Teacher's mission and career


 PhD. Nguyễn Thị Kim Ngân 


       Making a decision to become a classroom TEACHER is choosing to burden a hard work. While earning his/her life as a teacher, he/she should maintain a teacher’s karma or vocation. It is a great concern not only of contingent of teachers and student- parents but also of the whole society. To find a solution to the problem, a great effort will be made by the teachers and government‘s great investment in education will be required.        

       Keywords: karma,vocation, sacred cause,  salary,  teaching-worker 

          It is to say that in most countries, teaching is not regarded as an attractive career. In a recent research on the journal of “Education next” published by Harvard University, the United States, the author of the research said that in recent decades, there were few  the best and brightest seeing teaching as a viable career option. He also narrated a story as following:  At a dinner for incoming merit scholars to his University, he asked several of them whether they had considered teaching as an option. There was collective nervous laughter. One young lady said that they would never teach because they knew it paid poorly ( the U.S teachers earn only about two- thirds of the salaries of other professions with comparable preparation), the working conditions were not good, there was little respect for teachers and there were no opportunities to advance and lead.(1)    

         The about - mentioned issues are available in Vietnam, however, due to the Viet Nam tradition there are some differences. There are a lot of people who choose teaching as their option under the force of circumstance of partly their study capacity or family ‘s economic condition not because they have a love for it . And there are many people who see teaching as their career option as they are encouraged by the national tradition of “ to venerate teacher and morality/ be deferential to teachers and respected for moral”. That is why a teacher find himself/herself difficult to cope properly with the two words: NGHỀ and NGHIỆP” ( may be rendered into English as “ JOB” and “  KARMA “or “VOCATION” as there are no equivalants in the two languages,  the translation may not be utterly  accurate). Recently, on public media, there have been many writing articles and TV shows about teachers having expressed their sorrow and even felt hurt when they are regarded as “ teaching - workers”. The word “teaching- workers” implies that teachers have not fulfilled the sacred mission, they have conducted, time and again, the work of imparting knowledge in classroom, as they have been ordered to do in accordance with the school regulations. The story is so popular that we should do something to stop.

          However, the word “teaching - workers” holds a real fact reflected in the current education.  That is, nowadays, teaching has become an ordinary job like others that are carried out by the people in our country. In the past,  when scholar Chu Van An resigned from a mandarin post, and ran a school, it seemed to be that teaching was not considered as a job. To teach meant to make students understand the hidden sacred meanings of words. They did promote for morality or ethics. Teachers are like the Eastern physicians or pagoda wardens. Teaching is like treating a disease by galenical medicine (with herb). In the past, medicine treating a disease was not a career, it was regarded as the work of charity performed by herb doctors. Therefore, there is a saying “a good physician is a fond (gentle) mother”. That is why many people who are working as teachers, doctors, or   religious priests or nuns, seeing their work as a karma or vocation ( nghiệp) not a job ( nigh).  Nghề is a job to be carried out only for money earning, but a karma (a vocation) is an obligation or a mission devolved or branded by fate. Vocation (karma) is voluntarily and wholeheartedly conducted by the doers with non- profit purpose.

         At present, teachers are facing a choice between “educators” and “ teaching – workers” and between “ karma” “ vocation” and  “ job”. For the time being, there are more than twenty million students from preschool to higher education in Viet Nam. Today’s scale of education is different from that in the past when a teacher had several students under his control; a province ran only some primary schools. Nowadays, teaching and learning become ubiquitous, the work of a part of population. Under the force of circumstance, it is impossible to say those who are working as teachers are aware of “karma”  “Vocation”. Teaching is seen as an ordinary kind of work available for everyone to conduct for making money. During the course of teaching, there are some teachers, in the favor of educational environment, finding teaching career a meaningful option. They have a great affection for the work of teaching. However, there are many others still finding themselves alien to education. They are not devoted to the work of teaching, they feel ready to trade teaching for a better job when the chance offers itself. That is a question raised by the reality of education impossible to evade, but accept it.

         What should we do for education when facing this problematic situation? Obviously, it is not sufficient to promote and enhance the slogan “love for education”. It seems to be that “ one’s love” for vocation is the product of inborn trait. Karma or Vocation is not affected easily by the outside stimulus. Therefore, the first move to take is to make a teacher a skilled worker. We would like to remind that we say “ a skilled worker” not “ a skilled teaching worker” as the term “a teaching worker” implies the teacher is in classroom, teaching words or knowledge only. And a skilled worker is defined as a person performing his job perfectly. In general, a skilled worker is needed by his trade. If a teacher finds himself/herself unable to meet  the requirement of standard of the honorable name of an “educator”, he should do what he can to become a “skilled worker”, that means he should perform his job of teaching  skillfully and professionally.  

         Admittedly, due to many reasons the bar of professional admission in our country has seriously declined. In the field of education, teachers’ performance judged from the point of view of professionalism, seems to be low in general. They are not skilful in communicating with students or with students’ parents and even with their peers, and they are lacking of skills in solving the pedagogic situations, skills in estimating, collecting and analyzing the information of education. In the time of informatics and computerization, the teachers should be able to make E. lesson- plans and operate all modern devices to display his/her lessons. A teacher ‘s quality will be estimated specially through his or her methods of teaching and knowledge transmission. Teachers should know how to employ the various methods of teaching in flexible and lively manner such as arranging the time to dictate, the time to lecture, the time to have teamwork, the time for students themselves to design and realize their idea… The above – mentioned activities need a teacher with the level of a high skilled worker deserving the honorable name of a “ skilled worker”. And they should be provided with good working conditions

          However, a skilled worker in the field of education is different from a skilled worker in other trades. The difference does not lie in the skillfulness or professionalism but in the product the worker has made. A teacher can not make a machine but he is able to train a man. The school is a place to conduct teaching humans, that does not mean teaching-work consisting of words and knowledge only. Therefore, the skill of a teacher- the “worker” in school, is not reflected in the way he employs the methods and knowledge transmission but in his knowledge of education. He can empower his students to become a person of culture, of generosity, of truthfulness and straightforwardness, a person able to distinguish right from wrong and a person able to strive to catch up with his friends. The educational knowledge is a great requirement. It needs the pedagogic skills in instruction, the knowledge of psychology. It also requires that the teachers should be imbued with the educational philosophy both traditional and modern and the various theories of ideology on humanity. It is not to mention here the heart or soul of a teacher, the love for the youth. Without the love and generosity a teacher cannot convert his/her students especially in the case of facing with a disruptive or disturbed child.   

            Professional knowledge preparation for teachers includes two aspects: teaching knowledge and educational knowledge. From the reality of present education we may say that the two aspects of our teachers do not meet the requirement, especially the educational one. There are many people who are concerned about the fact that under the pressure of  examinations and prone- good record syndrome,  many schools and local governments think little of the education respect, that results in the morality and lifestyle degradation in a part of young people .

            However, even accomplishing the two above – mentioned missions, a teacher still remains to be a “skilled teacher”, that is, no more no less, a “skilled worker”, while he is endowed by the society with the traditional mission and status of an EDUCATOR, not an ordinary worker. The word “ EDUCATOR ” implies a karma or amission fated by God. The society respect the teaching career because it is not like other ordinary careers, it is regarded as a karma. To maintain himself/herself purified as a man holding the sacred mission, while earning for life as an ordinary worker is not an easy work for a teacher in the condition of today‘s market oriented economy.  Nowadays, there are few teachers who are working only under his/her karma.  But, what will happen to our education if all teachers consider themselves as teaching-workers without thinking of their karma or sacred mission as the same as with the medicine doctors who are carrying out their job without thinking of medicine ethics?

            While choosing teaching as a career option, our teachers have been burdened with a hard work. To work as a skilled teaching- worker and at the same time, to function as an Educator burdened with a noble cause, are a hurdle to overcome for teachers and student parents and whole society. To find a solution to the problem, we think, besides the great effort made by teachers, a significant investment in education, first of all, in salary for teachers should be required. There is a traditional saying: “It is no use preaching to a hungry man” or “ A hungry belly has no ears”, if you want a better outcome of  teaching you should pay for it.

           Recently, the education situation has been better perceived by competent administrations both local and central. We are glad to find that Draft Project “A basic and comprehensive innovation in training and education to meet the requirements of industrialization and modernization in the market economy condition with socialist orientation and international  integration ”(2) was passed by the IX Central Committee of VCP ( Viet Nam Communist Party)  at the 8th session, in which, policies on the teachers and education administration have been better improved. The teachers’ salaries will be raised to the highest rate together with the fact that the teachers’ quality should be strictly examined, the education administrators will be offered the policy of salary on the basis of seniority as  in other  branches Customs, Taxation, Inspection…If these policies will soon be implemented the teachers will be partly supported on the way to fulfill their sacred cause of  EDUCATORS endowed by the society, and at the same time, to earn their living as  skilled  workers. They will not feel uneasy for having not been able to complete their commitment.


            (1).Education Next, Fall 2013/ vol.13, No.4.

            (2) Draft  Project: “A basic and comprehensive innovation in training and education to meet the requirement of industrialization and modernization in the market economy condition with socialist orientation and international integration”


 1.  Education Next,  Fall 2013/ vol.13, No.4.

2. The Education Digest, March 2012.

3. Dự thảo Đề án “Đổi mới căn bản, toàn diện giáo dục và đào tạo đáp ứng yêu cầu công nghiệp hóa, hiện đại hóa trong điều kiện kinh tế thị trường định hướng XHCN và hội nhập quốc tế”. In Vietnamese

4. Nguyễn Đăng Tiến (2001), Nhà trường phổ thông Việt Nam qua các thời kỳ lịch sử, Nxb ĐHQG Hà Nội.

5. Lương Vị Hoàng - Khổng Khang Hoa (2008), Triết học giáo dục hiện đại (Bùi Đức Thiệp dịch) Nxb Chính trị Quốc Gia, Hà Nội.






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