Another student with a dream....
In late March I started working with a young woman called Minh. Throughout my time here I have focussed on teaching her speaking skills, although at times, I also taught her writing skills. Minh’s family wishes her to go to University abroad. Universities in Singapore and North America have been mentioned. Although Minh has an older sister, her parents are hoping that she can be educated abroad, secure employment abroad and be in a financial position to have her parents emigrate to North America or Australia. A lot of pressure is on the shoulders of someone so young. But I am learning this is not uncommon in Vietnam.
Minh just turned 17 in May 2013. So, I have been working with Minh to improve her speaking skills to the level of 6.5 based on the IELTS exam. As I write this, I am hoping that Minh did well on her IELTS which she just wrote on November 21st. Apparently she was quite nervous and she is not sure that she did well. Even if Minh did not get 6.5, I know that she is quite capable of getting 6.5. Her acceptance into a University overseas is contingent upon her receiving a score of 6.5 on the IELTS. She will know her results on December 3rd. If she passes the IELTS, she has already been accepted into one University, Liberty which is located in North Virginia. If she receives 7 on her IELTS, then she would get a full scholarship.
In Vietnam, the students take many extra classes. Think of it like this. In North America after work, or after the kids finish school, parents are taking their children to soccer practice, baseball, swimming, gymnastics….get it? Here in Vietnam the parents take their children to extra classes. What I’ve learned is that that students get up around 5:00 a.m. School starts before 7 and ends at 11:00 a.m. at which time the students go home, eat lunch and nap then they are off to extra classes. Some of my students have extra classes until 9 or so at night. When they get home they do homework and oftentimes are not hitting the sack until midnight or later. That is the way it is here.
The education system is very old-fashioned s. Students are passive learners. From what I understand the students listen to the teacher talk and take their notes. There is not much group work, not much use of the multi-media in the classroom. In my opinion many of the students who travel overseas for post-secondary education will be in for a big shock as it is the expectation that the students work in group, problem solve together and individually, have critical thinking skills and provide evidence, or supporting documentation for what they are speaking/writing about. I think that is why I have enjoyed teaching these young adults “speaking” because oftentimes our conversations also focus on a “North American” perspective, or the “other side of the coin”. I hope that doing this with my students widens their worldview. Needless to say we have some very amazing conversations and I have learned so much. For example, I did not know before I came here that Vietnam has a 2 children policy. Also, I did not know that there is a law that a husband and wife cannot learn the sex of their child until the pregnancy hits the 5 month mark. This has been initiated so that selective abortions (female fetuses) cannot be aborted. I also learned from one of my students that in Vietnamese culture a woman’s beauty takes into account her long hair. This is why, I suspect that there are very few women here that have short hair…..but Minh does.
Something else that I noticed here in Quang Ngai at the beach there is hardly any women who wear bathing suits. We have learned from our students that women who wear bathing suits, are generally not held in high regard. It is rather funny though, because at the beach women wear very, very (and I mean VERY) tight dresses which are often quite short with high heeled shoes and they walk around in these heels in the sand. I would say that in lots of instances, the dresses are as revealing or moreso than the bathing suits. However, you do see the odd bathing suit and when all of us went to My Khe beach in September, Minh and her mom jumped and played in the water in their bathing suits just like the rest of us.
Minh’s mom is a forward thinker and very generous to her daughter. I really like her mom! When I was sick in July, Minh’s mom offered to take me to the doctor and one morning before 800 a.m. Minh was at the door with special soup for me to have. Minh’s sister has a tatoo; and her mom knows about it too! Remember how I mentioned that long hair is highly valued in Vietnamese culture. Well, when Minh went to Ho Chi Minh City over the summer for a couple of weeks she had her hair cut short. She didn’t like it but I did and so did others. I asked Minh what her parents said and she said nothing…
During one of our classes we were talking about families and discussing whose who in the family tree. For whatever reason, we got onto the topic of adoption. I told Minh that I was adopted and then we did a family tree for me that included foster parents, foster sisters, half sisters, brothers etc. Wow….it was pretty interesting and confusing. That is when I learned that there was a time in Vietnam that a man could have more than one wife. Anyways, Minh shared the adoption story with her mom and Minh told me that her mom cried when she heard it because it reminded her of her upbringing. My understanding is that Minh’s mom’s parents died when she was young and her family was very poor. Her life was very much a struggle.
Minh’s mom recently came back from China and bought me a good luck omen and when Minh goes to Hanoi or elsewhere she always brings me and the other teachers treats. A couple of times Minh has taken me out for breakfast, for the most delicious fish ball soup. Minh’s mom also invited all of us to a delicious meal at their house to thank all of the teachers for helping Minh. Today, Minh and I are going to pick up my 2 Ao Dhai which I had made and then we are going to show them to her mom. When I leave here , I will be spending a couple of days in HCMC and Minh and her mom will be there as well, although they head back to Quang Ngai on the 14th of January and I had back to Canada on January fifteenth.