What’s in a name?
Vietnam, like so much of the world, embraces the”brand”. Whether high end Gucci or lower end KFC, things with an identity – whether good or not – find a following.
So too it is with education.
The recent hoopla over the Fulbright University of Vietnam has evoked endorsements by the new US Ambassador, press coverage in Vietnam and the US, and a constellation of interests that seem irresistible. After all , who can resist Harvard, Fulbright, big money and “elite” education?
The Fulbright folks have labored long in Vietnam (twenty years?) so you sometimes reap what you sow. I wish them well. My time here has only been 5 years – although there are days it feels much longer so I am hardly an “expert”.
What I do suspect is that they will be succesful,launching an “elite” graduate focused university with attendant speakers and speeches about cooperation, autonomy, academic freedom, a new chapter between our two countries etc.
It would represent a public relations coup for Vietnam and another notch in the belt for the Harvard-Fulbright axis (after all, rival Yale has its campus aready in Singapore!)
But,in the final analysis is that actually what Vietnam needs; can’t elite and connected students already find countless pathways to American university education? Doesnt Vietnam benefit more from foundational learning – like english speaking, writing, understanding, problem solving, critical thinking and skill development in fields where there are actual jobs?
But Fulbright and Harvard come with a brand identity and that is hard to resist. I wish them well, but I would rather see the US government and the Vietnamese government encourage the kind of educational diversity and variety that made the US education system great; all types of schools for all types of learners.