Social Headlines December 24

Universities urged to raise calibre of part-time courses

Universities and colleges should make efforts to improve the quality of their part-time training programmes, experts said at a recent workshop.

Ngo Minh Oanh, head of the Institute for Education Research, said this is critical to reducing the load on the education system and implementing the policy of diversifying training forms.

Part-time courses have mushroomed in recent years because they are lucrative, he said.

But many have ignored the need to keep the quality of the training high, he added.

Dr Nguyen Hai Hang, deputy director and head of training affairs at the Viet Nam Airline Aviation Academy, said universities should not focus only on revenue and ensure training quality is good.

Nguyen Van Thang of the Hue University of Education blamed the low quality on failure to focus on learning, with most enrolling just to get a degree.

Some universities like his set the bar high for admission to these courses but end up not attracting many applicants, he said.

Referring to other shortcomings, he said many universities do not update curricula for the programmes and teach just theory.

For instance, chemistry and physics students at his university never do experiments in the laboratory.

Pham Thi Lan Phuong of the Institute for Education Research said universities and colleges should focus on updating curricula.

The size of classrooms should be reduced, she said, pointing out that online learning would be appropriate for these programmes.

Nguyen Cao Dat, vice rector of the Cuu Long University, stressed the role of university leaders, saying they should pay more attention to training quality and have solutions for improving if it is poor.

Tests and assessment should be similar to that of regular courses to ensure quality, he added.

Vietnam to increase labour export quota in 2014

Vietnam plans to send 90,000 workers abroad in 2014 following the recovery of the employment markets overseas.

Vietnam plans to send 90,000 workers abroad in 2014 following the recovery of the employment markets overseas.

Dao Cong Hai, Deputy Head of the Department of Oaverseas labour (DOLAB) under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MoLISA), reveals Vietnam has dispatched almost 79,000 workers abroad as of November 2013 and is expecting to surpass the 85,000 guest worker goal by the end of this year.

The recovery of the overseas labour markets in late 2013 has prompted MOLISA to propose an increase in a 2014 labour export quota to the government.

The MoLISA is focused on major labour markets such as Taiwan (over 30,000), Japan (8,000-10,000), and the RoK (over 10,000). The government will also sign labour recruitment memoranda of understanding (MoU) with the two new Thai and Angolan markets.

Skilled Vietnamese workers have been employed in manufacturing, garments and textiles, and electronics. The RoK and Taiwan also have high demands for workers in the aquaculture, poultry breeding, transport, and fishing industries.

Hai says his department is coordinating with relevant agencies to raise financial fines on businesses demanding exorbitant fees from employees. Businesses are now paying between VND30-50 million if found to violate regulations.

The department will also take drastic measures to reduce the number of labourers absconding from work or overstaying their visas, especially in the RoK and Japan.

Vietnam, Laos strengthen sci-tech cooperation

The Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) and its Laos counterpart reviewed their cooperation programmes in 2012-13 and worked out tasks for the coming years at a meeting in Vientiane on December 19-20.

Participants pledged to coordinate their research on essential areas, supporting socio-economic development and national security in each country.

They also finalised a 2014-2016 project designed to improve the quality of research and the standard of technology at the Laos National Academy of Social Sciences.

The project is one of the many scientific programmes organised under the two nations’ comprehensive cooperation agreement.

VAST will help scientific agencies in Laos with research and human resources development in the interests of consolidating the friendship and special solidarity uniting both countries.

UNICEF praises Vietnam’s primary education for all

Chief Representative of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Vietnam Lotta Sylwander has hailed Vietnam for its successful universalisation of primary education.

However, the country’s primary school completion rate is 92%, not quite all yet.

The UNICEF representative also said Vietnam needs to improve its education quality and teaching method. A participatory method and dialogue between teachers and students should be encouraged, added LottaSylwander.

The challenges of providing quality education services for ethnic minority groups have been a significant barrier to the achievement of the Government’s target.

Sylwander said language, school conditions and transportation have led to high school dropout rates among ethnic minority students.

The UNICEF representative urged Vietnam to renovate its education system. Vietnamese students need to be equipped with critical thinking skills.

When talking about UNICEF’s plans to support Vietnam’s education development goals, the UN official said UNICEF is implementing a bilingual education programme in which ethnic minority children will begin learning in their mother tongues.

UNICEF is also assisting Vietnam to develop a child-friendly education environment model. The model encourages Vietnamese students to actively involve themselves in decision making of schools. Students are taught soft skills to deal with life’s problems.

UNICEF has also worked with the Vietnamese side to implement initiatives and programmes to help disadvantaged children get access to education, added Sylwander.

Controlling Vietnamese-Cambodian cross-border drug trafficking

Vietnam and Cambodia have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on December 20 detailing cooperation to control the trade of drugs and drug precursors along and across their shared border.

The signatories were Tay Ninh Provincial People’s Committee Vice Chairman Tran Luu Quang and the Deputy Governor of Cambodian provinces Kam Pong Cham and Svay Rieng.

The six agreed-upon spheres of cooperation for 2014 focus on implementing the 2000 anti-drug and drug precursor trafficking action plan as well as increasing operational efficiency at the Moc Bai-Bavet and Xamat-Treapeng Phlong international border gates.

Both sides have committed to close collaboration in information collection and collation, criminal investigations, and enforcement actions.

Vice Chairman Quang noted that from October 2011 to October 2013, the combined forces of the three Vietnamese and Cambodian provinces tried 16 cases, prosecuted 22 traffickers, and seized 21,435 kg of drugs (including 1,118 kg of heroin).

Discussing the management of social transformation

Hanoi hosted the high-level December 20 Forum on Management of Social Transformation, attracting ASEAN delegations from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Vietnam.

Entitled “Societal Vulnerability”, the forum was organised by the Vietnamese Government in collaboration with UNESCO.

It focused its attention on the social transformations arising from global environmental change, and social integration—two priorities in UNESCO’s Management of Social Transformations Programme.

Delegates expressed ASEAN’s shared aspirations for a global solution to climate change’s many challenges and an ASEAN community resilient and flexible enough to address those challenges on national and regional levels.

Existing legal frameworks incorporate climate change mitigation and adaptation programmes, but there is a need for policies that tackle the impact of environmental changes on communities and social inclusion.

The forum proposed recommendations and practical policy options to strengthen social inclusion within these legal and institutional frameworks.

The forum is part of a wider Social Development Ministerial Forum series under UNESCO’s Management of Social Transformations Programme.

The series of forums is attempting to facilitate policy design and implementation based on rigorous social science. Its policy-oriented dialogues encourage innovation and welcome both experts and senior decision-makers.

According to Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS) Vice President, the forum meets urgent requirements to ensure people’s basic rights, including the right to live in safety and the right to be protected from risks posed by climate change.

Southeast Asian nations are prone to climate change, in which Vietnam is one of the five countries in the world most vulnerable to the phenomenon.

Delegates called for the enhancement of the role of social sciences in addressing social integration challenges in the context of environmental change.

HCM City starts construction of new social housing project

The People’s Committee of HCM City has approved the conversion of 360 apartments in a 15-storey building into social housing project.

The developer of the project in the Thoi An residential area, the Sai Gon- Gia Dinh Real Estate Joint Stock Company, began construction last Saturday.

The apartments will be sold for VND10-11.6 million per square metre under a proposal of the city’s People’s Committee.

The 15-ha Thoi An residential area project in District 12 was designed to provide the market with 1,125 units, including 312 townhouses, 99 villas, 354 low-cost apartments and 360 apartments of social housing.

The construction will take 20 months to be completed.

Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, Nguyen Tran Nam, deputy minister of construction, said that disbursement of the social housing stimulus package worth VND30 trillion (US$1.4 billion) had reached VND600 billion (US$28.5 million).

Four social housing projects began construction over the past two months, and many more are expected to begin construction in the next few months, according to Nam.

The country has a total of 124 social housing projects for low-income residents and workers at industrial parks, with more slated to open.

Investment for the projects, which have a total of 78,700 apartments, has amounted to VND30.67 trillion ($1.45 billion), according to the Ministry of Construction’s Real Estate Market and Housing Management Department.

Eighty-five of the housing projects, which have a total of 51,895 apartments, are for low-income residents. They are valued at a total of VND23.82 trillion ($1.13 billion).

Odorous garbage clogs local roads

Nguyen Van Binh, a 69-year-old man living in the capital’s Thach That District, said he felt very bad about the area surrounding where he lives.

He said he and other people in the area had been living with trash surrounding their community for almost ten years.

“Waste from craft villages, workshops and households are all thrown onto the street. Flies are all over our houses when summer comes,” Binh said, regarding the road connecting his Thai Hoa hamlet in Binh Phu Commune and the adjacent Gieng hamlet in Huu Bang Commune.

Sadly, what Binh described is not a rare sight in the district, as the suburban area is seeing more industrialisation while leaving behind roads drowning in piles of garbage.

After almost a decade, Voi dyke route has been transformed into a refuse collecting site where local residents from the neighbouring Kim Quan and Lien Quan Communes throw garbage.

In fact, trash covers almost half of Dong Xa road in Kim Quan Commune. People say the road was originally a refuse collecting site, but a twice-monthly garbage collection truck seemed not frequent enough, causing trash to pile higher every day.

In the same vein, the route runs through three communes, Huong Ngai, Canh Nau and Di Nau, which is blocked by waste, both on and along the road.

Heavy smoke from burning garbage adds to the odour and jammed traffic to make this entry road to Canh Nau Commune a hot spot of environmental pollution.

Compounding matters, people continue discarding trash wherever they choose.

“Not only are people suffered from the trash, but rice and corn fields are now being harmed. People turned to the fields to discard garbage, as there was no more room to throw garbage. Trash is filling up the channels and taking over our fields,” complained Can Thi Thu, who is erecting canvas to protect her paddy fields from trash in Phu Kim Commune.

Though the issue has been raised many times, local authorities have still not proposed a solution.

According to Nguyen Thi Thu Hoai, an official of Thach That District’s Division of Natural Resources and Environment, carts are mainly used to collect waste once every two days, or once a day in communes that dispose of large amounts of trash.

“A part of the waste from craft villages, such as sawdust and shredded wood, can be recycled, but most are heaped together with household waste. Too much waste from these villages, along with sitting trash and limited disposal locations, resulted in roads being filled by garbage. The waste disposal capacity is being overloaded,” she added.

Approximately 80 tonnes of waste is disposed of every day, yet only 18 out of 23 communes and towns in Thach That District have garbage collectors.

A waste disposal factory, 10 hectares in width and capable of handling 100 tonnes of trash per day, was planned, but has not been built. In the meantime, local authorities are looking for a more advanced technology that is suitable for the district.

“The municipal authorities should find ways for planning and for more investment in new refuse collection locations. Also, the waste disposal capacity should be increased. In the meantime, it is important to invest in more advanced waste disposal technologies, in small and middle ranges, as well as building a model for collective waste disposal. That is the only way to address the overwhelming trash backlog situation,” Hoai said.

Communication helps blood donation drive

About 35,000 litres of blood have been donated in the capital city, Ha Noi, so far this year, exceeding the entire year’s goal for blood donations by two per cent.

The outcome was attributed to the city’s efforts at promoting diverse communication campaigns that helped citizens from all walks of life to understand and become actively involved in the blood donation drive.

A blood donation club was also established, with more than 100 people ready to donate blood for emergency cases.

As many as 3,000 students from universities and colleges across the city now regularly donate blood to hospitals.

In 2014, Ha Noi aims to ensure that blood donations increase to 125,000 units.

Maths innovations neccesary for growth

The most recent advances in mathematics were highlighted at a two-day Viet Nam International Applied Mathematics Conference that ended yesterday in HCM City.

Prof. Tong Dinh Quy, deputy chairman and general secretary of the Viet Nam Society for Applied Mathematics, said the Government in recent years had poured more money into mathematics research and application.

Applied mathematics has been used in many fields, including the military, defence, security and major economic sectors such as electricity, petroleum, and agriculture, he added.

He said that applied mathematics’ use was an important tool to increase economic competitiveness.

Dr Nguyen Huu Luc, former vice chairman of the Office of the President, suggested that scientists work together to solve problems related to industrial parks, weather forecasting, climate change and urban traffic.

He said the Government should develop more preferential policies to create conditions for the application of mathematics research.

The conference was organised by the Viet Nam Society for Applied Mathematics in co-operation with the International Institute for Research and Training and Development of Human Resource and Sai Gon University in HCM City.

The conference attracted more than 100 academics from Viet Nam, Japan, France, the US, Russia and other countries.

Mathematical models and methods are often used in other countries in strategies aimed at controlling crime, according to the International Council for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

They are instrumental in describing the possible scenarios associated with government policies, and in simulating the effects of different choices.

Such models can give public authorities important tools in developing social measures and the deployment of police forces.

Other international conferences on mathematical research, education and applications will be organised at the University of Law and Economics from December 21-23.

Campaign pushes local drugs

A programme to increase knowledge among doctors, hospital managers and the community about using local drugs was launched by the Drug Administration of Viet Nam (DAV) yesterday in Ha Noi.

The programme is part of the campaign to encourage Vietnamese to purchase locally-manufactured products and to boost the country’s pharmaceutical industry, while ensuring adequate supplies for disease prevention and treatment.

The programme will focus on 100 locally-made drugs that have been proven to be of high quality, and are safe and effective in treatment, said DAV director Truong Quoc Cuong, adding that the programme had gained increasing levels of trust from the public each year.

Cuong noted that the programme was expected to become an important criteria in evaluating the quality of local drugs, popularising the country’s pharmaceutical industry and local drugs in the community.

The programme would be an important bridge connecting management, people and drug companies in raising people’s knowledge about locally produced drugs and doctors’ roles and responsibilities towards assuring effective prescription and drug use, according to health minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien.

“It is necessary to prove that locally made drugs are of high quality and cheap prices, compared to imported drugs, and suitable for the poor in rural, remote and mountainous areas,” said Tien.

DAV’s statistics indicated that the country’s pharmaceutical market had reached US$30 billion in 2012. Viet Nam currently has 121 GMP (Good Manufacture Practice) pharmaceutical firms that have met 50 per cent of the country’s drug demand.

Delta sugar farmers hit by lower prices

Sugarcane farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta are facing losses because of low price while authorities and sugar mills are struggling to persuade farmers to continue growing the crop.

Ho Thanh Kiet, head of the Cu Lao Dung District’s Agriculture and Rural Development Bureau in southern Soc Trang Province, said sugarcane prices remain low for a consecutive second year, causing farmers losses.

“Therefore, many farmers will stop growing sugarcane after this harvest,” he said.

In Cu Lao Dung, which has the largest area under sugarcane in Soc Trang, farmers have harvested more than 600ha out of the 8,200ha of the crop. Traders now offer a price of VND850-890 per kilo of sugarcane that has 10CCS (commercial content sugar).

Sugarcane prices are low because of declining sugar prices caused by large inventories and an increase in smuggled sugar.

Truong Van Hien, chairman of the 200-Tonne Sugarcane Club in Phung Hiep District’s Hiep Hung Commune in Hau Giang Province, said local authorities and farmers have worked together to improve sugarcane quality and yield over the past years. The club’s members achieve a high yield of 200 tonnes per hectare, he said.

Nguyen The Tu, head of the Phung Hiep Agriculture and Rural Development Bureau, said sugarcane is the district’s key crop but prices have been unstable over the past few years.

This year farmers have suffered an average loss of VND12 million (US$570) per hectare, he said.

The area under the crop is likely to reduce during the next sugarcane crop, he said. Phuong Phu Commune alone has reported that the area would shrink by 500ha.

Tu said the district plans to keep the sugarcane-growing area at 5,000ha in the long term. But it would have to invest more in mechanisation and high-yield sugarcane strains to reduce production costs.

At the beginning of each crop, farmers should inter-crop in sugarcane fields to earn more income, he added.

In provinces like Long An, Ca Mau, Kien Giang, and Tra Vinh, many sugarcane farmers have already switched to other crops.

In Long An, many have started to grow lime, which fetches a profit of VND100-200 million per hectare.

Le Minh Duc, director of the Long An Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the province plans to keep the area under sugarcane at 13,000ha in Ben Luc, Duc Hoa, Duc Hue and Thu Thua districts to supply the province’s two sugar mills.

But agriculture departments in several delta provinces warned that if sugarcane prices are low and demand is unstable, the area under the crop would continue to shrink. Then mills would face a shortage of cane.

In Tra Vinh, local authorities in conjunction with the Tra Vinh Sugar Company have rolled out policies to support sugarcane farmers during the next crop.

Farmers who sign contracts to sell to the company will get on credit 8-10 tonnes of sugarcane stem cuttings, 2,600kg of fertilisers, 25-35kg of pesticides and an advance of VND12 million per hectare.

Nguyen Hien, the company’s director, said experts have predicted that sugarcane prices would not increase any time soon.

The country is expected to produce around 1.6 million tonnes of sugar in the 2013-14 season, while demand is around 1.3 million tonnes, according to the Viet Nam Sugarcane and Sugar Association.

Farms adopt hygiene standards

Vietnamese producers can now easily apply VietGAP food safety standards on their products, thanks to new guidelines.

VietGAP, a certificate that imposes strict regulations on the quality of agricultural products, is part of a project that is being jointly implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Canadian International Development Agency.

The total project, started in 2008, has an investment of CAD17 million (US$16 million).

Nguyen Van Doang, coordinator of the project, told a conference on Wednesday that the guidelines for applying VietGAP standards have been completed and include all steps involved in the processing, packing and trading of vegetables, fruit, pork and chicken.

Based on these guidelines, as many as 15 pilot models of vegetable and fruit production, 11 pig farms, 11 chicken farms and six slaughter houses in seven cities and provinces have been certified as VietGAP.

The project has helped farmers build a trademark, logo and sale areas for these products.

The initial feedback from six supermarkets of Saigon Co-opmart show that consumers have accepted VietGAP vegetables, which are priced 2.1 per cent higher than other vegetables.

As many as 11 out of 15 models of vegetable and fruit production and three models of chicken farms had contracts to supply goods to the supermarkets.

The project is currently helping to develop a supply chain of hygienic products in 33 cities and provinces for both domestic consumption and export, he said.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Thi Xuan Thu said that many farmers have used the guidelines as a handbook for producing safe and hygienic agricultural products and foodstuff.

She said that thanks to the guidelines, the ministry has begun a programme for developing safe food chains, which will be implemented nationwide after it receives official approval. The programme will change farmers’ outlook on agricultural production and will benefit both farmers and consumers.

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