Cablegate: Community College Conference Presents Opportunity For

Published: Tue 27 Dec 2005 10:53 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
271053Z Dec 05
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (U) Summary: On November 11-12, Kien Giang Community College
hosted a conference for American and Vietnamese institutions to
collaborate on effectively establishing a community college
system in Vietnam. Participants included representatives from
the local People's Committee, the Ministry of Education and
Training (MOET), area universities, ConGen HCMC and Embassy
Hanoi's Fulbright office. Participants delivered presentations
on community college organization and governance in the U.S.,
models for developing academic programs, teaching techniques,
and policy recommendations. At the conclusion of the
conference, American and Vietnamese community colleges signed a
memorandum of understanding to create a stable partnership. End
2. (U) The first community college in Vietnam was established in
2000. Currently, there are nine community colleges with plans
to establish more. Pressure to establish community colleges has
stemmed from the demand for education from communities in remote
areas, particularly in the Mekong Delta, where many students are
the first in their family to have access to higher education.
Traditional university programs admit only up to 20% of college
entrance exam takers each year. Stringent college entrance exam
requirements create a barrier for most students from remote
areas. Other barriers include low living standards and family
needs which keep children from attending school far from home.
Community colleges are seen as a possible solution to these
3. (U) In developing a community college system from scratch,
Vietnam first turned to several models that had been successful
abroad, including ones in the Asia-Pacific region and in Canada,
before looking to the U.S. In 2003, Fulbright Fellow Dr. Sandra
Engel of Mohawk Community College in Utica, N.Y. carried out a
five-month project at Kien Giang Community College to assist the
institution in understanding the concept of the American
community college system.
4. (U) At the Kien Giang conference, both U.S. and Vietnamese
participants agreed that community colleges offer quality
education and prepare students both in vocational training and
for further study at the university level. Attitudes towards
community colleges in Vietnam tend to be similar to those in the
United States, with such institutions not as highly regarded as
national universities and specialized institutions. Aiming to
break this trend, several presenters, including university
representatives, extolled the practicality and benefits of a
community college education.
5. (U) The American Association of Community Colleges and
Richland College highlighted the decentralized nature of higher
education in the United States, and recommended that Vietnam
follow this model. The higher education system in the United
States functions at the state level, whereas Vietnam's higher
education system is controlled at the national level by MOET.
MOET has final authority over educational institutions'
organizational structures and curricula. If community colleges
gain greater independence from the central government, they will
be able to expand more quickly if they can function in a less
rigid process.
6. (U) Long Beach Community College described the California
community college system and explained how community colleges
can create new programs through developing mission statements,
analyzing needs, checking quality control, and submitting
proposals. Dr. Engel, the former Fulbrighter, explored teaching
methods in community colleges in her discussion of the value of
interactive learning, collaborative learning, and critical
7. (SBU) MOET released its first draft (currently not for wide
circulation) of the regulations on the establishment, structure,
and operation of the Vietnamese community college. The draft
regulations drew strong reactions from participants, in whose
view too much control is arrogated to MOET. For example, the
draft states that each new course and program shall be approved
by MOET and that its transferability to another university must
secure MOET's approval on a case-by-case basis. Many Vietnamese
administrators fear that without sufficient autonomy, community
colleges will not be able to respond to the rising and changing
needs of the local communities.
8. (SBU) Suggestions from administrators to improve this plan
included: (1) adapt the American model through a pilot
partnership project with an American community college, (2)
provide greater autonomy to the college so that it can have the
flexibility to respond to the changing needs of local
communities, and (3) have colleges report and be directly
responsible to the People's Committee in their missions, goals
and operations. While MOET notes the need for control over
community colleges for quality assurance, the administrators
want the colleges themselves to be accountable.
9. (U) At the end of the conference, participating Vietnamese
and American community colleges signed a "Memorandum of
Understanding Between North American Colleges and Universities
and Viet Nam Community Colleges" to create an international
partnership. Objectives of the Memorandum include support by
North American colleges and universities for curricula
development in Vietnamese community colleges; staff and trainee
exchange; online training for teachers of English and other
subjects; collaboration to facilitate study by Vietnamese in
North America and by North Americans in Vietnam; organization of
workshops, seminars, and symposia; development of an internship
and volunteer program; and collaborative institutional research.
10. (U) To address the MPP goal of mutual understanding and to
improve educational opportunities for Vietnamese citizens, the
Mission continues to work closely with Dr. Engel in helping
Vietnam develop a community college system. In this connection,
a Voluntary Visitor project will bring Vietnamese community
college rectors to visit U.S. community colleges and identify
aspects of such institutions that can be adopted by Vietnam.
Post will seek funding for a spring project.
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