An Giang University is six years old this year. Our university has just bid farewell to 1,015 students, but at the same time 2,000 new students are warmly welcomed to our campus. In the previous school year, 2004-05, staff and students faced several challenges. Facilities and study materials were lacking. Faculty members must improve their teaching skills. Most of the new students coming from high schools in rural and remote areas were not familiar with the heavy curricula and the crowded life in Long Xuyen. They face difficulties in many subjects, especially the subjects taught by guest lecturers from other universities. Besides school-time, students also take part in many activities of the student’s association, the Communist Youth Union, specialized clubs and social work in rural areas.
The government of Vietnam, along with the Communist Party and the Ministry of Education and Training has urged rapid innovation of higher education in light of certain domestic international situations:
- The great advances of science and technology, especially information technology and communication, has made the world change along with the global economy. The Force of globalization is rapidly spreading and affects everyone in the world. Therefore, in Vietnam, human resource capacities must adapt to suit these new circumstances.
- Education in 21st century has gone through many changes. Based on the general principle of “Lifelong learning,” the targets now are: “Learning to know, learning to work, learning to live together and learning to be good people” in order to establish a “learning society.” Higher education in the world has quickly developed along with the global tendencies of: commercialization, diversification, internationalization, and the market economy.
- In the market economy, the ever-changing economic structure (among the agricultural, industrial, and service areas) creates many changes in the structure of Vietnamese higher education, in such areas as standards,, careers and regional areas of focus. Thus, all of the universities in Vietnam should improve and adapt to correspond with these fast-paced economic changes.
- The rapid development of Asia–Pacific institutions of higher education creates a big challenge to Vietnam’s higher education. These institutions have effective ways of choosing and to luring excellent Vietnamese students by giving scholarships and offering jobs with high salaries after they graduate.
Not only AGU, but all universities in Vietnam are improving to overcome these challenges and to attract more students.
How can the young institution of AGU make local society trust and send their children to study here? The answer is that our university must have more attractive and unique ways than waiting for instructions from MOET (The Ministry of Education and Training) because the MOET expects these educational improvements to be introduced to the entire educational system. Thus, all of the lecturers, staff and students in AGU should take part in the movement to innovate teaching and learning. Each person, each department, each school as well as each research center has to be creative and have a strategic view in their major branch and furthermore follow the principle “every day must be more innovative than the last.” The truth is that our society is changing day by day and the educational environments in other countries are making swift progress in areas such as textbooks and teaching materials in high schools, to agriculture and forestry production methods, to aquaculture production and many other new technologies, services, and product distribution methods. Therefore, our students must be educated concerning this new knowledge and gain practical experience to adapt to this new reality while the lecturers must devote more time to research in order to improve their curricula each year. Both of these activities are the most important criteria to evaluate the progress of each lecturer and the major premise to develop the specialty of each department and school in An Giang University.
One of these specialties is web-based “virtual courses” which were successfully utilized by some lecturers in An Giang University and in the future, teachers at the high school level will also use this web-based method. Besides virtual courses, a web-based “teacher network” will be built to help teachers of all levels exchange lesson plans and effective teaching materials. The website “eLangViet” will help recent graduates in the field of agriculture as well as people in rural areas learn more about agricultural, forestry, aquaculture, rural development, weather and general knowledge of medicine. Our university has tried “the effective training program” by reducing the amount of required in-class time and decreasing the amount of unnecessary subjects. Soon, AGU will conduct a survey with former students from the 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 academic years in order to adjust the syllabi appropriately.
Although we still have a long way to go in order to improve our university, teachers and students at An Giang University will continuously innovate. On the occasion of the beginning of the this academic year, 2005 – 2006, I, representing An Giang University ‘s community, am very grateful to the people of An Giang, the provincal leaders, other neighboring provinces, and donors and partners in Vietnam and in other countries. The assistance they have provided has given our university sufficient conditions to improve teaching and learning as well as to make “excellent products” for our society and, in a way, assist Vietnam successfully integrate into the global community.
Dr. Võ-Tòng Xuân, former rector of An Giang University, wrote this article for all teachers and students at the beginning of the academic year of 2005–2006. This article was published in the Science and Information Journal of An Giang University.