Autodidacticism, Systems Thinking and Viet Nam Education Reform — 11/24/2013

The resolution, approved November 4, 2013 by Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong, looks to tackle all the core issues that have plagued the sector for years.”““Education and training is the top national priority. Investment in the [education] sector must be at the forefront of the nation’s socio-economic programs and blueprints,” the resolution said.”

“It is crunch time for a shakeup,” Hoang Tuy, a prominent Vietnamese educator, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper. “The leaders must decide if they want to fix the system or keep the status quo and hold back the country’s development with a backward education system.””

“The decay of our science and education is not due to a lack of money but to the fact that we do not know what to do or how to manage,” Tuy, the prominent educator, wrote several years ago. This remains relevant today.”

““Without systematic thinking and a comprehensive, strategic vision, one could easily make himself busy with trivia and a here today there tomorrow approach, endlessly ‘reforming’ in a fragmentary and inconsistent way, exacting huge costs but resulting in nothing more than complicating a system that is already crippled and devoid of vitality,” he wrote.”

“There is a concept known as ‘planning tension’ that was popular under interpretations of Soviet-style planning. The idea is that it makes sense to sometimes give targets that are not really consistent with actual capacity, because that makes it more likely that people/organizations will ‘stretch’ their capacity to try to attain the target,”  Jim Cobbe, a Fulbright scholar who has done extensive research on Vietnam’s education system, told Vietweek.”

““I’m not asserting that this is the explanation, but it makes some kind of sense out of these unrealistic targets,” Cobbe said. “The obvious problem is that sometimes if the target is too unrealistic and aspirational, they may become discouraged and do worse than they might have done with a realistic target.””

In another high-profile article, Tuy, the Vietnamese educator, pointed out the irony in the fact that the best generation of intellectuals of Vietnam during the past 80 years appears to be those who were trained under the French colonial regime in the 1930-45 period.”

““A majority of those Vietnamese intellectuals were able to imbibe the quintessence of the educational philosophy of that period to serve their own country and their people instead of the French and their government as feared,” Tuy wrote.”

“On the contrary, the generation of intellectuals who studied in the Soviet Union and former socialist countries in the 1980s and are currently holding key posts in a wide range of Vietnamese government agencies has shown a lot of “shortcomings”.”

““They are technocrats who are equipped with certain knowledge in certain areas but are short of a long-term vision that can enable them to think out of the box,” Tuy wrote.”

““They are the most reluctant to play international rules and are easy to lag behind. But they are still beset by hubris and tend to deceive themselves and their people to run after futile achievements.”

““Such [reality] needs to be analyzed and explained thoroughly when it comes to any debate on education reform.””

“Autodidacticism (also autodidactism) or self-education is self-directed learning that is related to but different from informal learning. In a sense, autodidacticism is “learning on your own” or “by yourself”, and an autodidact is a self-teacher. Autodidacticism is a contemplative, absorptive procession. Some autodidacts spend a great deal of time reviewing the resources of libraries and educational websites. One may become an autodidact at nearly any point in one’s life. While some may have been informed in a conventional manner in a particular field, they may choose to inform themselves in other, often unrelated areas. Many notable contributions have been made by autodidacts.”

“Autodidactism is only one facet of learning, and is usually, but not necessarily, complemented by learning in formal and informal spaces: from classrooms to other social settings. Many autodidacts seek instruction and guidance from experts, friends, teachers, parents, siblings, and community. Inquiry into autodidacticism has implications for learning theoryeducational researcheducational philosophy and educational psychology.”

“One of the most recent trends in education is that the classroom environment should cater towards students’ individual needs, goals and interests. This model adopts the idea of inquiry-based learning where students are presented with scenarios to identify their own research, questions and knowledge regarding the area. As a form of discovery learning, students in today’s classrooms are being provided with more opportunity to “experience and interact” with knowledge, which has its roots in autodidacticism.”

“For autodidacts to be successful in their self-teaching, they must possess self-discipline and reflective capability. Some research suggests that being able to regulate one’s own learning is something which must be modeled to students, for it is not a natural human tendency for the population at large.[9] In order to interact with the environment, a framework has been identified to determine the components of any learning system: a reward function, incremental action value functions and action selection methods.[10] Rewards work best in motivating learning when they are specifically chosen on an individual student basis. New knowledge must be incorporated into previously existing information as its value is to be assessed. Ultimately, these scaffolding techniques, as described by Vygotsky (1978) and problem solving methods are a result of dynamic decision making.”

“The secular and modern societies gave foundations for a new system of education and a new kind of autodidacts. While the number of schools and students raised from one century to the other, so did the number of autodidacts. The industrial revolution produced new educational tools used in schools, universities and outside academic circles to create a post-modern era that gave birth to the World Wide Web and encyclopaedic data banks such as Wikipedia. As this concept becomes more widespread and popular, web locations like Udacity and Khan Academy are developed to be learning centers for many people to actively and freely learn together.”

Autodidactism has a parallel in business processes and it is called Continuous Improvement (CI), a very necessary part of “Systems Thinking”, very little known in Viet Nam, unfortunately, and, the lack of which, is actually responsible for a lot of the issues discussed about education.
“”Systems thinking is the process of understanding how things, regarded as systems, influence one another within a whole. In nature, systems thinking examples include ecosystems in which various elements such as air, water, movement, plants, and animals work together to survive or perish. In organizations, systems consist of people, structures, and processes that work together to make an organization “healthy” or “unhealthy”.”“Systems thinking has been defined as an approach to problem solving, by viewing “problems” as parts of an overall system, rather than reacting to specific parts, outcomes or events and potentially contributing to further development of unintended consequences. Systems thinking is not one thing but a set of habits or practices within a framework that is based on the belief that the component parts of a system can best be understood in the context of relationships with each other and with other systems, rather than in isolation. Systems thinking focuses on cyclical rather than linear cause and effect.”

“In systems science, it is argued that the only way to fully understand why a problem or element occurs and persists is to understand the parts in relation to the whole.[3] Standing in contrast to Descartes’s scientific reductionism and philosophical analysis, it proposes to view systems in a holistic manner. Consistent with systems philosophy, systems thinking concerns an understanding of a system by examining the linkages and interactions between the elements that compose the entirety of the system.”

“Systems science thinking attempts to illustrate how small catalytic events that are separated by distance and time can be the cause of significant changes in complex systems. Acknowledging that an improvement in one area of a system can adversely affect another area of the system, it promotes organizational communication at all levels in order to avoid the silo effect. Systems thinking techniques may be used to study any kind of system — physicalbiologicalsocialscientificengineeredhuman, or conceptual.”

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