While the Vietnamese people are still incredibly friendly, open with their opinions, cooking outrageously delicious FRESH food and answering all our questions, we are observing some changes. Like we shared with our friends during our earlier trip 2012-13, Vietnam is moving forward so quickly that dramatic changes happen overnight. We can now SEE these changes BIG TIME.
The Ton Duc Thang University TDTU campus here in HCMC has two brand new classroom and office buildings with very modern equipment and amenities. All of the canteens (cafeterias) have been re-modeled plus now there is a new canteen just for lecturers, professors and administrative staff. We're eating with the students still! Because the University plans to start construction of "the largest library in Vietnam" in the near future, motor bike parking has also been re-located and expanded. There are more air conditioned classrooms. And enrollment continues to increase.
BTW the ONLY smart way to travel is via motor bike or bus or train -- way too much traffic for cars! And we are thrilled to notice that in a few locations (one being right in front of the TDTU campus) that there are lighted crosswalks for pedestrians! It is still an adventure to cross in front of any and all traffic.
The Labor Relations & Trade Union Department (our "home") has grown from 400 students when we were here 2013 to more than 600 students! The university entrance exam score has risen more than 4 points in just a couple of years -- this means the department's students have increased their academic averages and the disciplines' standards significantly just in 2 years. "Our" department now ranks very close to other departments much older than Labor Relations!
The entire University is implementing what they call "Top 100 Program" drawing from global higher education standards (something some of us might want to debate!) so there is SERIOUS intent and specific goals to be reached by teaching and and research and administrative staff as well as students ranging from English language proficiency to research. Part of our work here is to help design some of the new Labor Relations courses. There now is more flexibility with course content, teaching methods and exams (often moving away from multiple-choice to essays and case studies.
Students still impress us with how YOUNG they are and SERIOUS. We have seen several slogans though bragging that study hard also means play hard! While male students still wear black slacks or jeans and white shirts and women wear the traditional ao dai two days-a-week, we are definitely seeing shorter skirts, ripped jeans, colorful "sneakers", tights, layered t-shirts, English slogans and brands -- global fashion is certainly here.
Final observation for this posting is that TDTU has launched the "English Zone" -- a great physical space located in one on the breeze ways between buildings (protected by new glass doors for frequent rain storms). While there are a couple of lecturer/professor mentors, the Zone is completely run by volunteer student coordinators, open daily from 8am until 5pm. OF course, the idea is that students from any and all departments attend in-between classes and jobs to practice English speaking, listening and writing. The emphasis is on FUN learning with library (any one want to donate books at all reading levels, let us know!), games, art, music, group activities, parties, etc. We are concentrating our English Zone work with the Labor Relations students starting this Friday. Leanna and Hollis having FUN with students! We'll try to post some photos!