Vietnam’s Brainy Children Surprise Google

The online global technology site The Next Web tells of a Google software engineer who found many Vietnamese 11th graders could easily pass Google’s notoriously difficult interview test.  The discovery speaks volumes about Vietnam’s future.

The engineer, Neil Fraser, visited classrooms from grade 2 to 11 to learn about Vietnam’s computer science curriculum.  He found that 3rd graders knew how to use Windows and Microsoft Word in English.  And 4th and 5th graders were doing complicated computer programming — far outstripping the skill level and curriculum offered in the US.

3rd grade English-speakers in Vinh City
3rd grade English-speakers in Vinh City

In grade 11, Fraser gave students a sophisticated challenge and then asked a colleague at Google how they did — and found they would be in the top third of Google’s job candidates.  Fraser concluded about half of the students in the class could pass the Google process.

This discovery should shock anybody who has heard about the supposedly dismal condition of Vietnam’s education system.  Overall, there’s no doubt the country faces a major challenge modernizing its education system, but the other half of the story rarely has been told.

Vietnam has a centuries-old respect for education, which has been confirmed in my visits to schools throughout the country.  Parents value teachers and sacrifice mightily to help their children learn.  Third graders learn English.  They are disciplined.  And the typical grade school in remote areas of Vietnam has a computer lab with about 30 work stations and Internet access.  The photos on this page are from my visits last fall to classrooms in the northern provinces of Nghe An and remote Ha Tinh.

Google engineer Neil Fraser’s discovery is no surprise to anyone who has experience with today’s  Vietnamese children.  Over the next generation, the rest of the world will be exposed to their potential.

Grade school computer classroom in Vinh

Grade school computer classroom in Vinh

A high school English class in Ha Tinh Province

A high school English class in Ha Tinh Province

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