Who are our students?

We got our questionnaires back. Here are the highlights. Take into consideration that there was translation from the English into Vietnamese and then back into English. Mai translated and put it all into an Excel sheet.

Out of 65 students in my class there are 20 young men.

The biggest group, 12, is from here in Ho Chi Minh City. The next biggest groups, 4 or 5, come from Lang Am, Quaang Ngai, Dak Lat, Am Gian and Dang Nai. One or two students came from 17 other cities, with one from Guangdong, China.

One third, or 22, say their parents are farmers. I assume this means that they are people who live primarily from farming, and I think it’s subsistence farming, including growing enough rice to eat. Maybe they grow coffee. This number is a little fuzzy because several students didn’t list their parent’s jobs.

Nine students say their parents are workers. “Employees” is different – five say their parents are employees. We think that means white-collar workers.

All the students who say they are from Ho Chi Minh City say their parents are workers, teachers, employees, and business people. There is one government worker and one in the Army.

Some of the students from other cities – Hai Phong, Dak Lat, Kien Gang – say their parents are in business. But mostly, if there is only one student from a place, that student’s family is farmers.

Two thirds of them (over 40) have never worked. For those who worked in the past, the big job is wait staff: five waitresses and three waiters. They have worked at family restaurants, coffee shops, and KFC, which has many stores here. One worked at Lotte Mart, two worked in fashion shops, one was a “Product Promotion Boy.” Two worked in childcare. One helped her parents plant coffee, one was a handyman and one is a self-employed graphic designer who gets paid “sometimes.”

Right now, twenty one of them are working while going to school. These are all part-time jobs. There is a freelancer, a handyman, someone who works on line, one who works “in the HR room”, one at KFC, two selling coffee, a tutor, a model for a modeling company and someone who works for “an education company.” The others supply actual company names: a food company named An Nam, UMA Furniture, the Von Tron Do Company, Dau Tay Company, Vietopia, Broken Rice (a restaurant chain), a receptionist at World Gym, and one still working as a “promotion boy.”

As far as I can tell, there are no provisions made for being a part-time student.

Of the 21 students who are working, 16 are young women, 5 are young men. Two list their parents as “tutors”, one lists his parents are “labor,” and all the rest of the students who are working list their parents either as “farmers” (11) or “workers” (4). Three didn’t list their parents’ jobs.

None have been in a union or are aware of having been in a union, except for one young woman who is “staff in a Japan shop.”

Vinh in my classroom

students working in groups; Vinh on the left

They are in the Labor Relations and Trade Unions program because they are generally interested, it’s a new program, and they want to protect labor rights and work “in the HR room,” which probably means office. They are taking this class because it’s required – oh, they also want to learn to think like leaders. What do they want from me? They love my voice (1), want to learn English (several) want to learn about the US labor experience (quite a few) and hope that the next class will be more interesting and funny.

So do I.

Published by helenaworthen

Labor educator, retired from University of Illinois, taught at TDT University in Ho Chi Minh City in the Faculty of Trade Unions and Labor Relations. Co-author with Joe Berry of Power Despite Precarity: Strategies for the contingent faculty movement in higher education, forthcoming (August 2021) from Pluto Press.

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