Brain workout for the future

Published: 21/09/2008 05:00



VietNamNet Bridge - During a visit to Hanoi in November 2006 to attend the APEC summit, US President George W. Bush and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Minh Triet issued a joint declaration that noted cooperation in nuclear energy.

VietNamNet Bridge - During a visit to Hanoi in November 2006 to attend the APEC summit, US President George W. Bush and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Minh Triet issued a joint declaration that noted cooperation in nuclear energy.

A year later the Vietnam Institute of Atomic Energy replaced highly-enriched uranium in the Da Lat nuclear reactor with low-enriched uranium under a project within a multilateral framework between Vietnam, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the US and Russia.

Such a cooperation in science and technology area between Vietnam and the United States is just one next step of the scientific exchanges and mutual research that have been in place between the two countries for many years, since the two struck an agreement on the cooperation in 2000 during a visit to Vietnam by U.S. President Bill Clinton.

They include marine science, public health, information technology, biotechnology, science education and research exchange, hydrometeorology natural resources and environment.

“The scientific and technological cooperation prospect of Vietnam and the United States have been quite positive as the two countries’ cooperation deepens. Science and technology cooperation within universities, research institutes and large American economic groups can support the economic development of Vietnam”. Vietnam Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Le Dinh Tien said.

Vietnamese and U.S. scientists have conducted an environmental management project at Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay, the UNESCO-recognised world heritage. They helped improve Vietnam’s weather forecast capability, with the U.S. side providing training and software for the warning models.

In February 2008, Viet Nam and the United States held discussions about science and technology cooperation in Washington D.C. During-their sixth Joint Commission Meeting on Scientific and Technological Cooperation, the two countries touched priorities for future cooperation with areas including health care, information technology, oceanography, natural resource-environment and biodiversity, new materials resources, agriculture and microbiological technology education and scientific research.

An important area of the bilateral cooperation is the U.S. support extended to Vietnam’s health sector in the past decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, began supporting HIV surveillance in Vietnam in 1999, and in October 2001, the CDC Global AIDS Program (GAP) established Vietnam office.

The CDC has also been working alongside with the World Health Organisation to help Vietnam contain bird flu which emerged in late 2003. The cooperation takes places both in laboratory and on the field.

The Animal Health Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has provided virus samples to help laboratory research to see, and to confirm that the poultry virus that dominated in sout hern China has spread to northern Vietnam. When such findings confirm that multiple sublineages of influenza virus (H5N1) are simultaneously endemic to Southeast Asia, it helps stress the importance of systematic surveillance in poultry to understand the further evolution of this subtype in this region and the potential for pandemic emergence as well as to monitor the efficacy and cross-protection of poultry vaccines.

Another area of scientific cooperation would be involving measures related to climate change. In this regard Vietnam, which has been suffering an increase of natural calamities in recent years ranging from landslides to flash floods to rising sea level, has ratified the Kyoto Protocol in September 2002. So far 187 countries in the world have ratified the protocol.

Meanwhile, the United States which is a major energy consumer with a strongly developed industry, has yet to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

Vietnamese experts said U.S. companies still can join emission trading via their subsidiaries overseas while Vietnam has been developing several projects with the Clean Development Mechanism, which generate emission credits that can be marketed and eventually counted against a developed country’s emission obligation.

In November 1945, only two months after Vietnam declared independence from the French, President Ho Chi Minh sent a letter to James Bymes, U.S. Secretary of State, which could be the first attempt to bridge the education exchange between the two countries. He wrote that, on behalf of the Vietnam Culture Association, Vietnam wanted to send 50 Vietnamese young people to the United States to help establish close cultural ties with American youth and also to carry on further studies in engineering and agriculture.

“The aspiration I am conveying to you is the aspiration of all the engineers, lawyers, professors in Vietnam, as well as from our intellectual representatives whom I have meet,” President Ho Chi Minh wrote.

Six decades later…

A secretary helps the Management Board of Saigon High-tech Park run the facility that houses Intel Corporation’s $1 billion chip making plant now under construction in Ho Chi Minh City. Another judge presides the city’s economic court. A third man is an expert at the Post Office of the central province of Thua Thien-Hue city. In the Vietnamese government cabinet, one deputy prime minister also works as the country’s Education and Training Minister. They have different jobs but all share one common background: they spent sometime with the Fulbright School, established in 1946 to increase mutual understanding between people around the globe and which has now expanded to 140 countries, including Vietnam where the programme was established in 1992.

More than 400 Vietnamese have since been sent to the United States for graduate studies and more than 200 American students and scholars have visited Viet Nam to teach and research. The country’s programme now receives one of the largest financial contributions from the U.S. Government of all Fulbright programmes worldwide.

The Fulbright programme is an unquestionable success in the educational cooperation between the United States and Vietnam, where more than half of the population are young people born after the war.

In early December 2006, Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Thien Nhan, a former Fulbright Scholar with an MA from the University of Oregon in 1993, visited the United States to examine the U.S. higher education management. The Ministry of Education and Training has projected to train 20,000 new doctoral graduates by 2020, half of them are expected to get their degree abroad and at least 2,500 of them would receive training in the United States.

U.S. Ambassador Michael Michalak told students of The Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam in March 2008,” I told the U.S. Senators that one of my goals in coming to Vietnam was to double the number of students going from Vietnam to the United States to study. And I think looking at the statistics on student visas that we have issued, the student visas are way up, so we’re well on the way towards doing that”.

The number of Vietnamese students enrolled in U.S. institutions of higher education jumped 31.3 percent to 6,036 in 2007, said the annual report for 2007 of the Institute of International Education with support from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The report said Vietnam now ranks 20th among countries sending students to the United States which is the world’s second leading English-speaking host of Vietnamese students behind Australia.

The Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF) is another important American partner of Vietnam’s education system. Starting operations in March 2003, the mission of the independent federal agency created by the U.S. Congress and funded annually by the U.S. Government is to promote educational exchanges and strengthen capacity-building in science and technology for Vietnam. Each year it receives $5 million until 2018 to strengthen Vietnam’s education.

Over the past five years since it started operation in Vietnam, VEF work has proved to be an effective and remarkable bridge in promoting Vietnam-US educational and scientific development. VEF has devised new strategic directions to provide professional development for VEF Fellows who have completed their study programmes, thus to create close links among young scientists and experts in the country.

As it becomes integrated into the global economy and the knowledge platform of the world Vietnam needs stronger higher education to succeed in the era of globalization and the knowledge economy in order to compete successfully besides natural resources and low-cost labor. A group of American Vietnamese professors and business executives have recently teamed up to establish the first American International University (AIU) in Vietnam.

AIU is to achieve very specific goals and objectives which include the creation of a platform for American universities and Overseas

Send more to the U.S. and bring back graduates to Vietnam

Since operations began in March 2003, VEF has been highly successful in rapidly achieving its mission. Three primary programs highlight VEF activities include:

1/ Fellowship Program: Vietnamese nationals enter U.S. graduate schools to receive a doctorate or master’s degree in their held.

2/ Visiting Scholar Program: Vietnamese post-doctoral researchers and educators improve their professional skills at U.S. research institutions for 5-12 months. After returning to Vietnam, the Visiting Scholar must train others about what was learned, thus, the program is considered a “Training of Trainers.”

3/ U.S. Faculty Scholar Grants: American professors teach at Vietnamese universities on-site or via videoconferencing.

By fall 2008, VEF will have placed nearly 270 Fellows and 19 Visiting Scholars in 69 leading U.S. universities and will have awarded 4 U.S. Faculty Scholar grants to teach at Vietnamese universities. So far, 36 Fellows have graduated (7 with Doctorates, 29 with Master’s): 21 have returned to Vietnam, 2 continued on to a U.S. Ph.D. program with other funding, and 13 are in post-graduate Academic Training in the U.S. One Visiting Scholar has completed training and returned to Vietnam.

VEF has worked closely with the Ministry of Education and the (MOET) and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), m particular with its National Center for Scientific and Technological Information (NACESTI) on the VEF Vietnam OpenCourseware (VOCW) initiative. Accessible and free to all Vietnamese, VOCW encourages Vietnamese educators to develop and post teaching materials on the Internet.

In the future, VEF expects to work with MOET to send more Vietnamese nationals to the U.S. and with MOST to provide incentives to bring graduates back to Vietnam. VEF is also working with the Vietnam International Educational Development (VIED) office to transfer information about the VEF application and selection process and about establishing agreements with U.S. universities. Furthermore, VEF is cooperating with the Vietnam National Science Foundation (VNSF) on the following: (1) to develop models to attract returnees to serve Vietnam in research, education and entrepreneurship; and (2) to establish a Think-Tank to help develop visions and strategies to achieve those visions. VEF will also provide assistance, if requested, in the establishment of a world-class university in Vietnam.

Education is a means to a great end: deeper knowledge, expanding on the past, and genuine understanding, building on the future. VEF Fellows, Visiting Scholars, and Faculty Scholars are contributing enormously to the extremely significant relationship between Vietnam and the United States.

Focusing on the development of science and technology in Vietnam, together with the involvement of U.S. and Vietnamese nationals, VEF is dynamically building a bright future for the U.S. and Vietnam.

Prof. Dr. Vo Van Toi, VEF Executive Director

Vietnamese to contribute to higher education in Vietnam. Aiming at achieving American and international standards of quality appropriate to the conditions in Vietnam, AIU will provide the academic resources, facilities, management support and quality assurance systems to ensure that all programs will meet appropriate American and international standards of quality and certification for the selected programs, with effective adaptation for local conditions and needs.

“In June 2007 members of the AIU Steering Committee attended the “Universities as Engines of Development” Forum in New York. The Forum, co-chaired by President Nguyen Minh Triet attracted more than 100 CEOs and representatives of major US universities including Harvard, Duke… The AIU Steering Committee regularly meets with representatives of American universities, investment groups, architectural and legal firms, land developers as well as government agencies to expedite the investment and licensing process”, said Professor Augustine Ha Ton Vinh, Head of AIU steering Committee.

On May 27, 2008 Ambassador Michalak attended a ceremony to celebrate the Centennial of the University of Hawaii and its 10 years in Vietnam and has witnessed the MOU signing ceremony between various investors and sponsors of the AIU project.

According to Prof. Vinh, the AIU project is expected to be formally launched before the end of 2008 and inaugurated in 2010 to celebrate the Millennium Anniversary of Thang Long - Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam.

(Source: VN-US Society & Vietnam-US Magazine)

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