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Vietnamese Man Wants a “Book Revolution” in his Country

Three school children use books borrowed from a library established by philanthropist Nguyen Quang Thach
Three school children use books borrowed from a library established by philanthropist Nguyen Quang Thach

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From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report in Special English.

A Vietnamese man hopes to raise the quality of education in his country by building “parent libraries” in rural schools. Nguyen Quang Thach provides libraries to the schools so books are more available in farming communities. He works with publishers in Hanoi to get the books at reduced rates for teachers and their students.

Mr. Thach says most schools have enough textbooks. But he says many poor families have few books at home and do not visit school libraries. He learned this by talking with farmers, workers and students.

More than 90 percent of Vietnam’s population can read and write. But academic performance in the schools remains low compared to other Southeast Asian nations. Corruption is a big part of the problem. Vietnamese media often have stories about teachers giving high grades in exchange for money.

Some experts criticize teaching methods that depend heavily on dictation. They say asking students to repeat everything a teacher says to the class harms their ability to think for themselves.

Nguyen Quang Thach says he wants people to invest money in books for a better future. To date, almost 1,000 parent libraries have been built in Thai Binh Province. Hundreds of books are in each one. Several other provinces have copied this model.

For each school, Mr. Thach helps build libraries for up to four classes. Other people then follow his example. Parents of school children pay three dollars each for the first year and one dollar in other years.

The head of the AnDuc secondary school, Pham Duc Duong, told reporter Marianne Brown that Mr. Thach’s work has improved the quality of education.

“He says students have been doing better in competitions, especially in social science.”

Duong Le Nga heads the school youth group. She says that after the libraries were built, students started asking teachers more questions. The students also set up debating teams. She thinks Mr. Thach’s example helps student think more creatively -- “outside the box.”

The deputy head of the school, Uong Minh Thanh, says many students there will work in factories. But after seeing the influence of the new libraries, he hopes the children will set high goals for themselves.