Marxist Majors Wanted in Vietnam

To encourage the study of "communist sciences," the nation is offering free courses to those who commit to a four-year program

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An armed policeman stands guard next to a portrait of late president Ho Chi Minh, founder of today's communist Vietnam, and Russian communist leader Vladimir Lenin, in Hanoi on January 17, 2011.

The job market is tough, and for Vietnamese students, it’s unlikely that non-governmental employers hire based on applicants’ understanding of class consciousness or state socialism. That could explain why Vietnamese authorities are offering free tuition to students who spend four years taking courses in Marxism-Leninism and Ho Chi Minh studies.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung signed a decree last month waving university fees for philosophy students who study “communist sciences,” which focus on the teachings of the nation’s founding father Ho Chi Minh, German philosopher Karl Marx, and Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, the BBC reports. The new policy also applies to medical students focusing on tuberculosis, leprosy, mental illnesses and surgical science. In boosting culture, the Communist Party also supports traditional Vietnamese opera and drama students, who will receive a discount on school fees.

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Though currently all students take at least three compulsory courses in Marxism-Leninism and Ho Chi Minh studies, Pham Tan Ha, head of admission and training at the Social and Human Sciences University in Ho Minh City, said his school has been struggling to attract students to go beyond the minimum requirement. Annual school fees typically range from $250 to $400 at state-backed schools to $5700 at private universities.

Students are bypassing the major in part because of limited job opportunities following graduation. Competition for employment is intense, and often international companies are seeking out employees for factories and the service industry, not experts in the country’s political ideology. Vietnam refuses to abandon its authoritarian Communist regime, yet embraces capitalism in an effort to modernize its economy.

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