By Huong Nguyen, IECA (Vietnam)

As an independent educational consultant (IEC) and also a parent, I always want my students to learn and experience in the best environment, gain knowledge and skills to become independent individuals, learn to think for themselves, and strive to succeed after graduating from college.

I firmly believe that the right kind of education, school, and pedagogy will help the child develop to the maximum of their abilities, enjoy career success, and live a fulfilled life. Years of experience working with Vietnamese students in both public and private schools have motivated me to constantly strengthen my professional knowledge and improve my expertise to help them.

Currently the Vietnamese educational system has many types of schools with different curricula. Specifically, there are two broad categories: public and private. The Vietnamese public school system must follow the national curriculum regulated by the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training. A typical description of these schools includes large numbers of students, large class sizes, crowded classrooms, a shortage of teaching staff, and limited teaching resources, with a few exceptions in major cities. In addition, in public schools, the application of science and technology has not been popularized in teaching and learning. Instead, the traditional method of learning/teaching has been maintained for many years and is slow to update or fundamentally renovate. Despite these challenges, students from public schools tend to be highly motivated to learn and have the ability to compete, quickly integrate, and adapt to the new environment. However, due to limited facilities and resources, combined with a number of limitations as mentioned above, public school students often lack some essential soft skills such as time management, leadership skills, critical thinking, reflection, communication skills, and emotional management.

Private schools in Vietnam are now focusing on overcoming the weaknesses of public schools and providing students with a more modern teaching/learning method, applying technologies and scientific tools in learning, enriching students’ life skills, and reducing the study workload. Students at these schools have an array of extracurricular activities, sports, clubs, and after-school events to participate in. They are generally more adaptive and flexible with their communication and manner, express themselves confidently, and exhibit positive habits that have been fostered from an early age such as reading, time management, and problem solving.

Within a typical Vietnamese school, an exclusive position of educational advisor/university counselor rarely exists, except for international schools. High school students seeking overseas study opportunities often resort to information, experience, or personal sharing from previous students or study-abroad agents. If lucky, they might have a subject teacher—usually an English teacher—who is dedicated enough to help students on the side with basic services. Therefore, the information sources about studying abroad available to Vietnamese students are more than often incorrect, out-of-date, or inundated with myths and rumors.

With that in mind, there is an opportunity for independent educational consultants like myself to build support services to complement this shortage. We can help students understand themselves, explore their personalities and abilities, and navigate a long-term orientation about careers and programs to study. We can also offer them skill training courses such as note taking skills, time management, and academic writing.

We can work for the best interest of our students, helping high schools set up their counseling services, opening the doors for direct recruitment from universities and colleges. With the network of professional colleagues from both admission and high school sides, we can bring counselors from different schools together and help students for their own benefits.

Huong Nguyen, Professional Academic Counseling, can be reached at [email protected]