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Education in Ghana and Vietnam

by John Powell

posted in Reference and Education

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Ghana and Vietnam are both classified by the World Bank as lower middle-income countries with similar levels of Gross National Income (GNI) per capita but they are very different in many respects. One area in which the contrast in cultures is most pronounced is in the field of education, Ghana having derived an essentially western system from its British colonial past while Vietnamese education has more in common with China. They share one factor in common, however, and that is insufficient resources to satisfy the aspirations of the majority of the people.
Both countries place much emphasis on the teaching of English. According to the Institute of Linguistics in Accra, Ghana has about sixty vernacular tongues and so has adopted English as the official national language. All teaching in schools is conducted in English but most Ghanaians have a vernacular mother tongue and English is for them a second language. Vietnam has an almost universally spoken national language that is used for conducting all business and administration in the country, and its interest in English is to communicate with the world community. As in Ghana, English is a second language, but as it is used only to converse with foreigners, it is spoken fluently by only a minority of adults who need English for this purpose.
Progress in education in both countries depends very much on the wealth and social standing of the parents. In Ghana, academic advancement usually involves direct inducements to teachers to progress students through their examinations, but in Vietnam the process is more subtle. Teachers persuade parents that additional out-of-school lessons are essential and charge high fees for providing them. This system, although equally unfair to the children of poor families, at least has the advantage of ensuring that those students who pass their examinations have actually received extra instruction and are more likely to possess the necessary knowledge to benefit from further education.
The Chinese system of education is renowned for preparing students to pass examinations and Asian children regularly score highest in international academic competitions. Vietnamese students perform as well as their Chinese counterparts. In schools in England, it is well known that Chinese and Vietnamese, as well as Indian, children achieve the highest grades, followed by Europeans, and with children of African origin lagging behind.
Ghanaian children have the same relaxed attitude to education as their parents have to work. They are not subjected to the long hours of extra study that are endured by the children of more affluent parents in Vietnam. It was once said that childhood is the happiest time of one's life. This can still be true for children in Ghana, but in Vietnam, at least among the families of the aspirational middle class, childhood has become a time of stress and anxiety. Parents are aware of this but feel compelled to push their children through the system that exists and cannot be changed. They may be consoled by the realisation that no country has yet devised a completely fair and efficient education system that prepares all citizens painlessly for their chosen role in adult life.
About the Author: John Powell
To learn more about life in general and the intriguing story of the grassroots industrial revolution in the turbulent Ghana of the second half of the twentieth century, read John Powell's novels The Colonial Gentleman's Son and Return to the Garden City or his non-fictional account The Survival of the Fitter. More details of these books and photographs of the informal sector artisans of Suame Magazine in Kumasi will be found on the following websites.
http://www.ghanabooksjwp.com
http://www.amazon.com/The-Colonial-Gentlemans-John-Powell/dp/184624496X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331919059&sr=1-1
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