KHAU HUU PHUOC firstname.lastname@example.org
It is human psychology that the older one is and the more one has witnessed, the more cautious one is in a new situation and naturally the higher the fear one has.
The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has recently sparked such a nightmare in the minds of most people around Asia and beyond the continent. These days, people, save children, will wake up in the morning, turn on the TV, and swipe open the smart phone in search of news of the development of the epidemic. People go to work. What do they talk about at work, during tea break, lunch time? As is expected, COVID-19.
A child is born without much of the knowledge adults have, with no experience of mishaps that adults have gone through, and thus is unaware of what consequences may come in an event. Adults are not just “older and bigger” children. They have different mindsets. They each have a stock of cause-effect sequences, one leading to the next, which in turn results in another, as if there is a chain connecting all together to finally bring a disastrious ending.
It is natural that such an “informed” fear triggers a chain of reactions. Seeing scenes of locked-down zones in disease-stricken countries, where all movement is restricted, where people are advised or obliged to stay indoors, and where a trip to the supermarket is banned, people in other places and countries flock to supermarkets to hoard supplies of food, and necessities, not even sparing toilet paper in anticipation of the worst to come. Adults are quick to learn from their past experience that something horrendous is coming. They envision all sorts of life-threatening factors and come to the conclusion that the world may come to an end.
Such shopping sprees can be seen on the media, depicting Hongkong, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and even as far away from the original epicenter Wuhan as California in the US.
Such a scene was seen in Hanoi, Vietnam on the night of March 2 2020. But it was gone as quickly as it came. What happened then?
On the evening of March 7, the Government and media gave news of a Vietnamese returning from a trip to Italy, England and France. She showed signs of the sickness and was soon tested for the suspected disease. The result was positive.
As soon as people heard the news, they did what people in other countries had done: rush to the supermarket and begin collecting things for future use. A panicking experience was about to explode.
The next day, things returned to normal, except that streets were quieter, with fewer people moving around. Had there been any media announcement that the information was wrong? Had the Government declared that the patient had flu, not the dreaded sister of it? No. There were even more confirmed cases announced, but what made this magic shift in attitude of the people and their behaviour was they had learned and understood that the disease was not as terrible as they had thought, as long as they knew how to protect themselves. The Government had done a wonderful job of adult education.
TV programmes showed the deputy Prime Minister chairing a meeting, during which he expressed the nation’s resolution to fight the potential epidemic, quoting the Prime Minister saying “We must fight the disease as we have fought an enemy”. He ordered the Ministry of Health to set up a webpage, giving information on how the disease may be transmitted, how people can prevent infection, how the country government at all levels has prepared for this scenario. Most of all, he made it clear that the Government and the media would be transparent in all matters so that people would know the real situation. He advised that panic would not solve the problem and that people should react knowledgeably. The following days the media informed people that there would be no food and other daily supply shortage because food suppliers and providers of daily consumption things had previously made big stocks in preparaton; instant messages from the Ministry of Health occasionally popped up on smart phones giving updates of the disease.
Isn’t this adult education? If it is, is it effective adult education?
The term “education” is commonly taken to mean imparting knowledge in a formal environment, conducted by a solemn-looking person who is usually referred to with reverence as teacher or master. It came from the long past when children’s learning by playing with and mimicking adults was no longer sufficient to result in outcomes that children would grow up becoming as good at a trade, and knowledgeable in a field as their older people. Adults had to resort to storing knowledge in the form of books and other teaching materials, and educate children in the structured ways that knowledge would be, in educators’ thinking, be best absorbed by learners.
UNESCO has emphasized that though education is an essential requirement for human society to advance, how it is done is of equal importance; and that learning should take place throughout one’s life. According to UNESCO, Lifelong learning is “rooted in the integration of learning and living, covering learning activities for people of all ages (children, young people, adults and the elderly, girls and boys, women and men) in all life-wide contexts (family, school, community, workplace and so on) and through a variety of modalities (formal, non-formal and informal) which together meet a wide range of learning needs and demands. Education systems which promote lifelong learning adopt a holistic and sector-wide approach involving all sub-sectors and levels to ensure the provision of learning opportunities for all individuals."
In light of this definition, a common belief is that education can be done and should also be done outside the formal schooling context. Then it falls into the domain of community learning centres (CLCs). There were over 11.000 CLCs in 2018, one in almost every village and ward (the smallest administration area in cities) across Vietnam. They have played a big role in promoting adult education.
They disseminate practical knowledge of health, farming, technology, and skills of a various trades. They spread government directions and policies. They draw attention to environmental deterioration and raise awareness of environmental preservation. And yet, they are each a distance away from home. To learn, one must get out of the house.
The media, including TV, internet, and radio, are just a click away of the computer mouse, or a slight touch of the phone screen.
Vietnam has utilized the media to its best effect. And media do not just include those. Banners and posters along streets can be succinct lessons for road users. A minute’s stop at a set of traffic lights is enough to learn that washing hands with soap is an effective way to eliminate most bacteria. Eyes roaming along the street while sitting on a bus can take in other lessons that the corona virus does not kill in most cases, that symptoms can be just like a mild cold.Leaflets distributed to households will serve the same educational purpose. There is even an exciting music video clip on YouTube by a Vietnamese music group showing how to stay away from the disease; the clip is now known around the world and is remade by people in different countries.
There is a common saying, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. When people know more about the disease, about the real situation in the country, and about the method to prevent it, people calm down, and act more sensibly.
The epidemic is still going on, ravaging many parts of the world. The Vietnamese are calmly tackling the problem, fighting the disease with the best knowledge they learn from different sources, among which are the media – a good tool of adult education.
 Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and Education. Electronic version provided by Pennsylvania State University.
 UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. (n.d.). “Technical Note: Lifelong Learning”. Available at: http://uil.unesco.org/fileadmin/keydocuments/LifelongLearning/en/UNESCOTechNotesLLL.pdf.
 Ministry of Education. (2018). “Current Development of CLCs and Future Direction.” Capacity Building for CLC Management. Internal circulation.
 MOET. (2007). Decision 01/2007/QĐ-BGDĐT. Promulgation of Regulations on Establishment and Operation of Community Learning Centres.
 One such clip can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0MxcBvCoZk. The song advises washing hands, not putting hands to faces, limiting going to crowded places, and keeping environments clean.