Meet the Expert – Christopher Runckel, on Education
- An interview in City Pass Guide's #iAMHCMC Gazette in HCMC, Vietnam, by Keely Burkey
As the first US diplomat sent to Vietnam after the American War, Christopher Runckel has developed insights on Vietnamese politics for over 20 years. One of his biggest interests in the region? Education.
How did you get involved with education in Vietnam?
Well, when I came here to establish the diplomatic relationship, I helped establish the embassy in Hanoi and get back all the land the US government had owned.
In 1999, I decided to take early retirement with my wife, and we started a business, Business in Asia (business-in-asia.com), and one of our largest focuses was on Vietnam.
One of our biggest sectors that we always focused on was education, because we believed that there was a real need for it here, and Vietnamese parents value education so much more than most others in Southeast Asia. We’ve done quite a lot of education projects over the last 18 years.
Can you describe some of those projects?
Portland State University established a program with Intel called the Intel Scholars program. Intel sent four cohorts to Portland State to top off their engineering skills. My wife and I were also instrumental in the set-up of Eastern International University (EIU) in Binh Duong.
What we found out in the process was that Vietnamese engineers were just as good as American engineers in hard skills. Where they had challenges was in soft skills.
Skills like meeting as a group together, working as a group together, being assertive, asking questions. Don’t just sit there and listen and don’t say anything.
America has a lot of ties to Vietnam in terms of education. Are there any other countries that have a big impact on education here?
A lot of students go to Australia. UK is very big here as well. Canada is increasing. And unfortunately I’m a little bit [concerned] about Donald Trump and his policy on immigration. All they’re talking about, really, is enforcing the law. I’m in favour of enforcing the law.
But I think there’s misinformation that’s gotten out there, and I think they’ve already shook up a lot of parents.
Do you think there will be less of an urge to go to America to seek an education because of the current political climate?
We’re waiting to see.
Right now, of all the countries that send students to the US, Vietnam is number six. Up from number nine last year, a 12 percent jump. And it’s about 30,000 students now [according to the latest numbers from the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)] . So, there’s a lot of room for growth.
What are some future developments in education you’re aware of in Vietnam?
There’s a lot of development going on. I want to be very fair to Vietnam.
I think if you look at MOET, MOET has done a good job at basic education. If you look at learning to read and write, basic literacy Vietnam has done an excellent job.
If you look at it in terms of pay for teachers and in terms of infrastructure, putting money into better classrooms, better schools, they’re not so good. A lot more could be done.
Current issues are management of higher education: unclear vision, slow in changes and innovation, slow empowerment for universities, corruption and wasted money on trivial projects. One of the things that I think has held them back is, where is the money coming from? There’s not enough money to go around.
And so, what’s happened, a lot of that money has gone into infrastructure, bridges, ports, because they wanted to create jobs. I’m not so sure that that was the best use of money.
It seems like most of the international educational foundations focus on STEM fields. How about humanities education in Vietnam?
Humanities are not properly valued, in my view. Also, I don’t think in Vietnam, the government is not focused enough on producing enough scientists that the society needs.
You have too many people who have marketing or business degrees. So I think there’s a lack of balance with the needed skills, what the economy needs and what’s being produced right now.
Many seem to be going abroad for education. Do any foreign students ever come to Vietnam to study?
Yeah, we are. Actually, it’s interesting.
In Eastern International University (EIU), the whole business program is taught in English. They have a very big English-language training program there, and they have students coming in from Japan, from Korea, from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand because they have more native speakers teaching them than they can get back in Japan.
And I think that’s just incredible. We also see some students coming out here, usually to get cultural training and learn Vietnamese – this is a big area for more US-Vietnam involvement.
Vietnam and The US
EARLY DAYS FOR THE U.S. EMBASSY IN VIETNAM
by Christopher Runckel, the first permanently assigned U.S. diplomat to return to Vietnam after the Vietnam War and President of Runckel & Associates (www.Business-in-Asia.com)
The U.S. Consulate General in HCMC jointly sponsored Conference on Trade and Investment in Binh Duong Province
The U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City and Binh Duong Province jointly sponsored a conference to collectively better publicize opportunities for U.S. business in Binh Duong Province, Vietnam >>> Read more....
Vietnam proving a Great Base for U.S. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)
Frequently if you read about U.S. companies going overseas, the stories you see are about Intel’s one billion dollar plus investment in Vietnam or other stories of large and well known brands and the grand opening of their new factories. >>> Read more....
Vietnam and Thailand
On August 11, 2016, Thailand and Vietnam celebrated the 40th Anniversary of Thai-Vietnam Diplomatic Relations co-sponsored by the Vietnamese Embassy in Thailand. This anniversary event was held at the Central World Complex in Bangkok and was attended by approximately 300 guests. My presentation was titled “Unleashing the Potential of Trade & Investment Between Thailand and Vietnam and Reaping the Benefits from Free Trade Agreements”. In the event I laid out to a mixed audience of Thai and Vietnamese the differences and challenges facing both economies. I noted how the Thai economy was slowing in response to demographic and other challenges after a long run of success and how Vietnam’s economy now offered Thai companies unique opportunities to further expand business that they could no longer achieve by staying solely focused on the Thai market. I also discussed the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the EU-Vietnam FTA (EVFTA) and some of the other 16 free trade agreements involving Vietnam and how they all offered opportunities. >>> Read more....
Vietnam and APEC
Sustainability: A Basic tenet at Vietnam’s Becamex - Published in the APEC 2012 official magazine >>> Read more....
Vietnam's Becamex is Platinum Sponsor at the
APEC 2011 CEO Summit >>> Read more...
APEC official magazine: "The Future: Redefined" Is Happening in Binh Duong Province, Vietnam >>> Read more....
Binh Duong Province
Binh Duong Province - A Decade of Progress >>> Read more.....
Ninh Thuan Province
Ninh Thuan: Opportunities on Vietnam’s South Central Coast
It had been a long time since I was back in the Central Southern Coast where I spent considerable time in 1969-70 during the Vietnam War. Thus when a friend asked me to fly to Cam Ranh Bay to see some potential investment projects in Ninh Thuan, I jumped at the chance. >>> Read more...
Ninh Thuan Announces New Business Push
In late December, 2011, Ninh Thuan hosted the Prime Minister of Vietnam at a conference held December 10 to unveil and publicize the Master Plan for the provinces development to 2020. >>> Read more......
Danang and Quang Nam Province Looking Beyond Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in Vietnam
Increasingly Vietnam is appearing on more and more company’s radar screens as a potential investment site as many companies both look for opportunities in Asia and also re-look at their China investments and supply sources. >>> Read more...
Long An Province
Long An Province: A Growing Option for Factory Relocation >>> Read more...
Executive MBA Trips to Vietnam
Loyola Marymouth University's EMBA Trip to Vietnam - 2014
OTHER TRIPS OF VARIOUS UNIVERSITY'S EMBA GROUPS TO VIETNAM
Runckel & Associates has helped the Executive MBA programs at various Universities to develop and execute a 10-day trip to Asia. The trip is the culmination of the schools Executive MBA program and generally the students graduate shortly after their return to the U.S. or U.K. >>> Read more...
Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Thai-Vietnam Diplomatic Relations
On August 11, 2016, I spoke at the Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Thai-Vietnam Diplomatic Relations co-sponsored by the Vietnamese Embassy in Thailand. >>> Read more...
Warm Hospitality Drives Thai Businesses to Vietnam
Quality of customer experience can make or break any business – and for those that travel to Vietnam to look for investment, it is even more important to Becamex, Vietnam's largest infrastructure and industrial park operator and a large conglomerate business entity headquartered in Binh Duong province, Vietnam. >>> Read more.....
Business Beyond Thai Borders: Opportunities in Vietnam
Thailand's political situation has lately had its problems and increasingly Thai businesses are having to look for business beyond Thai borders. >>> Read more...
Binh Duong Province Continued Its Outreach to Thai Investors in Thailand
Becamex Corp. of Binh Duong province arranged a seminar partnered with The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI); then later on with the Bangkok Bank, at the Landmark Hotel’s function room. Then in the afternoon, a seminar partnered with the EXIM Bank of Thailand at the EXIM Bank’s function room >>> Read more...
New City Taking Shape in South of Vietnam
... Business is a big part of the new city but public amenities and the needs of a well-trained and serviced workforce have not been ignored and have in fact frankly gained a prominent place in the plan. >>> Read more...