Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Back from Vietnam Siu Chancellor Says Universities There Need More `Teachers, Students, Money and Books'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Back from Vietnam Siu Chancellor Says Universities There Need More `Teachers, Students, Money and Books'

Article excerpt

Vietnam's colleges and universities sorely need more "teachers, students, money and books - in that order," Vietnamese educators told a U.S. delegation that recently completed a tour of Vietnam's schools.

"They need everything, and they know it," says Southern Illinois University Chancellor James M. Brown.

Brown was among eight academic leaders from around the United States invited to assess higher education in Vietnam.

The 10-day trip, which ended Nov. 10, was organized by the U.S.-based Institute of International Education. Sponsors included the Ford Foundation and the Christopher Reynolds Foundation.

From Hanoi to Hue and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Vietnamese educators welcomed visiting Americans with smiles.

Business cards were exchanged in a flutter. U.S. guests were encouraged to taste Vietnamese cigarettes, mandarin oranges and coconut milk - in the shell.

At every stop, Vietnamese academics ticked off long lists of shortages and pleaded for Western help, says Brown.

Schools lack adequate libraries and labs. Teachers' salaries are so low that in a month, married lecturers at the University of Hue earn only five days' living expenses for their family of four and must moonlight to survive, according to delegation briefing materials.

Vietnamese educators, says Brown, "would express what they'd like to have from us . . . and we'd explain that we understood - but that this was an exploratory trip.

"We made it plain . . . this was a visit . . . not for (educational) proposals but for understanding."

An 18-year-old trade embargo limits U.S. commercial involvement in the Southeast Asian nation.

Brown says academic partnerships are out of the question until the ban is lifted. Established in 1975, the policy punishes Vietnam for withholding information on 1,648 Americans listed as missing in action.

Tension has eased over the last five years as 27 American search teams have been allowed to dig in Vietnamese cemeteries and former POW camps for American remains.

As a result, President Bill Clinton relaxed trade restrictions in September, allowing U.S. businesses to bid on Vietnamese development projects financed by international lending institutions. …

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