Vietnam offers free Marxism courses to draw takers

Associated Press

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Market forces are working against college courses on Marx, Lenin and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, where the Communist government has resorted to offering the classes for free to attract students.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung signed a decree last month giving free tuition to students agreeing to take four-year courses on Marxism-Leninism and the thoughts of Ho Chi Minh, the country's revolutionary hero, at state-run universities.

Students have been shunning such instruction because employers are not interested in it, said Pham Tan Ha, head of admission and training at Ho Chi Minh City Social and Human Sciences University.

Courses like communications, tourism, international relations and English are more popular because students believe "they will have better chances of employment and better pay when they graduate," he said.

Students who study certain medical specialties such as tuberculosis and leprosy also will get a free ride under the decree. Ordinarily they would have to pay the equivalent of about $200 a year for tuition.

Vietnam is run by a Communist regime but embraced free-market reforms in the 1980s. These days, the country's past is mostly apparent in its large and inefficient state-owned sector, a repressive state apparatus, the occasional Soviet-era statue or building and lingering alliances with other leftist countries.

More than 60 percent of Vietnam's 90 million people are under 30, a demographic sweet spot that can lead to fast economic growth in developing countries. But many employees complain about the quality of graduates that Vietnamese universities are producing. There are many private universities alongside the state-run system, but for those with money, studying overseas is considered the best option.

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