Inspiring young scientists to come home and give back

Since 1993 the Rencontres du Vietnam (Meet Vietnam) science and education foundation has organised numerous international conferences aimed at helping young scientists establish contacts with international colleagues.

It has also organized thematic scientific schools throughout the country with the goal of improving the tertiary education system.

The architect of the foundation is physicist Jean Tran Thanh Van. His humanitarian efforts, combined with his vision of a cohesive international physics community, have now led him back to his home country.

On the occasion of the Lunar New Year holiday Professor Tran Thanh Van sat down with a VOV reporter to talk about measures to encourage talented young overseas Vietnamese to return home and give back to national development and related measures to improve tertiary education.

Professor Tran Thanh Van 

+ Currently, more and more young people are deciding to attend foreign universities and colleges and after graduating to pursue professional careers abroad. How do you assess this trend?

Professor Van: Young people are making the decision to study abroad because they believe the quality of tertiary education is better. Most importantly they perceive the scientific learning environment to be better with modern facilities and advanced equipment.

Many young people also think the work environment is more competitive and attractive, offering them the opportunity to earn higher incomes along with more challenging and advanced scientific work.

+ To date Vietnam has issued many preferential policies and has rolled out the red carpet in an attempt to encourage them to return to the homeland after completing their studies.

However, relatively few of them have made the decision to do so. If the situation persists for a long time it will ultimately drain the country of all of its young talent.

What is your solution for the problem?

Professor Van: The problem isn’t that they do not want to return to the homeland to contribute to national development. Most certainly the majority of them do, however, the benefits of returning don’t outweigh the benefits they receive abroad.

Currently, the Meet Vietnam organisation has and will continue to undertake a number of alternative actions to alleviate the problem.

Notably, we have enlisted the support of highly skilled young foreign professionals to deliver a series lectures at domestic universities and thereby improve the quality of tertiary education in the nation.

This we hope will dissuade young talent from opting to study abroad by making the educational system more attractive and also encourage more young talent to return to Vietnam to become professors and instructors.

In my opinion, the problem stems more from lack of a challenging and stimulating working environment than it relates to earning better incomes.  Vietnamese want to advance their skills and they don’t perceive that they can optimally do that today.

Along this line, we are working with government officials to find ways to create more preferential policies to entice young talent to return home to work and contribute to the nation’s development.

+ You talked about obstacles in tertiary education. What are the obstacles and how do you believe they can be overcome?

Professor Van: France is a highly developed country and it has just 45 universities which enrol around 500 students each with sufficient professors. In addition, France has a few colleges dedicated to training engineers and nurses.

All of the French universities have operated effectively and have placed a high emphasis on quality education.

Meanwhile Vietnam is a poor country but it has 400 colleges and universities that are home to 5,000 students each; however there is a critical shortage of skilled professors and associated professors.

Sometimes I question the legitimate commitment of many universities and colleges to providing quality education and think they may just be treating education as a business and they are in it only for the money.

This might explain the lack of quality instructors and inadequate infrastructure and modern equipment for training.

To resolve the problem, the Government should weed out and close poor quality universities or transform them into vocational training schools and only keep funding universities which meet the higher standards.

 If they do this the quality of tertiary education will be heightened and a degree would be perceived as more valuable by society.

+ Thank you very much.

Source: VOV News 

Jean Tran Thanh Van was born in Quang Binh province. He left Vietnam for France when he was 17 years old. He graduated from the Paris University in 1956 in the fields of physics and mathematics. He became a doctorate in fundamental particle physics in 1958. After that he taught at the Paris University.

He has been presented with the French Legion of Honour Order and an honourable academician of Russian Academy of Sciences. He also received AIP Tate medal in 2011.


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