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Pandemic shows digital transformation matters in education: Microsoft general manager

Update: October, 30/2020 - 15:33

Phạm Thế Trường, general manager of Microsoft Vietnam, said online teaching would not replace traditional methods completely but is a decisive factor in the success of digital education. VNS Photo Bồ Xuân Hiệp

Việt Nam aims to become a digital society by 2030. The country has been praised internationally for taking the lead in digital transformation in the education sector, especially after the COVID-19 outbreak. Việt Nam News speaks with Phạm Thế Trường, general manager of Microsoft Vietnam, about the importance of digital education.

Why does digital transformation in the education sector matter in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Vietnamese government has shown strong commitment to promoting national digital transformation, especially in the wake of the pandemic which has posed huge challenges to all sectors, including education. 

On the other hand, the outbreak is one of the factors to accelerate the digital process.  

In recent years the use of IT in teaching and knowledge sharing has been developing in Việt Nam. 

Việt Nam is expected to become a leading digital country by 2030 after PM Nguyễn Xuân Phúc recently approved a national digital transformation programme, which has a target of the country becoming a digital society by then.

Education is among the sectors to benefit significantly from the process as it needs a huge number of high-quality workers. Education has the highest number of people, including students, teachers and lecturers, of any sector, accounting for more than 20 per cent of the total population. 

Therefore, digital transformation in education will play a key role in the country’s socio-economic development. 

What do you think about the digital transformation of education in Việt Nam? 

Việt Nam has achieved significant progress in digital transformation in many fields, not just education.

Today a number of tech giants have joined hands with the Government to accelerate the digital transformation process, especially in the education sector. 

I am particularly impressed by the great efforts made by the ministry to organise e-learning activities during the outbreak to avoid interruptions during the social distancing period.

A majority of Vietnamese students can now study online. Nearly half of the universities across the country have organised online classes.

In remote and disadvantaged areas, teachers even make videos of lessons and post on various online platforms, especially the Microsoft Teams, a platform complete with document sharing, online meetings, and other useful features for business communications.

In the long run I still believe online teaching will never replace traditional teaching completely, but it is a decisive factor for digital transformation in education.

What are the challenges of digital transformation in education? What are the solutions to the problems? 

The biggest problem is a lack of consistent policies and guidance from the central to local levels with regard to accelerating digital transformation.

The process also faces major issues because of the differences in infrastructure levels between various regions. To undertake the digital conversion process in rural and mountainous areas is far more challenging than in big cities. Infrastructure, platforms and the environment for digital transformation are not yet ready there.

Việt Nam also needs to develop a safe network security eco-system for better digital transformation in the sector.

I really appreciated the initiatives taken by Deputy PM Vũ Đức Đam including one calling for mobilising old Ipads and tablets to distribute to teachers and students in remote areas to have better access to technology.

The main task in digital transformation of education is that teachers and students can have easier access to information technology to take full advantage of humanity’s knowledge.

The education system should be integrated with both e-learning and traditional methods as well as new social skills to ensure that all children can study while they can interact face-to-face with teachers and friends. 

Could you tell us about your recent partnership with the Ministry of Education and Training for digital transformation of education?

E-learning models are expected to continue booming amid the outbreak which has forced educational establishments to close face-to-face education and send students home. 

From early February Microsoft has partnered with itrithuc, Ministry of Education and Training and other technology companies to equip teachers and students across more than 50 out of Việt Nam’s 63 provinces with remote learning capabilities, including 6,000 teachers trained by Microsoft and almost four million free Office 365 accounts. 

This is a modest number but it’s a good foundation for us to expand the e-learning model in the future.

In the northern port city of Hải Phòng, more than 200 schools were provided with Microsoft Teams, with more than 200,000 students in 4,000 classes continuing their lessons from the safety of their homes in just over a day.

Microsoft Teams is a solution that empowers teachers to closely replicate the traditional classroom experience in a virtual environment. 

Students can enjoy two-way interaction and learn effectively with minimal disruption from the safety of their homes during the school closure.

For schools that are more familiar with online learning, the use of Microsoft Teams is an even more seamless process. 

Nguyễn Tất Thành Secondary and High School in Hà Nội was early to deploy Microsoft Teams as the default mode for learning for all students when the Government first announced school closures.

Across Southeast Asia, we have worked closely with governments to help digital transformation in the education sector by giving students and educators free access to our technology ecosystem.

The switch to remote learning enabled by Microsoft Teams and Office 365 in Việt Nam is a major step forward for the education system and is in line with the Government’s national project called itrithuc, which aims to build an open knowledge database that is accessible to all organisations and individuals. — VNS 

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