates 2.1 million students in 433 universities and colleges nationwide, Bui Anh Tuan, head of the Higher Education Department under the Ministry of Education and Training, said at the conference. Despite all that progress, a gap remains between training level and demand, Tuan said.
The Law on Higher Education was approved in 2012 to push for further development in the system, and to break it into categories of institutions that focus on research, application and practice.
The Ministry is working on a decree that will encourage more institutions to focus on the "practice" aspect, Tuan said.
Most conference participants agreed that institutions' training curriculums had little to do with the labour market's demands, and that they lacked input from the businesses looking to hire these schools' graduates.
Tuan said the Law on Higher Education did encourage businesses to participate in the training process, but the country still needed to figure out how businesses and institutions should co-operate.
"We must adjust our programs accordingly to the needs of the labor market, the job market and society," he said.
Pham Thi Ly of the International Education Institute in Vietnam National University-HCM City said the challenges were motivating institutions to implement changes.
Many universities were still relying on state subsidies and only focused on students "getting degrees," she said.
The number of unemployed university graduates was alarmingly high – 174,000 in the third quarter of this year, according to statistics from the Labour Ministry.
The public's trust in university and college degrees has faltered, as schools' obsessions with churning out degrees and the lack of improvement in labour productivity continue to plague the system, Ly said.
Other participants also said the Government should create a legal framework to strengthen relations between schools and firms.
Bui Van Chuong from Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry said universities had been proactive in seeking help from businesses, but that businesses lacked the motivation to do the same.
In 2005, the Education Ministry started implementing a Netherlands-funded project to strengthen profession-oriented higher education in Viet Nam.
Since then, the ministry has helped enhance professional capacity for Vietnamese students. It set up 50 training programmes in 8 universities, focusing on the needs of the labour market.
Nearly 2,000 students have graduated from these training programmes since they started, and officials estimate that 85 per cent of them found jobs within 6 months of graduation.
This model ensures that enterprises are directly involved in the training process and welcome students as interns.
Students in many cases have to take a career orientation course, in addition to a six-month internship.
The second phrase of the project is underway, and ends in 2015. — VNS