Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Celebrating Learning and Teaching in Vietnam

The teaching staff of the University
move up to the statue of Ton Duc Thang
to place burning incense in honor
of Teacher's Day and the Nation.
After the American War ended in 1973 and the nation was re-united in 1975, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam began the process of expanding the public education system across the entire nation with the realization that it was necessary to develop a nation with a high level of literacy to have any chance to achieve the lofty goals of the National war of liberation.  National self-determination could only be effected by an educated people.  According to the United Nations the literacy rate in Vietnam is now about 93+ percent, higher than most of the nations in the world.  This process pushed and organized by the government has relied upon the dedicated teachers of Vietnam who are highly respected and recognized.
Leanna stands with the artwork prepared by students to
honor the Teachers on National Teacher's Day

Leanna and Helena Worthen, another
volunteer teacher at TDT finish
the 1 Kilometer race!
No, this does not mean that every problem faced by the nation has been solved yet nor will that be true probably for a long period.  Of course the US has its educational problems: a conservative base of people who continually attack public education and have managed to cut the budgets so much that education offered in public education in Vietnam: music, arts and physical education is lacking in thousands of schools in the US, a rather amazing and disturbing development for those who believe in the education of the mind, not simply rote learning to provide docile, low paid employees to exploiting corporations but the explosion of "private" charter schools siphoning public school money into the pockets of private businesses.

Leanna crosses the finish line!

Teacher's day is both a solemn occasion with some speeches and special appearances on campus: the President of the VGCL (the national labor union), a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam, the Ambassador of the Czech Republic and many other dignitaries lead into the Auditorium of the University by our Mr. President Le.  The VGCL Union President, Mr Hung, addressed the gathering and then made a gift presentation to the University.  It should be noted that the VGCL founded and supports the University in the name of the working class of Vietnam.  Later the Czech President and our University President both addressed the assembled teachers.  There were video clips produced by students, songs and dance performances by students and a very moving speech by a first-year student.  All the students in the auditorium stood and sang a traditional song about teachers -- made Leanna cry.

Meanwhile, outside and on-going were athletic events including running, slow bicycling (How slow could the rider go without falling over before meeting the finish line -- our team mate Ms Vinh won 2nd place!), a fishing contest, football-soccer, badminton, tug-of-war, sack race,  and swimming.  Leanna won 4th place in her first ever running race!  Her aching knees!

Of course after all the competitions and the gala event in the auditorium there was a BIG Party in the Arena with hundreds of the faculty present and enjoying themselves.  Lot's of "mot, hai, ba, yo" salutes.  Students made bulletin boards honoring students, Leanna is posed by one above, and also hand-made artificial but very beautiful flowers that were presented to the various teachers.   There were also handmade cards that were gorgeous for every teacher.  Before the big party students presented us teachers with beautiful bouquets which we carried as we moved about on campus.

Have we ever got a lot to learn from Vietnam about celebrating learning and teachers!

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