News / Asia

Philanthropist Wants 'Book Revolution' in Vietnam

Three school children use books borrowed from one of Thach's parental libraries at An Duc secondary school, Thai Binh province, Vietnam, November 24, 2012. (M. Brown/VOA)
Three school children use books borrowed from one of Thach's parental libraries at An Duc secondary school, Thai Binh province, Vietnam, November 24, 2012. (M. Brown/VOA)
Marianne Brown
In Vietnam, aid groups warn that low-quality education is preventing the country’s ascendance from middle-income status. But one man is trying to change that by building community-funded libraries in schools.

At the An Bai primary school in Thai Benh province, a group of children rush to grab books from a teacher and place them on a set of shelves at the back of the classroom. The books are part of a campaign by 37-year-old Nguyen Quang Thach to provide so-called “parent libraries” in rural schools.

Farmers in communities like this have little access to books, Thach says. Most schools have enough textbooks but few families have additional reading materials.

"When I make the survey with the school I interview lots of farmers, workers and lots of students," he said. "They come from rural areas.  They said that they have never come to the school library to read. Many people don’t think the school has a library. So library in the school system is kind of a store room, not a real space for reading.”

High literacy rate

Education is a hot topic in Vietnam, where high literacy rates come despite old-fashioned teaching methods and corruption that undermines schooling.

Although the country boasts a more than 90 percent literacy rate for a mostly rural population, aid groups say there is a gap between what schools teach and what the country’s workers need to know.

Academic performance at Vietnamese schools also remains relatively low compared to other countries in the region. A big part of the problem is bribery, and state-run media often carry stories of teachers being reprimanded for giving high grades in exchange for money. Heavy reliance on dictation methods in the classroom, according to some analysts, also means Vietnamese students are not encouraged to think for themselves or develop innovative problem solving.

Investing in books

A class poses in front of their library with philanthropist Nguyen Quang, An Bai primary school, Thai Binh province, Vietnam, November 24, 2012. (M. Brown/VOA)A class poses in front of their library with philanthropist Nguyen Quang, An Bai primary school, Thai Binh province, Vietnam, November 24, 2012. (M. Brown/VOA)
x
A class poses in front of their library with philanthropist Nguyen Quang, An Bai primary school, Thai Binh province, Vietnam, November 24, 2012. (M. Brown/VOA)
A class poses in front of their library with philanthropist Nguyen Quang, An Bai primary school, Thai Binh province, Vietnam, November 24, 2012. (M. Brown/VOA)
Busy libraries filled with books could be one part of the solution. Thach works with publishers in Hanoi to provide a list of titles at discount rates for teachers and students to choose from.

He says that he is also looking to change attitudes about philanthropy in Vietnam, where it is common for people to spend thousands of dollars building a new cultural house or gate to the village as a symbol of wealth and status.

“The real thing is knowledge, not something show off, like big temple, or big money for the wedding, big money for the ancestors’ anniversary, they should use money for the better thing, invest for future, it’s books," he said.

So far nearly 1,000 parental libraries have been built with hundreds of titles each, and Thach’s model has been replicated in several provinces across the country. For each school Thach helps build libraries in up to four classes, and then others replicate the model. Parents hand over $3 each for the first year and $1 in subsequent years.

Thach’s model

Headmaster at An Duc secondary school, Pham Duc Duong, says thanks to Thach’s model, the quality of education at the school is higher.

He says students have been getting better results for competitions, especially in social science.

Duong Le Nga, head of the school youth group, says after the libraries were built students started asking the teachers more questions. She thinks Thach’s model helps students think "outside the box."

Nga says students have started setting up their own debating clubs in the classroom. Each class has three or four clubs on different subjects. Now, instead of relying on the teacher for materials, they run the clubs themselves.

Deputy head of the school, Uong Minh Thanh, says many of the students here will become workers in nearby factories. However, after seeing the influence of the new libraries, he hopes the children will have higher ambitions for themselves when they graduate.

He says the libraries have encouraged peer reading amongst students and teachers and for families when the children takes books home.

Although Thach’s model targets Vietnam’s poor farmers, it does not include ethnic minorities. Despite making up only 14 percent of the population, these groups account for two fifths of the nation’s poor.

Thach says he plans to extend the model to ethnic minority school children next year but books will be provided in Vietnamese, a second language for most and literacy levels are low.

Thach says his dream is that one day his model will be self-sustainable and he will not be needed any more. In the meantime, he says he hopes his "book revolution" can help Vietnamese farmers stand equal to people in developed countries.

You May Like

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs