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|By Nguyen Thanh Son - Chairman Media Ventures Vietnam|
There are many solutions proposed, products released, and successful projects that were highly invested in. But those attempts are just a quick fix for a traditional, outdated, and ineffective system that no longer prepares students with professional skills for the real world. The core of this problem is not creating better teaching content, but making the learning experience more personalised, engaging, and motivational.
Because knowledge is a castle that requires learners’ whole life to build, we cannot just give them a handbook and expect them to build it well – we need to show them how.
The traditional education system trains students like they are in military camps. Students follow what they are told without a deep understanding of fundamental knowledge and are equipped with the same skills that were prepared for certain jobs. For years, Western countries tried to break this outdated, ineffective system using edtech.
They prioritise practical learning and technology to make acquiring knowledge more interesting, engaging, applicable, and active for students. Time spent on learning is shortened by more realistic lessons to encourage critical thinking and creativity, and learners have the freedom of choosing the skills they want to learn at a time of their convenience.
Western edtech disrupts traditional education by providing personalisation and simulation-based learning to enhance learners’ experience using AI and technologically-advanced features. They broke down the old system and truly created a breakthrough.
The old education structure, however, is still very popular in Asia, especially in Vietnam. Instead of disrupting the outdated learning perspective, most edtech companies in Vietnam provide services to support the examination system, which reflects the culture’s sense of competition and the pressure for high scores.
The priority is K-12, where most students sit in the same class and study the same required curriculum no matter their strength and career goals and will be sorted out for appropriate jobs and positions through multiple tests and exams. Many Vietnamese edtech startups only focus on scaling already existing products and features, such as services that help to solve exam questions, tutoring, university entrance exams practice, electronic contact books, or school management software.
They do not encourage lifelong learning, skillset training, and thus massive open online courses encounter a lack of attention in Vietnam. Unlike many Western countries where there is less emphasis on academic degrees in the workplace, it is crucial to have a university degree to find a decent job in Vietnam.
This has led to a mindset of passive learning for many young Vietnamese. Edtech in Vietnam, even though having been invested in and expanded to different sectors, did not create a significant breakthrough that could replace the old traditional system.
There are two scenarios for the future of edtech startups in Vietnam. The first one is what most are doing: improving what has already been done by making learning easier and more comfortable. For example, language tutoring services or exam practice classes. This contains less risk for the business owner because it does not require innovative features nor changing people’s habits.
But learners are still dependent, inactive, and at the end of the day, still lack the skillset needed for real-world jobs. The learning process won’t change but only improved and facilitated.
The second scenario is to turn the education system upside down, meaning to create alternative education programmes with unconventional curriculums. Learners are also instructors and value creators. They learn, share knowledge, and connect more closely with the materials through interactive activities and practices.
Most importantly, learners should be able to pick what they want to study, because they are fully aware of their strengths and goals. Since most people go to school to look for jobs, once leaders realise that the traditional K-12 can no longer provide the necessary skillset to excel at work, they will alter their hiring requirements and expectation, forcing the education system to make significant changes.
Comprehensive educational reform in Vietnam requires a complex process. Maybe it’s time for edtech startups in Vietnam to step out of their comfort zones by not only improving the existing system but fixing how it works at its core. Changing people’s habits is not easy, but giving them the motivation, accessible tools, and freedom of learning to achieve their goals is certainly possible.