Vietnam's Schools Need A Crash Course

In reference to your article "Rising from the ashes" (International Business, May 23), I certainly agree with Peter Engardio's assessment of Vietnam's aging infrastructure and stifling bureaucracy. But he has made an oft-repeated error in describing Vietnam's educational system. Far from being one of Vietnam's greatest assets, it's a serious threat to the country's well-being.

Vietnam's school system was destroyed by long years of communist- style economic strategy that didn't work. The withdrawal of financial support by the U.S.S.R. was a serious blow to an ever-deteriorating infrastructure, and the school system was a predominant victim. Hanoi considers its near-collapse a major concern.

To their credit, political leaders in Hanoi have recognized the seriousness of the problem and are asking for help. The World Bank has just granted loans of up to $72 million for the rebuilding of schools throughout the countryside. The Asian Development Bank has promised an additional $70 million. Furthermore, the Business Alliance for Vietnamese Education is raising $20 million to redesign curriculum and modernize textbooks and teaching materials. These future infusions will be heartily welcomed and taken as a good indication of Vietnam's seriousness in making a play to join that fortuitous group of Asian tigers.

Barbara Stewart


Business Alliance for

Vietnamese Education

New York