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From Nung village to twice achieving Australian Awards

From the initial wish to learn Vietnamese to understand what the border guards were saying, Dr. Hoang Van Chieu – a Nung ethnic minority person tried very hard to receive a Masters scholarship and then a PhD scholarship from the Australian government to study at the Australian National University.

Dr. Hoang Van Chieu is currently Director of the Northeastern Vocational College of Technology, Agriculture and Forestry, a subordinated vocational institute of Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, a vocational college staffed by 170 teachers and enrolling 1,000 students annually, specialising in trainingin agriculture, forestry and rural development related technical programs, located in the border province of Lang Son.

After completing the Master of Forestry in 2004 and a PhD in Environment in 2011 at the Australian National University, Dr. Chieu was determined to return to his hometown to work.

Dr Chieu checking a forest area

Dr Chieu checking a forest area.

Dr. Chieu said: “I am from the Nung ethnic minority and the place where I was born and raised is the remote border area of Cao Lau commune, Cao Loc district, Lang Son province. When I was young, learning conditions in our area were so difficult that I always tried my best to achieve my dream of literacy.”

Despite facing many difficulties in the mountainous border area, Dr. Chieu never gave up his determination to go to school. He had to walk more than 10km along mountain trails everyday from early morning to go to school for secondary school classes. At that time there was no electricity and he had to study at night by oil lamp. However, his family sometimes did not have enough oil for the lamp for him to study. Chieu always tried hard in study so that he could fulfil his wish to be able to contribute to the development of his homeland.

Chieu was one of the very few students in his commune to go to highschool by that time. He went to the national ethnic minority boarding school and then had the opportunity to enter Forestry university in Hanoi.

Studying at the Vietnam Forestry University opened a new world for Chieu. He admired the knowledge that his lecturers shared from studying abroad. He wished one day he would also have a chance to study abroad like his lecturers. He realised the importance of studying English. Being an ethnic minority, studying Vietnamese was hard but studying English was even tougher. Remembering the tough time learning English, Dr. Chieu said: “Seeing people speaking English, I was determined to study English. I bought cassette tapes for to learn by myself, I read again the English books that I had, and wrote down new words on paper so I could memorise them. Each day, the first thing I did when I arrived home was to open the English cassette to listen and only stopped listening when I left the room.”

Thanks to his efforts, Chieu has been successful not only in achieving fluency in both Vietnamese and English but also in opening a new path for himself to the outside world.

Being a dedicated teacher, Dr. Hoang Van Chieu is always concerned how to apply effectively in Vietnam the teaching methods and management techniques he learned in Australia. He explained: “I have applied the knowledge and working methods acquired from Australia in my lectures as well as in the management of my students. I have focused not only on the theory, but also on practical vocational training skills.”

Dr Chieu working with his students in a plant nursery

Dr Chieu working with his students in a plant nursery.

Besides courses at the intermediate and tertiary levels at the College, Dr. Chieu and staff have conducted many additional training courses in line with the Government’spolicy and the college’s approach of supporting the local community. More than 1,000 farmers are trained each year.

In 2014 and 2015, Dr. Chieu participated in a Board of the General Department of Vocational Training to adopt vocational training programs imported from Australia; he was responsible for examining the training program of Bio-technology. His teaching experience in Vietnam, and the knowledge, skills and experience gained fromAustralia has helped him evaluate and develop the College training program in line with Vietnam’s conditions. This has contributed to closing the existing gap with the international training standards.

Lang Son province has many development projects in reforestation and forest management and protection and Dr. Chieu regularly participates as a consultant in these projects.

Dr Chieu managing a tree planting activity

Dr Chieu managing a tree planting activity.

Dr. Chieu regularly goes to remote and mountainouse areas of the mountainous provinces to train farmers in new techniques and advances in agriculture and forestry development, especially introducing new plant breeds and cultivation techniques. He also encourages them to grow multi-purpose trees to increase their income.

Dr. Chieu not only provides advice to farmers on agriculture and forestry development, but as a teacher he also advises students from the mountainous areas to choose a career in line with their ability and the needs of society.