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Breaking language barrier key to ICT

POOR English language skills and an overall weakness in education and training are the major problems facing Vietnam�€™s information and communications technology (ICT) sector, according to a recent government review.

It is estimated that Vietnam will need 100,000 ICT professionals with good English skills by 2010

The review, released last week, was the final part of Vietnam�€™s ICT strategy to 2010 to be finished.

Pham Manh Lam, from the National Institute for Post and Telematics Strategy, said Vietnam needed to educate 50,000 new ICT experts by 2005 and double that by 2010.

However, there was a lot of work to be done if these targets were to be reached, Lam said.

ICT training and education needed to be built into a wider education plan for the country for 2010. Special emphasis needed to be placed on training ICT experts in English and a legal basis for ICT investors needed to be created, Lam said.

�€œCurrent law does not encourage investors and organisations to invest in these fields. Education law bans all operations that would commercialise education and training and regards Vietnamese language as the official language in schools,�€� Lam said.

Nguyen Trung Quynh, an official from the Ministry of Science and Technology, said the Ministry of Education and Training should continue to review its textbooks, which are backward and do not link education with the commercial sector.

�€œThe ministry should encourage teachers to participate in practising and educating in open source software because there is no link between the professional IT world and study.

�€œTeachers give priority to making money from teaching and this lowers the quality of the education,�€� Quynh said.

The UNDP�€™s deputy resident representative, Kanni Wignaraja, said Vietnam should improve the quality of its basic education and, at the same time, try to improve its 12 top universities and institutions so they can compete with regional bodies and attract investment.

The dean of the School of Advanced Technologies, Huynh Ngoc Phien, said IT human resources in Vietnam faced a dilemma.

�€œUniversities and training centres can provide a large number of IT professionals but they lack communication skills in English and those who are good at English don�€™t have IT skills.

�€œIf somebody is fluent in English they need processes to convert an idea to programmers. Sometimes it�€™s hard for that person to explain their wish when they don�€™t have a concrete idea.

�€œThat�€™s why we need programmers with good skills in English so that we can visualise the explanation and somehow convert it,�€� Phien said.

�€œThere are 57 universities, 72 colleges and 56 unofficial centres providing ICT courses, however most of them focus on training in simple IT applications like Winword and Excel and ignore English teaching.�€�

Vietnam needs more ICT training programmes that include English language training, Phien said.

�€œAt this stage, the country tends to focus on key places including Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other regional centres but this needs to be widened, providing training throughout the country.�€�

RMIT library and learning resource director Michael Robinson said it was important that the dilemma be solved as English usage was very strong in the ICT industry worldwide.

�€œI am really concerned at the low level of PC ownership and Internet access.

�€œPerhaps the development of regional training centres to teach public ICT skills could become one of the ways in which people acquire IT skills in tune with the general growth in PC ownership, which should take place in the next 10-15 years,�€� Robinson said.

�€œOnline learning can�€™t take place until there is infrastructure there for people to use.�€� - (14/10/2003)

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