Vietnam has been great so far. Staying and working with VPV has provided a lot of opportunities for learning. Being away from home, on the other side of the world provides an insight into how much we need to change to progress together as a global society. This is something detailed in the sustainable development goals. 17 goals agreed upon by over 190 world leaders, which if we achieve, will make the world a better place for all. My experience volunteering in Vietnam has allowed me to learn more about, and engage with SDG 4 – quality education.

The education systems in Ireland and Vietnam are somewhat comparable. They are both considered to be of high quality overall and both rely on a similar system of progression through the education system.

From my experience volunteering abroad, one of the things I’m reminded of from home is how easy it is to be afraid of being wrong. In the project students can be very nervous and unwilling to take part in class when it involves being the focus of attention. I’ve realised that this is the important thing to work on in classes. There’s only so much English you can teach in two months but if I can help some of the students to be more confident – to at least be a little less afraid of being wrong – it’ll do a lot more good for their level of English in the long run than any amount of vocabulary I could teach them. Similar to students back home, like all of us at some stage, being wrong is a worry, for language students particularly. It holds you back and weighs you down. It makes it that little bit harder to take part in class, to put your hand up and answer that question. The emphasis is put on ‘not being wrong’ rather than ‘being right’. This is why teachers should try create an environment that is as friendly as possible, one where it is ok to be wrong. SDG 4 – quality education, requires learning environments where we acknowledge that being wrong is part of learning.

Similarly, I came across this idea while talking to another one of the volunteers in the VPV house, Candie. Candie is a native French teacher living in the US. When we were talking about education she remarked that ‘the French is incidental’. It really stuck with me as it captured the importance the ‘other’ stuff you learn in school. The various characteristics and virtues that we hope to instil in students through the school system. The subject itself is often not the most important thing being taught. In this case, I think that this is true. The most important thing that I can try to get across is that its ok to be wrong. We should be instilling in our young people a love of learning, an eagerness to engage in education and not a fear of mistakes. The rest should come more easily after that.

About the Author:

Name: Daire Hennessy
Age: Over 18
Applied for: Global Awareness Programme Award
Explored: Vietnam