I wrote this card to one of our readers today. The image on the postcard shows Văn Miếu, known to Westerners as The Temple of Literature. The Temple of Literature is a Confucian temple, housing Vietnam’s first national university.
Built nearly 1000 years ago in 1070, the temple served as the Imperial Academy until 1779, educating the nation’s elite. Students would enrol for 3 or 7 years. The students were tested rigorously and for their final exam, the monarch himself would pose the questions that decided if a candidate would graduate. The Imperial Academy was the largest educational centre in the country. We visited it a couple of months ago.
I couldn’t help reflecting on how education in Hanoi has changed in that time. In the last 2 months, Elena and I have been working out how to get out and meet people in Hanoi. Facebook is really useful for connecting with people out here and we decided to set up and run a meetup group called Hanoi in English.
The aim of the meetup group is to get Hanoians together to talk English in informal contexts and practice what they learnt in class. In addition, English speakers can get to meet local Vietnamese people to hang out with. A win-win situation![Side note – Today we became the biggest meetup group in Hanoi with 200 members and counting!]
My new years resolution for 2014 is to learn to program, and recently I’ve become really interested in MOOCs. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course, and there are a lot of them around at the moment, such as EdX and Coursera, which allow people to sign up for university level courses and take them for free. The idea is to level the educational landscape a little, allowing everyone access to the greatest lecturers and the opportunities that learning brings.
I wonder what the founders of Văn Miếu would have made of that idea.
In the past year, I signed up for a load of MOOC courses and didn’t complete most of them, but in 2014 I want to learn a new skill. So I set up the first ever EdX Hanoi meetup and put together a study group for people in Hanoi who want to learn to code. It’s already got 10 members and is looking like it’s going to be a lot of fun!