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Training and recruiting teachers of defense-security education – issues to be addressed

In accordance with guidelines by the Party and the State on promoting defense-security education among students and the status quo in teachers of defense-security education, over the past years, the Government has enacted policies to gradually standardize those teachers. Accordingly, the Prime Minister issued Decision 472/QĐ-TTg, dated April 12th, 2010 on approving the Project entitled “Training  teachers of defense-security education for high schools and vocational schools between 2010 and 2016”, Decision 607/QĐ-TTg, dated April 24th, 2014 on approving the Project entitled “Training teachers of defense-security education for high schools, vocational schools and universities until 2020”. Those projects aim “for an adequate number of teachers of defense-security education in high schools and vocational schools by 2016” and “at 90% of high schools and vocational schools’ demands and  70%  of universities’ demands for teachers of defense-security education.

To this end, 12 universities were assigned by the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) to train teachers of defense-security education on a full-time basis. In the face of overwhelming odds, universities and relevant agencies made every effort to yield encouraging results, thereby affording a considerable number of teachers of defense-security education to high schools, vocational schools and universities nationwide. As a result, most high schools, vocational schools and universities no longer suffer from shortages of qualified teachers of defense-security education, greatly contributing to making defense-security education part of the national official curriculum and raising the quality of defense-security education among students. However, there remain shortcomings to be redressed in training and recruiting defense-security education graduates.

First, the quantity and quality of defense-security education undergraduates remain modest.  Pursuant to Decision 472/QĐ-TTg, 9,760 teachers of defense-security education were required by 2016. Nevertheless, surveys have revealed that universities will graduate only about 4,300 students of defense-security education by 2020. Accordingly, the number of teachers of defense-security education falls short of the set target and fail to meet the requirements of realities, leading education institutions, particularly high schools, to suffer from shortages.  This results from universities’ sluggishness regarding training teachers of defense-security education as not until 2012 did most of them start enrolling candidates. Even certain universities have yet to enrol any candidates for subjective and objective reasons. Besides, little importance has been attached to defense-security education due to limited awareness of this subject among teachers and society. Candidates have to match strict requirements for brain power and physical strength to become teachers of defense-security education. That is why enrolments have not gone up despite preferential treatment. The quality of candidates for the defense-security education program is lower than for other courses of study run by a university, which will greatly affect the quality of defense-security education graduates as well as of teaching this subject. This can be fixed by boosting propagation, particularly the popularization of preferential treatment received by defense-security education undergraduates and graduates, thereby attracting higher enrolments with higher quality. Meanwhile, functional agencies should continue to advise the Party and the State on preferential treatment given to defense-security education undergraduates and graduates in line with the country’s socio-economic development.

Second, the curriculum content for defense-security education undergraduates has yet to be suitable enough. Defense-security education as a subject with particularities requires teachers to possess theoretically and practically comprehensive knowledge. In accordance with the Curriculum Framework for defense-security education undergraduates by the MOET, theory and practice accounts for 67.2% and 32.8% respectively. Meanwhile, surveys reveal considerable disparities between theory (63.72% - 65.43%, even 100% occasionally) and practice (34.57% - 36.28%) when it comes to universities’ curricula. The imbalance between theory and practice significantly affects defense-security education undergraduates’ creative thinking and teaching practice skills. 18.67% of the defense-security education undergraduates surveyed said that the curriculum content is not suitable enough, indicating that it has yet to be learner-centered. This leads to limitations on defense-security education graduates’ theoretical thinking and actions.

As a result, it is necessary that the curriculum content should match particularities of defense-security education. Universities should proactively reform the curriculum content on an ability-oriented basis. How to design the curriculum content should rely on the quality of defense-security education graduates. By doing so can goals of comprehensive development be achieved by teachers of defense-security education in terms of knowledge, skills and attitude.

Third, the segment of lecturers who teach defense-security education undergraduates has yet to meet requirements set out, to some extent. In fact, those lecturers, who are mostly military officers on secondment, are qualitatively and quantitatively lacking. According to statistics in 2016, those lecturers just represented 61.34% of the real need while the number of postgraduate degree holders was modest with master’s degree holders accounting for 26% and doctorate holders making up 2. 74%. Meanwhile, concerned universities have yet to run post-graduate courses on defense-security education for some reason, which discourages those lecturers from promoting their professional competence. Therefore, concerned universities should diversify forms of training in order to opportunely standardize those lecturers. Attention should be paid to consolidating the organizational structure and setting standards in the quantity and quality of lecturers, thereby facilitating the recruitment. Moreover, MOET’s functional agencies should advise competent authorities on preferential treatment for concerned universities to run post graduate courses on defense-security education, contributing to standardizing teachers of defense-security education to meet immediate and long-term requirements.

Fourth, shortcomings remain in the recruitment of defense-security education graduates.  According to Decision 607/QĐ-TTg, “defense-security education graduates - both men and women, who live up to health standards and volunteer to join the military, stand a chance of holding reserve officer rank in compliance with the Law on Officers of the Vietnam People’s Army (VPA) and the Government’s regulations on the VPA’s reserve officers. They are also entitled to preferential treatment regarding the recruitment of teachers of defense-security education for high schools, vocational schools and universities. However, surveys revealed that only over half of defense-security education students graduating from Hanoi National University of Education and Hanoi Pedagogical University 2 in 2016 and 2017 did graduate jobs. Meanwhile, a lot of education institutions, particularly high schools, are currently lacking in teachers of defense-security education. While this does not completely result from the low quality of defense-security education graduates, it mostly derives from localities’ recruitment mechanisms, which have led to shortages of teachers of defense-security education but oversupplies of other teachers. Additionally, private high schools tend to invite teachers from either centres for defense-security education or military units rather than recruit graduates. At the same time, the MOET’s Circular dated January 13rd, 2017, entitled “Defense-Security Education Program at High Schools” exposes its shortcomings and does not truly match the regulations of the Law on Defense-Security Education. This easily lead localities and high schools to take little interest in recruiting defense-security education graduates, which will result in a waste of human resources and the State budget unless being redressed opportunely. Complicated problems may also arise from the mismanagement of defense-security education graduates. Consequently, localities should strictly enforce policies of preferential treatment for those graduates to provide enough teachers of defense-security education graduates as stipulated.

Providing defense-security education for students is a policy of great importance by the Party and the State. Fixing shortcomings in training and recruiting defense-security education graduates lays an important foundation for the policy to be put into practice.

Sr. Col. Phan Xuan Dung, PhD, Deputy Director of the Centre for Defense-Security Education, Hanoi Pedagogical University 2

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