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Dr. Good-for-nothings
Son Nguyen
Friday,  Nov 17, 2017,13:55 (GMT+7)

Dr. Good-for-nothings

Son Nguyen

Questions and suspicions are awash when the Ministry of Education and Training last week put forth a scheme for improving the quality of lecturers at higher education institutions, the key component of which is to have an additional 9,000 holders of doctorate degrees between now and 2025. In explanations, the ministry states that the scheme is aimed to enhance the quality of education so as to improve the human resource meeting the economy’s greater demands during the new era of globalization when competition is tougher.

Under the scheme, VND12 trillion, or roughly US$550 million, will be spent, with 94% to be sourced from the State budget. If the scheme is realized, the number of doctorate degree holders among lecturers at such education institutions nationwide will reach 35%, still lower than the level in regional countries.

The ministry’s scheme, however, has stirred up controversy, with more objection than approval, according to local media. Criticisms largely center on the quantitative content of the scheme, with many stressing the bigger number of doctorate degree holders does not mean higher quality for the country’s education.

Vietnam has seen “inflation” in doctorate programs, with many a doctorate thesis containing little practical values and having mainly been used as decorations or locked in a folder for good, says Lao Dong. According to the paper, there are over 24,000 doctorate degree holders nationwide, and in the education sector alone, there are over 16,000 doctorate degree holders out of nearly 73,000 lecturers. Despite such a sizeable number of high-degree scholars, Vietnam’s scientific research capacity lags far behind regional countries.

More specifically, Dan Viet, citing the education ministry, says that despite having over 24,000 doctorate degree holders, Vietnam still trails far behind other regional countries in terms of scientific research. The online paper points out that between 1996 and 2005, Vietnamese scientists including doctorate degree holders had 3,456 studies approved for publishing in science journals worldwide, and such a number equaled only one-fifth of Thailand’s, one-third of Malaysia’s, and one-fourteenth of Singapore’s.

Newspapers agree that the quality of doctorate degree holders in Vietnam is low, as training has been centered on the quantity, with little attention paid to the practical value. “Recently, there have been so many questions about the quality of doctorate degree holders,” says Lao Dong. “There have lately been several weird theses defended by doctorate degree holders that have little significance, such as a thesis on ‘Characteristics in commune-level chairpersons’ interactions with citizens’ or a thesis on “Flattering in the Vietnamese language’ or “The art of typography in book cover designs’ among others,” says the paper.

Nguoi Lao Dong, in a commentary, says a doctorate degree should not be a decoration or a passport for gaining material value. Rather, such learned people must have scientific studies useful to society. In 2015 when councils were convened to confer the titles of professors and associate professors, it was revealed that only scholars in three out of 28 councils had been internationally recognized for their studies, all in natural sciences like physics, mathematics or information technology. Meanwhile, there were up to 10 out of 28 councils where none of the scholars had ever had an international-acclaimed study, according to the paper.

The education ministry must “give answers to the public on the contributions of doctorate degree holders to society,” says Nguoi Lao Dong. Otherwise, the sum of VND12 trillion contributed by taxpayers cannot be wasted.

Professor Duong Duc Tien, a lecturer at the Hanoi-based University of Natural Sciences, says on Dat Viet that excessive training of doctorate degree holders in terms of quantity does not help resolve problems facing the country. “Our number of doctorate degree holders is not small, but their contributions to help change the country for the better is minimal, if nothing. It is a shame,” he comments.

Professor Nguyen Dinh Duc of the Vietnam National University in Hanoi asserts on Dan Tri that the education sector must urgently have more scholars to replenish intellectual manpower at universities, but such scholars must have qualifications demanded for by society. The professor says that Vietnam should attend more to training scholars in natural sciences, as the country is facing an imbalance now, with doctorate degree holders for the most part are those in social sciences.

“The number of doctorate researchers in natural sciences is currently equal to only one-fifth of that in social sciences,” the professor is quoted in Dan Tri as saying.

The scheme to have 9,000 more doctorate degree holders in the next few years can be a good vision, if the education ministry can tightly control the quality of academic programs, says Dan Tri, citing experts on education.

According to Tuoi Tre, the public has not approved the education ministry’s scheme due to the low quality of scholars in reality. There have been comparisons between farmers who have managed to have inventions useful for their workaday businesses, and so-called scholars who have created little academic value, says the paper.

Nonetheless, says Tuoi Tre, enhancing the intellectual capacity of lecturers, specifically the aim to have more doctorate degree holders, is imperative to improve the quality of manpower in the coming time, if the country is to grasp opportunities and make the most of scientific and technological advancements.

And, in order to instill public confidence, there should be solutions to provide training for scholars with real talent to benefit the country, rather than to create a huge number of Dr. Good-for-nothings.

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