Lifelong Learning is a new concept in Vietnam

Portrait of MA LLL student Que Anh Dang

Que Anh Dang holds an undergraduate degree in international business and English from Hanoi Foreign Trade University in Vietnam and an advanced diploma in education in the UK.

She has worked as Education Promotion Manager at the British Council in Vietnam for ten years.

Que Anh embarked on the European Masters in Lifelong Learning in Denmark in September 2006.

Why did you choose the European Masters in lifelong learning?

My philosophy is that when a study opportunity presents itself, you should take it; the chance may not come again. After some years of working in one area of the educational sector, I needed a break and was looking for more formal education to build on my knowledge and experience. Also, I wanted to see the world and meet people from different countries and cultures. I am looking forward to experiencing the challenges, rewards and the enjoyment of being an international student in a different culture.

I hold an academic degree in international business and in English, and for ten years I have worked as an education promotion manager for the British Council in Hanoi. The aim of my work was to promote British education to Vietnamese students and institutions. In this role, I worked a lot with international education cooperation and education policy making, therefore I applied for the European Masters in Lifelong Learning to gain more background knowledge and a deeper understanding in order to progress and develop within my field.

What are your plans for the future after graduation?

First of all I am doing this for my personal fulfilment. The demand for qualifications in Vietnam is so high and I will have opportunities to work with educational organisations or in educational projects with the European Commission or the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) to promote lifelong and life-wide learning.

In Vietnam, lifelong learning is a new concept and not widely understood. For many people, the phrase "lifelong learning" is puzzling or rather vague. To some people, the notion of "lifelong learning" sounds more like a penal sentence or endurance test than an invitation to real pleasure, achievement and progress.

Within formal education, UNESCO and the World Bank are doing their utmost to promote the idea, but many people in Vietnam still appear to be limited by a culture which regards lifelong learning as unnecessary, unappealing and inaccessible. For various reasons, a large number of adolescents and adults do not engage in education and training after completing their compulsory schooling. People may also simply think that learning is something that you get over and done with in the earlier stages of life, even if that includes post-school learning in further or higher education, before settling down to more "adult" concerns and preoccupations. In Vietnamese culture increased age and knowledge are always considered to be related.

What is it like to live and study abroad?

So far the food and the weather in Copenhagen are better than I expected! The three things I like most are the parks, libraries and swimming pools. I have no problem communicating with people here because everybody speaks English!

Before I came I had read and discussed the methods of teaching in the West. It is a new approach for me, and now I find it both interesting and challenging. I have already learned a lot by living and studying in this international environment. I think I can learn almost as much from my international peers as from my teachers.

What are biggest differences in the educational approach between Vietnam and the MA LLL?

As an MA LLL-student, you are responsible for your own learning. Compared to Vietnam, the biggest difference is that the MA LLL has a less clear framework but greater flexibility within the course of study.
Also, Vietnamese university studies are less student-led, with perhaps a stronger focus on a perceived wrong or right answer. This means that while the direction might be easier to follow, creativity is somewhat restricted. MA LLL teachers do not provide black and white solutions, but supply references and ideas from which you can establish your own justified viewpoint.

How would you describe the social life as an MA LLL-student?

There are fifteen MA LLL-students here in Copenhagen, and we tend to meet at weekends to enjoy the variety of international food and enjoy the attractions that Copenhagen has to offer. We have visited Rosenborg Castle, the Little Mermaid, the Round Tower and the Castle of Kronborg in Elsinore where Shakespeare's "Hamlet" was set.

I chose to live with a Danish family; others in the class live in shared apartments. We have a great sense of community and help each other a lot. Vega Club is a great place for weekends, and the boat tours in the harbour and around the old city of Christianshavn town are strongly recommended!

Apart from academic qualifications, what kind of experience does it take to study on the MA LLL?

As the course is for practitioners and future policy makers in the field of education, it is useful to have some related experience before starting the course. Fresh graduates would find it difficult to adapt to the new way of teaching, because experience gained in the workplace helps put much of the course material into context. It also means that students bring more of the applied theory with them. The MA LLL programme is also perhaps more suited to mature students with such backgrounds. Experience is very useful, but it is important to remember that there is always much more to learn.

Que Anh Dang was interviewed in October 2006.