Students gain int’l prizes, but scientific achievements remain modest
Hundreds of Vietnamese students have won top prizes at international Olympiads in the last 40 years, but the country’s scientific achievements remain modest.
Six Vietnamese students attending the 2017 IMO (International Mathematics Olympiad) won four gold, one silver and one bronze medals. On August 3, 2017 students won one gold and two bronze medals at the 2017 Informatics Olympiad, while students attending the 2017 biology Olympiad won one gold and two bronze medals.
Minister of Education and Training Phung Xuan Nha recently sent a letter to honor the Vietnamese teams which won top prizes at the mathematics, physics and chemistry Olympiads.
Physics competitors bagged four gold and one bronze, and four students at the chemistry Olympiad won three golds and one silver.
Vu Minh Giang, former deputy director of Hanoi National University, said that Vietnamese have the intellectual capacity, but lack suitable work environments.
The late Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew, for example, highly appreciated the Vietnamese labor force. Vietnamese win high prizes at nearly all international competitions, and Vietnam has many talents in different fields, such as Ngo Bao Chau in mathematics and Dang Thai Son in music.
Noting that Vietnam’s young manpower is good, but its science field cannot take off, Giang said the training policy ‘is different from everyone else’.
“We can discover talents thanks to the system of schools for gifted, but then we ask them to practice for prizes,” he said.
“In other words, we train them to turn them into ‘fighting cocks’, to prepare for competitions,” he said, adding that not all medal winners can become scientists and succeed in their fields.
A famous scientist commented that Vietnam’s science is still behind because many talented students choose to go abroad instead of staying in Vietnam. The majority of Olympiad winners study abroad and settle overseas.
Ngo Duc Mau from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MONRE) believes that the problem is in the working environment. He knows a PhD in physics majoring in nanomaterials who returned to Vietnam after a period of study in the UK. However, in Vietnam, he is in charge of managing a spectrophotometer that serves the needs of a student lab – a job which can be undertaken by a technician after one week of training.
According to the International Science Institute (ISI), in 1996-2011, Vietnam only had 13,172 scientific articles in prestigious publications, which was just equal to 1/5 of Thailand’s, 1/6 of Malaysia’s and 1/10 of Singapore’s./.