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Higher Education and Our Hectic World

Siniša Prvanov | Viet Nam


Supported by ADS Vietnam Design Institute, I went to Ho Chi Minh City in June 2014 for one year, to work as Academic Director and Interior Design Lecturer, a group under the aegis of the Ministry of Education and Vietnam Design Association (VDAS) as the leading Design education think tank in Vietnam. It is staffed with 441 researchers, staff developers and administrative personnel.

Vietnam is currently engaged in school reform, from classroom practice to national standards and assessments. Education in Vietnam, unlike the Europe, is highly centralized with a long Confucian tradition of teachers lecturing and students learning primarily from the teacher. Education leadership in the country understands the need for comprehensive education reform, and the 2015 Plan currently in development aims to improve curriculum and teaching in the nation’s schools. This includes more learner-centered pedagogies, critical thinking, and differentiated curricula. Incidentally, climate change and sustainable design are the central focus of the Ministry of Education and Technology. It appears that Vietnam education (like in most countries of the world) is significantly further along than European schools in teaching sustainable design.

The heart of my work was a series of presentations on Interior Design and Principles, learning theories, active learning and learning styles. The topics were focus is K-20 education with an orienting principle of learner-centered curriculum and teaching.

Reflecting on my 18 month in Vietnam, clearly…it was the work and the relationships with the people that were most memorable. I have been working in Universities and curriculum for nearly a quarter century, so I was prepared for most questions and problems related to higher education. Not surprisingly, the participants at my sessions asked insightful questions and challenged my thinking with great indirectness, aplomb and warmth. My hosts are well read in their particular areas of research, and most of them are experienced as Interior Design. After showing a video of the ‘project approach’ in action in some European classrooms that appeared to have no more than 20 students, a skeptical researcher asked, ‘But how would this work in classrooms of 40-50 students?’ which is the average class size in Ho Chi Minh City, and 50-60 students in rural schools. I told her that there are no ‘answers’ to the question but only guidelines and hypotheses for what might work.

I am appreciative of the ADS Vietnam Design Institute and (VDAS) for their support of this work. The ADS and our College of Education now are exploring a ‘memorandum of understanding’, which will lead the way to continued collaboration and sharing of knowledge by our respective lecturers and researchers. I look forward to this important opportunity for international cooperation.

Siniša Prvanov

Lecturer in Interior Architecture and Design

Bilkent University
6800 Bilkent, Ankara, Turkey
Office: FF 511A
Tel: (+90) 312 290 1732


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