A report, from the Asia Education Foundation’s linking latitudes conference hanoi – Vietnam – 11-16 April, 2004 Ian Gray Somerville House

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A Report, from the Asia Education Foundation’s LINKING LATITUDES CONFERENCE Hanoi – Vietnam – 11-16 April, 2004 Ian Gray Somerville House

  • This ‘report’ also contains images, information and some inquiry questions that teachers may find useful to use with students.

That is, instead of just describing workshops and lectures attended, this is a report, that asks you to occasionally speculate and inquire.

  • This report is also a little interactive…
  • eg skip ‘background to Vietnam War’ and
  • jump straight to first image of the ‘Tourist’ Pathway, OR
    • See what other pathways are available

So … you’ve not chosen the Tourist Pathway… Ok More choices…  Other Pathways Through These Slides

  • ‘Vietnam’ War
  • Vietnam since 1975
  • Education in Vietnam today (including school visits)
  • At the Conference – notes from a few lectures and workshops
  • MAIN PATHWAY = see the lot

Background to the ‘Vietnam War’

  • Vietnam - a place where a war occurred.
  • In 1965 100,000 American troops fought to defend South Vietnam from communist North Vietnam. The north-south divide is a story for another day, but parts of it and the French role in Vietnam appear in this inquiry report.
  • 29 April 1965 PM Menzies announced Australia would have a combat role in the Vietnam War

Background to the ‘Vietnam War’

  • It was feared that like dominoes falling South Vietnam would become communist and then Indonesia, PNG and ..gulp…Australia. It was the era of the Cold War. Australia continued to increase its troop commitment.
  • In 1966 and again in 1969 the majority of Australians voted to support the Liberal-National Party’s policy of keeping Australian troops in Vietnam.
  • By 1968 a half a million American soldiers, sailors and airmen were involved.

Dominoe Theory

  • Source: Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday, 24 November 1966, p. 5

Background to the ‘Vietnam War’

  • By 1970 many Australians had joined anti-war demonstrations.
  • By December 1971 Australian combat troops had left Vietnam, and in December 1972 PM Whitlam announced all remaining training teams would be withdrawn and conscription abolished.
  • In January 1973 a cease-fire was negotiated - American ground troops were withdrawn but naval and air force units remained.
  • May 1975 pro-communist forces swept the South Vietnamese government from power. The last film footage out of Vietnam showed American helicopters evacuating their supporters from the roof of the American Embassy.

Background to the ‘Vietnam War’

  • In 1975 a new united communist Vietnam began
  • In April 2004 Vietnam continued to be a communist country.
  •  This background raises some KEY QUESTIONS:
  • Why did the USA and Australia become involved in what we call the Vietnam war and the Vietnamese call the American war?
  • What long term impact did the 1965-1975 ‘Vietnam war’ have on Vietnam?
  • Who was Ho Chi Minh?
  • Who are ‘the Vietnamese’?
  • What is Vietnam’s current trade relationship with Australia?

Key Questions

  • Traditionally in Australian History classrooms teachers have begun with the first question:
  • Why did the USA and Australia become involved in what we call the Vietnam war?
  • However to more fully understand the war and the future in Vietnam it may be more appropriate to begin with:
  • Who are ‘the Vietnamese’?
    • Geographically
    • Ethnically
    • In terms of their EDUCATION
    • As seen through a case study of Hanoi in April 2004
    •  Yes OR
  • No..continue with traditional Vietnam War story

Who are ‘the Vietnamese’ – Geographically?

  • Can you locate Vietnam on a blank map of the world?
  • How many cities in Vietnam can you name?
  • Many Vietnamese Australians will find these questions too easy.
  • After 1975 many Vietnamese who had supported the USA in Vietnam fled the country when the USA was defeated. Australia welcomed these refugees who had fought on ‘our’ side during the war.

Who are ‘the Vietnamese’ – Geographically?

  • http://www.vietnamair.com.vn/

All thinking tourists need a map and a little background information: Who are ‘the Vietnamese’ – Geographically?

  • Vietnam shares borders with China, Laos and Cambodia.
  • Myanmar,(Burma), Thailand and Malaysia are not far away.
  • The capital of Vietnam is Hanoi.
  • Hanoi is an 8 hour flight from Brisbane.
  • http://www.vietnamtourism.com/e_pages/vietnam/introduction/general/vig.frm.htm

According to the 2004 Lonely Planet Guide – which every second tourist in Vietnam seems to have:

  • Full country name: Socialist Republic of Vietnam Area: 329,566 sq km - about the size of Victoria
  • Population: 81.62 million
  • Capital City: Hanoi (pop 3.5 million)
  • People: 84% ethnic Vietnamese, 2% ethnic Chinese, also Khmers, Chams (a remnant of the once-great Indianised Champa Kingdom) and members of over 50 ethnolinguistic groups (also known as Montagnards, 'highlanders' in French)
  • Language: Vietnamese, Russian, French, Chinese, English
  • Religion: Buddhism is the principal religion but there are also sizeable Taoist, Confucian, Hoa Hao, Caodaists, Muslim and Christian minorities
  • Government: Communist state Head of State: (2004)President Tran Duc Luong Head of Government: (2004)Prime Minister Phan Van Khai Ref:http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/south_east_asia/vietnam/
  • Click to keep going OR  continue Vietnam since 1975

Who are the Vietnamese?

  • Very good motorcyclists! Crossing the street was an adventure, but the bikes usually don’t exceed about 35kph and they go around you as you cross the street.
  •  There are at least 3.5 million people in Hanoi… what must it have been like when the bombs fell during the American war?

This is the view from my 11th Floor Hotel window

Who are the Vietnamese?

  • “During the US bombardments of North Vietnam from March 1965 to October 1968 the authorities evacuated 75 % of Hanoi's population. After the end of the bombardments the city again grew rapidly. Today the population of Hanoi is more than 3 million.”
  • http://www.hanoitravel.com/


  • Motorcyclists! Crossing the street is an adventure but don’t be there in rush hour or the pollution will affect you. Motorcyclists don’t wear helmets but do wear scarves, masks around their mouths.
  • People sit on little stools everywhere and evening meals are often in the street
  • People rather than trucks often transport goods.

Hanoi – buy your fruit on the street

  • Note mask.

Hanoi – carrying baskets

  • What are the advantages of using these?
  • What do you use instead?

Hanoi – tourists do stand out

  • But then so do the low hanging electrical wires in the streets
  • How might the people of Hanoi have coped with war time black-outs?
  • Click to keep going OR  continue Vietnam since 1975

And there would have been blackouts?

  • Taken outside the military museum – plaque reads:
  • “USA bombs used during the war in Vietnam”

Helmets of captured American pilots

  • Are the Vietnamese proud of their military achievements?
  • Yes… and the display of these helmets in a military museum alone reveals this, but 60% of the population has been born since the war.

Vietnam’s population is youthful – not ageing

  • Young Vietnamese learn of the achievements of their parents

Many of those achievements are amazing

  • How does a poor, non-industrialised society wage a successful war against international superpowers like the French (defeated in 1954) and the Americans (defeated 1975)?
  • Even if their army was large it was poorly equipped and it needed to be fed. Just getting food to the troops must have been difficult.

Many of those achievements are amazing

  • How do you think they did it??
  • What weapons did they use?
  • Without much mechanised equipment or helicopters, how did they overcome the supply line problem, and get food and equipment to the troops?
  • Think about it before going to the next slide.

Many of those achievements are amazing

  • The bicycle was often the answer.
  • Long range guns were dismantled and carried on bicycles or backs through almost impassable mountain tracks.

Many of those achievements are amazing

  • Young women assisted the war effort and their contributions continue to be celebrated as this photo in the Hanoi Military Museum indicates

Simple but effective weapons and traps

  • Stand in the booby trap and your leg would be trapped by fish-hook type barbs
  •  Go to next ‘tourist photo’

The Viet-Cong dug tunnels – a 1967 photograph from USA National Archives http://www.archives.gov/digital_classroom/lessons/vietnam_photographs/vietnam_photos.html

There were also Russian made MIG fighter planes

And tanks

Tank Plaque

  • T54Tank
  • One of the tanks of the 263rd armoured brigade which led the infiltration troop unit of the 2nd corps that seized the Saigon Presidential Palace on April 30th, 1975

But today how much does the average 15 year old in Australia know about the war?

  • How many think that the USA won the war??
  • If these misconceptions are about – why might these misconceptions have occurred?
  • USA Cavalrymen use helicopters for evacuation of wounded
  • http://www.vietnampix.com/fire5g.htm and this is NOT from a movie

Perhaps it was assumed that helicopters against bicycles was not a fair fight and that the USA had to win…??

  • Perhaps it was assumed that helicopters against bicycles was not a fair fight and that the USA had to win…??

April 1975 Helicopters evacuate the USA Embassy

  • http://www.digitaljournalist.org/issue0005/images/7-4.jpg
  • I remembered this image from 1975 – the young Vietnamese soldiers did not.

Vietnamese desperate to enter the USA Embassy Saigon on April 29-30 1975 A USA Marines website: http://www.fallofsaigon.org/frmain.htm

Soon after April 1975 Saigon became…

  • Ho-Chi-Minh City
  • Very quickly the new communist government changed the name of Saigon.
  • Today locals and trendy tourists call it HCMC


  • Outside the Military Museum in Hanoi Coca-Cola is on sale.
  • There was no sense of animosity towards Australians, or Americans for that matter. (Listen to the former Australian Ambassador for one explanation of why this is so.)
  • In victory the Vietnamese are changing attitudes faster than we did after our victory over Japan in 1945 – and we changed the Japanese government.
  • Click to keep going OR  continue with Vietnam Since 1975

Ho Chi Minh

  • Clearly the leader who had defeated the USA would be honoured, but Ho Chi Minh did not live to see victory.
  • He died in 1969. That’s him on the wall of the staff room at Tran Phu High School in April 2004.
  • Continue with school visit OR
  • Learn about Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh

  • Born in central Vietnam to a Mandarin family
  • 1917 he was in Paris and in early 20s visited China and Russia
  • He was an educated man, fiercely nationalistic but also influenced by Marxism
  • He adapted Marxism to Vietnamese circumstances, eg unlike Lenin and Mao he did not enforce the aethieism of Marxism and many Catholic churches as well as Confucian shrines and Buddhist temples continued to exist under his leadership.
  • In the 1940s the Japanese refused to allow the Vietnamese to grow rice because they wanted jute grown. Jute was used to make sand bags. Millions starved. Ho led the resistance.
  • In August 1945 as the Japanese were being defeated the ‘August revolution’ occurred as Vietnamese in several areas seized control.
  • On 2 September 1945 Ho proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, but under the Potsdam Agreement the French were allowed to return to Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh

  • Ho staged guerilla war against the French
  • The battle of Dien-Bien-Phu in 1954 was incredible.
  • Dien-Bien-Phu was a French fortress stretching some kilometres.
  • The Vietnamese soldiers tug tunnels into it and used bicycles to carry artillery
  • Organised by General Giap they were invincible, the French surrendered and said they would take one year to fully withdraw. During this time the country was temporarily divided and many Catholics who had often supported the French headed south.
  • Under an international agreement (Geneva Agreement), there was to be a national election in 1956 but it was never held. The USA feared Ho and the Communists would be elected.

Ho Chi Minh

  • In Vietnam several people reminded me that Ho could have lived in this ‘Presidential Palace’ built by the French for their Governor in 1902.

Instead Ho had this modest, but beautifully timbered ‘stilt’ house built nearby

  • – very Queensland
  • - Why might he have done this?

Ho Chi Minh

  • If elections had been held in 1954 he may very well have been elected. Today he continues to be celebrated.
  • His body is preserved in this mausoleum (against his wishes to be cremated).

Some museum representations of Ho’s contributions seemed quite strange

  • This is from the post-modern Ho-Chi Minh museum, which also included very large representations of fruit.
  •  Continue with Uncle Ho or first find out a little about the ethnic diversity of Vietnam that he helped to unify OR straight on 

Vietnamese are close to the soil

  • WHILE INDUSTRIAL ESTATES ARE SPRINGING UP EVERYWHERE most people in North Vietnam are still farmers

ETHNIC MINORITIES Museum of Ethnology

  • Main ethnic group = kin or Viet
  • Khmer = 1mill /80 mill and live in South
  • Australian bridge in Mekong area greatly appreciated but in some places roads are not used
  • Khmer lack knowledge of Viet language, market economy and consumer demand + schools are fewer in this area

Ede House: Vietnam Museum of Ethnology - Hanoi

  • The Museum of Ethnology is a fascinating place where you can climb in and out of traditional houses. The academic who lobbied for it and organised its building was doing so in 1968. In the middle of the American war he was trying to ensure the preservation of traditional Vietnamese cultures.
  • This Ede Long House, is of a style that has begun to disappear rapidly since the 1980s. It housed communal families from the Central Highlands. The family name was always that of the mother. Property decisions were made by the most senior female. After marriage a son resided in his wife’s house. The smoke from the fires inside was a little suffocating.

Bahnar communal House Vietnam Museum of Ethnology - Hanoi

  • Central Highlands
  • Until recently built only for men but now women visit on special occasions
  • Built high so you could find it in the jungle said a guide…hmmm…oh and as a symbol of power… now that I can believe. (That’s high-rise everywhere isn’t it?)

Tay communal House Vietnam Museum of Ethnology - Hanoi

  • Not sure where this one was from but again the smoke inside was a health hazard!
  • Floors in many of these houses were made of cane
  • This one reminded me very much of a Queenslander

“Uncle Ho” unified these people

  • Between 1860 and 1890 the French established colonial administration of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
  • Many sporadic uprisings occurred against their rule in Vietnam but none were unified on a national basis.
  • In May 1941, while under Japanese occupation, Ho persuaded several nationalist groups to form the Viet Minh – which aimed to free Vietnam from Japanese and French control.
  • And as you’ve already seen in 1954 he succeeded for a time…before the USA arrived.
  • The History of Vietnam has been one of successive invasions, from the Chinese, the French and the Americans
  • Vietnam War pathway ends here.
  • So how do students today feel about all these invasions and past enemies?  next slide

School Visits

  • Along with other teachers attending the Linking Latitudes Conference I got to meet with the Principal and Deputy Principal and observe some classrooms.

Tran Phu High school

  • The Deputy Principal was also the Chair of the local branch of the Communist Party and we were told this was common.
  • The Principal told us:
  • English is the only LOTE, though previously Chinese, Russian and French had been available
  • 30% of this school’s students enter university
  • Curriculum emphasises Science and Environmental protection
  • Australian History is not studied but students do know a little about Australian Geography
  • Economics is not studied until University
  • Teaching Qualifications = 4 years after Year 12 graduation (and he apologises for this not being a high standard)
  • Rich people and some foreign governments give scholarships to ‘gifted’ students (and students were keen to hear if our schools offered any.)

Tran Phu High school

  • Parents pay about $3 per month for children to attend this State School
  • Teacher income: about $100USA per month
  • School Day: Mon-Sat 7.15- 11.45, then 12.30 – 5pm. Students only work one shift but younger teachers work both
  • Class Size: about 40-50 and Deputy reminds us that it would be higher were it not for good work of government
  • TV Interview
  • I was asked:
  • What will you tell people about this school and Vietnam? (I emphasised friendliness)
  • Why are you here? (learn about Vietnamese culture and history)

Vietnamese students are very Australian

  • Despite the appearance of Ho and desks in straight lines, students had a relaxed friendly relationship with their teacher and an Australian-like sense of humour. To boy: “What do you want to be?”
  • ANS: David Beckham
  • And when a girl was then asked she replied, with a giggle: “Victoria Beckham.”

One student gave me her exercise book as a memento

  • Australian educators are very respected
  • TV crews followed us
  • Students seemed a bit obsessed with becoming Western but one girl I spoke to assured me they did not want to lose their Vietnamese culture
  • She was the one who gave me her exercise book as a memento
  • Students I met were not wealthy but most had access to a computer and via the cafes to the Internet
  •  continue Vietnam since 1975

Critical Thinking is just beginning

  • The new Geography Syllabus requires the use of maps.
  • Professor Nguyen Viet Thinh, Dean of Faculty of education at Hanoi University described how the 1990 curriculum was intended to last 10 years.
  • Geography must be taught but only 6 exams occur each year and only in March is it revealed if Geog will be part of the national test in May.
  • Click to continue with Geog curriculum OR  continue with ‘Tourist Slides”

Geography Curriculum

  • One hour pw or 35 hours per year through most Year levels but by Year 10 it seems completion of English to a satisfactory standard is a prerequisite to continue study in Geog or History.
  • National curriculum, that schools can only slightly adapt, tends to emphasise scientific approach to rotation of planets, capes, rivers, oceans and geography of continents and problem solving is still a new approach.
  • P.S.For some Australian educational material on the Mekong delta see
  • http://www.mekong.es.usyd.edu.au/

At the Conference

  • The Conference attracted over 350 educators from around Australia and made the news in Hanoi
  • We were addressed by a large number of speakers including the Australian Ambassador and the Senior Australian Trade Commissioner as well as the current Vice-Chancellor of RMIT University – the only international university permitted spoke to establish in Vietnam.
  • A common theme was the importance of education within Vietnamese culture

At the Conference Joe Thwaites Australian Ambassador to Vietnam:

  • 1991 Australian bi-lateral aid resumed after Viet troops left Cambodia
  • Viet President has visited in 93 and 99, Aust PM visited in 94 and Foreign Minister Downer has visited 7 times
  • Vietnam now the 3rd largest destination for Australian aid after PNG and Indonesia
  • A former Melb Uni student is now Viet Min for Trade
  • Trade balance is in Vietnam’s favour by $2.3b b/c we buy Viet oil
  • Aust is 4th largest investor in Viet
  • Viet has applied to enter WTO in 2005 & Aust supports this
  • Viet govt is encouraging o/s Vietnamese to return and become involved in eco dev
  • Return to the Military Museum where Coca-Cola is on sale

At the Conference Michael Mann former Ambassador, CEO ABC TV etc now VC RMIT International

  • Teacher’s day – late November is a big event in Vietnam – the PM of Vietnam on that day takes flowers to his primary school teacher
  • Forgiveness – anecdote – man he knows, born 1949 had a brother who left to fight for the revolution in early 1960s. In 1966 this man came home and his parents were disembowelled in front of him  he fought for the VC but says it was 2 years before he heard of the idea of communism. He was wounded, but by 1995 becomes a Govt leader, his sister lives in USA and he sent his sons to USA to complete MBAs.
  • Vietnam has a history of repelling invaders eg 13th century Mongols who had successfully invaded many countries failed to invade Vietnam

At the Conference Michael Mann former Ambassador, CEO ABC TV etc now VC RMIT International

  • 1979-80 = last invasion, by Chinese  Chinese Ambassador said China could not hope to have as good relations with Vietnam as Australia has. Vietnam’s relations with big powers, China, France, USA have never been good but with middle powers like Australia they are fine.
  • Rapid change – 1984 no Hotels in Hanoi, students read texts in street because there was no street light and there was not enough rice.
  • Education today peasants will go without food to educate their children

At the Conference Tim Gauci Senior Trade Commissioner, Australian Trade Commission

  • GDP growing at 7% pa – 2nd fastest in world after China but rich are getting richer and poor poorer in rural areas. Hanoi labourer earns $20 US per month.
  • Trade imbalance because we import oil but also b/c metals, cereals, dairy are not in increasing demand – esp b/c of:
    • appreciation of $A
    • ASEAN Free Trade Agreement b/c Australia can’t compete with Singapore, Malaysia etc
  • Viet does not discriminate against Aust when a large % of our exports are from Japanese subsiduaries b/c if the export licence is an Aust’n one that is all they care about
  • = end Vietnam Since 1975
  •  continue OR
  • return to other possible pathways

At the Conference Temple of Literature – Vietnam’s first university in 1076

  • Students sat on the turtles and rote learnt Confucian scripts from the walls. Last Confucian exam was in 1907.

At the Conference Temple of Literature – Vietnam’s first university in 1076; (first Doctorate in 1442)

  • Site is being restored
  • …and American Express is helping to fund it, (Caption reads: “Ministry of Culture and Information with support from American Express Foundation – assisted US-Indo-China Reconciliation Project 1994)
  • Chinese rule 179BC – 138AD
  • 3 major life ceremonies in Vietnam:
    • Wearing your first hat
    • Going to school
    • Getting married

At the Conference Vietnam Minister of Education

  • Retention rate = 46% in upper secondary, not yet up to ASEAN averages, but female literacy is highest in region
  • Plan for 2015 targets quality of education
  • 25 000 Viet students studying overseas and largest % in Aust.
  • = End Education pathway

One Party State

  • In the final analysis Vietnam remains a one-party, undemocratic State
  • But it is much more than that.
  •  (Tourist slides end here … student review questions continue.)

Can you answer the key questions?

  • These were introduced earlier as:
  • Why did the USA and Australia become involved in what we call the Vietnam war and the Vietnamese call the American war?
  • What long term impact did the 1965-1975 ‘Vietnam war’ have on Vietnam?
  • Who was Ho Chi Minh?
  • Who are ‘the Vietnamese’?
    • Geographically
    • Ethnically
    • In terms of their EDUCATION
    • As seen through a case study of Hanoi in April 2004
  • What is Vietnam’s current trade relationship with Australia?
  •  What about a time-line? How many dates from Vietnamese History can you recall?


  • Access Asia - http://www.curriculum.edu.au/accessasia/
  • Wonderful links and web-based activities - http://www.bssc.edu.au/public/learning_teaching/pd/aef/vietnam.shtml
  • http://www.mekong.es.usyd.edu.au/
  • Trinity College in Western Australia offer a wide-ranging portal into material relevant to the Vietnam War: http://library.trinity.wa.edu.au/subjects/sose/austhist/vietnam.htm
  • Young People, Old Country: Lower Secondary (Years 7-9), http://www.curriculum.edu.au/accessasia/
    • units have also been written to encourage the development of skills
    •  Unit 1: students explore the history of Vietnam and how the past affects the present. 
    • Unit 2 Should the Mekong be Dammed?
      • analysing a variety of views on the use of resources;
      • predicting the consequences of implementing particular plans.
    • Unit 3 Casuarinas and Sand Dunes - A Case Study in Sustainable Development
      • Students explore and evaluate ways of reclaiming and regenerating an area in Vietnam. Involves explaining the consequences of modifying places; predicting the consequences of implementing particular policies; analysing links among resource use, economic growth and ecological sustainability.
    • Unit 4 Vietnam - A Nation in Change
      • Students explore the impact of changes in contemporary Vietnam - economic, social and political. Involves describing how culture, belief systems and social organisation contribute to the identity of Vietnamese people; describing features of the economic and political systems; analysing the impact of change on society and individuals.

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