Educational philosophy: Whole person, liberal, multicultural education

Decision 04-NQ/ĐU by the USSH’s Party Committee, issued 4 December 2015, for the first time indicates the educational philosophy of the USSH, VNU-HCM: whole person, liberal, multicultural education.

The USSH’s Web Portal has implemented an interview with Prof. Dr. Vo Van Sen, USSH’s Party Committee Secretary cum Rector, regarding the significance of this philosophy.

*Dear Professor, what are the contextual factors for the identification of such an educational philosophy, which is radical to Vietnam’s conventional education since 1975?
Prof. Dr. Vo Van Sen: In practice, we have applied similar notions to our various institutional activities, including training, research, management and administration. However, that philosophy had not been previously officially publicized. This is the first time the USSH under VNU-HCM has officially identified its educational philosophy. 
Since the University was renamed the USSH, generations of our staff and students have made significant contributions to the Country’s renovation and development, especially during the rapid regional and global integration era in terms of politics and economics. It can be challenging to the Country in facing a shortage of high-quality workforce specializing in social sciences. The USSH has provided numerous bachelor, master and PhD degree holders in social sciences. It seems that our alumni have made contributions to every field. 
The USSH’s strategic plan for 2016-2020 period and 2030 vision clarifies that the USSH will be a research-oriented university, one of the Country’s two most prestigious universities in social sciences, and recognized one in Asia. This highlights the significance of the educational philosophy identification, and its application to our every single operation area. It is high time we publicized a radical educational philosophy, and we will accordingly tailor our operation to this philosophy. 

* How is the notion of “whole person education” interpreted at the USSH?
The USSH’s ultimate educational goal is to provide high-quality and “whole person” graduates, instead of focusing on a certain capacity. It is our commitment to equip our graduates with moral, intellectual, physical and aesthetic qualities. These four quality aspects are interrelated and equally significant. Mere emphasis on one of them will result in ineffective education in social sciences. Moral values are the core, intellectual and physical respects serve as means, and aesthetics is the controlling notion. All of our official and extra-curriculum activities, programs, contents and methodology have to comply with the above-mentioned aspects. 

* How about “liberal education”?
The term “liberal education” originated in ancient Egyptian philosophy. During that period, Liberal Arts included only grammar, eloquentia and logic. Other subjects were gradually included such as algebra, geometry and astrology. The coverage has been extended in time, and universities in liberal education are currently very popular worldwide.
The nature of liberal education identified by the USSH has been demonstrated in the world’s liberal education subjects. The focus of the USSH’s education will be on highly synthesized knowledge in order to build students’ self-orientation skills in the context of a multi-information world. We also place emphasis on the balance between general education and specialized education, and between moral and cultural knowledge and in-depth specialization. 
It is our confirmation that while experiencing our liberal education, individual students’ ability will be fully developed, resulting in their comprehensive knowledge, high adaptability to diverse working environments, virtue, and social responsibilities.

*The USSH has been recognized as a multi-cultural environment since it has offered various training programs in languages and cultures. Can you explain the multi-cultural feature here?
The USSH has been long realized as an international university, with students, lecturers and researchers from 73 nations and territories. The average yearly number of our full-time and short-term international students is 3,500. Local students are from 63 cities and provinces, with various religious and ethnic backgrounds, constituting our student population identity. 
The University has established three poles for its multi-cultural training programs: knowledge of Vietnam’s identity, specialization, and adaptability to globalization. 
Knowledge of Vietnam’s identity refers to the modernized methodology for these academic subjects: language, history, culture, politics and philosophy. Individual lecturers and students are knowledgeable about and proud of the Nation’s history and culture.
Concerning students’ specialized knowledge, we will improve teaching quality, update and renovate our training programs to catch up with the world’s trends. Furthermore, we will level our lecturers’ skills and knowledge at that in the ASEAN Community, and invite international lecturers to our Universities for teaching and academic exchange programs. 
Regarding students’ adaptability to globalization, subjects in globalization and international integration will be added to the general education programs. Each lecturer and student has to be fluent in a foreign language, and English is the priority. The existing areas of regional studies will be strongly developed. Our international students and lecturers will be attracted to community and extra-curriculum activities in order to strengthen the University’s multi-cultural aspect. 

* Could you explain how this philosophy will come into practice?
The components of our educational philosophy will be integrated in our strategic plan for 2016-2020 period and 2030 vision, which will be publicized in the first quarter of 2016. We are working hard on this plan.
Thank you for your time, Professor!
Interviewed by Nam Phong 
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