Four women lean eagerly over a circular table. Their eight arms jostle with the wires, batteries, tape, and scissors that lay before them. The women hypothesize, test, and iterate at a speed mirroring their lively hands. At last, the bulb connected to the circuit springs to life, giving off a bright, golden light.
Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuan looks on with a quiet smile. The four women are her “students” and they aced the lesson.
By ending the practice of rote learning in favor of hands-on, project-based learning, Ms. Thuan, a master teacher under Kenan Foundation Asia’s Boeing Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) project as well as a physics lecturer at Hanoi Metropolitan University, is helping to move education in Vietnam into the 21st century.
Whether she knows it or not, Ms. Thuan, along with trailblazing entrepreneurs, highly-skilled professionals, and innovative policymakers, are among the vanguard ushering Vietnam into the 4th Industrial Revolution. As technology becomes embedded into our products, services, and systems in ways that even the most imaginative science fiction writer could not have predicted, it’s no secret that we need to adjust the way we educate the next generation.
“In Vietnam, as well as in many countries, one of the requirements in preparation for the 4th Industrial Revolution is to improve human capital to meet changing knowledge and skills required for the new working environment,” explained Ms. Thuan. “Thus, the education and training sector has a big mission to prepare our human resources to meet the development requirements of the country.”
Vietnam isn’t ready for the 4th Industrial Revolution because of the limitations of its human resources and innovation base. The World Economic Forum, for example, in its analysis of 100 countries published in its Readiness for the Future of Production Report 2018, found that Vietnam ranked in the bottom half on a number of key indicators, including the quality of math and science education (68th), critical thinking in teaching (63rd), and availability of scientists and engineers (70th). Overall, Vietnam ranked 70th in terms of human capital and 90th in technology and innovation.
As an educator responsible for preparing secondary teachers to deliver 21st century education across Vietnam, Ms. Thuan finds herself at the frontlines of developing her country for a better future. Knowing that she needs to give her students the knowledge and skills needed to apply new approaches, like project-based learning and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, in the classroom, Ms. Thuan joined Boeing TEL in January 2018. Through the project, she has received training on STEM and high-impact practices from Kenan’s education experts and now applies this knowledge as a Boeing TEL master teacher who helps secondary teachers in the Hanoi area bring these practices into their classrooms.
“These approaches create engaging learning activities that enhance higher order thinking skills, maximize the use of technology, and encourage students to understand content knowledge by solving real-life, STEM challenges in which they gain valuable 21st century skills,” exults Ms. Thuan about the TEL model’s transformative impact.
The four women who built the electrical circuit are school teachers who participated in Kenan’s Boeing TEL workshop guided by Ms. Thuan. The teachers gained experience performing the same project-based learning activities their students are now doing every day in the classroom. As Ms. Thuan watched the teachers activate their critical thinking skills and integrate STEM knowledge to complete the circuit, she sees the 21st century education light bulb come alight in each of the participants’ minds.
Since joining the project, Ms. Thuan says that she has been “very happy to see how excited the teachers are who have received the knowledge, skills and experiences in the training.”
And now hundreds of students are experiencing the excitement that accompanies a transformative, 21st century education, thanks to the Boeing TEL project by Kenan and the dedication of educators like Ms. Thuan.