Uniterra speaks with Ms. Chi Ngo, Head of the English Department at Saigontourist Hospitality College in Ho Chi Minh City
By Madeline Lines
You can’t get far around the STHC campus without hearing the quick click-click of Ms. Chi Ngo’s signature high heels, or the cheerful sweep of her fast-paced banter with students, faculty, and volunteers. The Head of the English department’s energetic and optimistic attitude sets the tone for a future of enthusiastic English speaking hospitality students.
Uniterra caught Ms. Chi in a moment of stillness to discuss her experience as a teacher, and her vision for the future of Vietnam.
Ms. Chi recalls wanting to be a teacher since the age of four. She says she fell in love with the atmosphere of learning at a young age. Growing up in a household of teachers, she wanted to continue her family’s legacy. Her teaching style balances playfulness with professionalism. Jokes are about as common as class participation, a difficult achievement in a foreign language class where students may fear shouting out a mispronounced or incomplete answer.
“I think it’s really important to create an environment where the students can speak and enjoy English and so they think it’s fun,” she said. “They should see that it’s not only useful to earn money later, but it is a tool that they can use in order to understand people and learn the cultures of other countries.” Dynamic classes like Ms. Chi’s are inspiring a new generation of service industry leaders to proudly promote Vietnam’s unique culture.
Uniterra works with vocational schools like STHC to transform the budding tourism industry in Vietnam to be more inclusive for youth. “Being open minded, being friendly to strangers, to speak in another language that’s not our mother tongue — this is how young people start on a new road,” she said.
Stigma associated with alternative secondary education is a barrier to fulfilling this image of a new, modern Vietnam. “In Vietnam, parents generally want to send their children to university. They don’t want to send their children to colleges, or even our school here, with our good reputation. They want to have the highest position in society, with a Master’s degree, for example. Instead of learning something to do a specific job, or to serve people,” said Ms. Chi.
This struggle motivates the leaders at STHC. The school’s perspective on the role of the tourism and hospitality industry in society places an emphasis on taking pride in the simple act of taking care of others.
“In hospitality, we serve people. And that’s why you see the slogan at the entrance to the school, ‘We are ladies and gentlemen, serving ladies and gentlemen.’ We learn good values for life and for our careers in hospitality,” said Ms. Chi. She sees the tourism industry as a path to bridge cultural gaps and promote a greater mutual understanding between different countries.
Progress comes gradually, but the teachers and leaders at STHC and other Uniterra partners work hard to break down the stigma surrounding practical education. Degree programs at STHC are intensive two-year endeavours, where classes focus on the development of practical, hands-on skills. This translates to a more experienced workforce that can bridge the country’s current skills-gap.
“The value of sharing culture is that it helps people to understand each other. This is a good way to think about achieving understanding, peace, and respect for diversity. I would like to welcome people to Vietnam and share my vision of Vietnam.”