Bustle, Bánh Mì, and Big Questions

Education always reflects what a society values. It is the method by which governments, schools, and famillies mold future generations according to what they think is most important in life and in "growing up." But what is most important? What are the underlying values? What kinds of visions of society are embedded in education structures, rhetoric, and ideas? Are the visions good and coherent, or do they rest on questionable premises? And, finally, how well do policies match up with the underlying goals? This is the starting point.

Now, why Vietnam? Vietnam has been a socialist country since 1975, but in 1986 the Communist Party of Vietnam implemented a large series of market-driven reforms called doi moi. Since then, the country has changed significantly -- expanding trade with Western countries, logging some of the highest rates of economic growth in the world, and creating new policies to further drive growth -- but all of this has been done under the banner of socialism.

I want to investigate how the education system has changed alongside the country's political economy since doi moi. What do the changes in the education system say about Vietnam's blend of socialism and capitalism? What now are the main values that underpin schools and universities? And what do the connections between education and political economy in Vietnam suggest about the links between schooling and society more broadly? If those were not big enough questions already, it really comes down to asking: what is the point of it all? Why do we do this school thing? Where are societies trying to go?

While I do not at all expect to answer these questions fully in 10 weeks, they should make for an interesting starting point for studying Vietnamese culture and the country's recent history. In the meantime, I'll try my hand at learning Vietnamese and, stomach-permitting, I'll sample as much local cuisine and street food as possible. Here I'll try to share with you the most interesting moments and thoughts from the trip, interspersed with pictures and descriptions of all kinds of amazing food. Note: as this blog will include far more questions than answers, they are all open, not rhetorical, questions and you should feel free to comment and respond.

 

Location

Hanoi
Vietnam
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