Education for Sustainable Development in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam
Author(s)Hoang, Phuong Vu Lan
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AbstractDecades of war between the 1950s and the 1970s brought about the realization that a centrally-controlled socialized economy could not solve Vietnam’s economic problems, nor would it offer much help for the future. Thus, Vietnam embarked on “Doi Moi,” economic reform, including a shift to a more free market. Not only did the Vietnamese economy turn around, it became one of the fastest growing economies in the world and in so doing encouraged party officials to believe that fast growth was the key to solving all social problems as well. A historical look at Vietnam’s progress will show that many problems were not helped and that new problems have cropped up as a result of this rapid growth. In the last few decades, an increasing number of officials have come to the conclusion that only through sustainable development can the future continue to remain bright. This paper examines the value of sustainable development (SD) and education for sustainable development (ESD) in Vietnam, with specific attention given to the Mekong Delta and why it is most in need of a program of education for sustainable development. The core questions in this paper are: Has the initial enthusiasm for SD and ESD at the government level made its way into the minds of today’s current college students in the Mekong Delta, and is there any commitment or initiative at the college instructor level to follow-through with these ideas? Further, if there are serious impediments to the implementation of SD and ESD on the Vietnamese educational timelines, what changes need to be made to make ESD a reality in the Mekong Delta? The primary data was gathered through a mini-ethnographic evaluation that looked at the education system in the Mekong Delta during my six-month stay in Can Tho, Vietnam. Despite time constraints and a cultural/political reluctance to speak to outside researchers, a limited evaluation could be made on the progress of a program of education for sustainable development at the college level. Some of the impediments to progress in this area also became clear. I was able to conclude that at high government levels, officials continue to reiterate their support for agenda 21 and education for sustainable development. College instructors are enthusiastic about the principles of education for sustainable development but are confronted with serious impediments, while students generally display a lack of knowledge of sustainable development and education for sustainable development. However, those that have such knowledge are very supportive of education for sustainable development. Students see the same sort of impediments identified by instructors – i.e., a serious lack of resources given to education, a rigid top- down teaching methodology, and very little real-life or applied training in the practice of the principles taught. This suggests that progress will made in implementing education for sustainable development. However, it will be slower than the United Nations time lines.