Respect for Teachers and Class Participation

The relationship between teachers and students is markedly different between the U.S. and Vietnam.   “In Vietnam, when a teacher addresses the class, students are expected to sit quietly, take notes, and never challenge or contradict the teacher…” (Huu Do, 2007, p. 17)  The relaxed classrooms in the U.S., and the give-and-take between teachers and the class can be a surprise for new Vietnamese students. 

Most Vietnamese students have been taught that a quiet classroom is necessary for learning.  Since the teacher is the respected source of all information, it would be rude for a student to offer his/her own input into the lecture.   In addition, some Vietnamese students will not make eye contact with a teacher as a sign of respect.   

Rote Memorization is Emphasized

Learning in Vietnam is measured by how well a student can repeat facts, figures and other information.  Experiential learning is minimized.  Lab work is unusual, even in the sciences.  Students are often very passive learners and spend a great deal of time outside of class studying.  In that vein, critical thinking and writing are de-emphasized.   U.S. classroom expectations can present quite a shock to the Vietnamese student, and may require the student to learn not only the pertinent material, but also navigate a writing, thinking, processing and language environment that is totally foreign to his/her previous experiences. 

Exams are Critical

Grading in Vietnam is done on a 10 point scale, based solely on quizzes and exams throughout the course.   While classroom attendance is mandatory, it is typically not considered a factor in grading; rather, if a student misses classes without a valid excuse s/he is simply expelled.  Written papers and other projects are not relied upon for grades and extra credit is not a concept that is understood.  Therefore, exams are extremely important and the only factor upon which a student’s grade is based. 

Sources: Bain (2015), Huu Do (2007), Nguyen (2002), WES Staff (2012) and Tuoi Tre News (2014). 

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