back to article Vietnamese high school kids can pass Google interview

Google engineer Neil Fraser got a bit of a surprise when he visited Vietnam recently to see how schools teach ICT: kids in 11th grade are capable of passing the Chocolate Factory’s notoriously difficult interview process. Fraser blogged about his trip (via TNW), which ostensibly seems to have been a fact-finding mission …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Charles Manning

    Most kids just want a cruisy ICT course to get easy credits: eg. demonstrate vague proficiency in using MSWord. Doing challenging programming is hard.

    And with the sense of entitlement felt by the modern generations, all they need computers for is to access and Facebook.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Most kids just want a cruisy ICT course to get easy credits"

      While this is true, it is also all that is normally offered. At one point back in the late 80's, 7th graders in the USA were learning extensive Basic programming, however that trend seemingly vanished very peculiarly after 9 months.

      Kids can learn extremely fast. While I don't think a nationality dictates a child's learning capability, I do think adults of a nationality decide its growth. Once the child is no longer a child, and if given a chance, I do believe they will choose their own desired subjects for learning. Of course due to Vietnam's economy, we could be witnessing the birth of a country with the lowest priced outsourcing the world has ever seen.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Most teachers, school executives and local education authorities - "just want a cruisy ICT course to get easy credits"

      2. JaitcH


        Hitachi has, repeatedly, hired complete course graduate students emerging from VN computing courses for a number of years.

        Guess that speaks for itself.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Are all the XP discs licenced......... Or not?

      1. JaitcH
        Thumb Up

        Are all the XP discs licenced......... Or not?

        My employer has a legal OEM copy of XP but it is a rarity.

        Most of us just pop down to our local copy shop and order what we need and it is sold on DVS for a whopping VN Dong 40,000 (GBR1.26/USD$1.91) which is a fair rate for software over 10 years old.

      2. Ross K Silver badge


        Probably not, but who gives a shit? Certainly not me...

        I'd imagine MS would prefer the kids use XP rather than Linux.

        Call it a loss-leader

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Most kids just want a cruisy ICT course to get easy credits: eg. demonstrate vague proficiency in using MSWord. Doing challenging programming is hard.

      You can't make such a universal statement - the challenge is to make learning fun. Kids can absorb stuff that interests them at speeds that continue to astound me, whereas boring stuff doesn't sink in. Good teachers know this. Good MS Office teachers are aplenty, but good ICT teachers are thin on the ground.

      I have yet to come across a kid that wasn't curious as to what lives inside a box (ANY box :) ), so the simple act of taking a PC apart can get the whole class around you in seconds, especially in an age where everything else now comes as a sealed package.

  2. dssf

    That's OK...

    The USA is still #1 in:



    Sharp Sticks

    (Homage to Aliens, hehehehe)

    1. Rattus Rattus

      Re: That's OK...

      Actually, I think the Vietnamese showed the US how much better they were with knives and sharp sticks about fifty years ago.

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: That's OK...

        That's just because we were trying that "nation building" thing: We are really bad at that. Nation destroying on the other hand, we are much better at that.

        1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

          Re: Nation-building

          Can't you just film the destruction and play it backwards?


        2. asdf

          Re: That's OK...

          Yep usually killing 2.5 million of them and losing 60k of you is a win unless of course you are trying to win hearts and minds by killing all their relatives.

      2. dssf

        Re: That's OK...

        As for the "guns" think, Hudson didn't mention "guns", hehehe. But, then, I botched it by throwing in "That's ok... the USA is still #1...", good catch!

        And, how right you are about that. I was in Yongsan last year, at the Korea War Memorial. I was somewhat shocked and humored at how efficient, crafty, "devious", and cunning the VC were with their tunnels. Sure, I've seen of them in movies, but the dioramas and plexiglas display models in the Memorial really hit home. My first thoughts were "SO, THIS is how the USA got its ass handed to it on a plate in Vietnam...." It was sobering. Result: napalm, tunnel bombs, and carpet bombing. And, STILL the USA had to retreat.

        Fast Forward decades later, and we see that for all the freedoms and freedom of choice we have here, Vietnam is probably producing more QUALITY programmers than many countries.

        It would be interesting, though to compare Chinese programmers or teens to the Vietnamese of the same schooling and age ranges. Then, compare Indian programmers. I understand that Indian programmers have HUGE egos. A female dev exposing bugs and flaws in Indian male coders' work can touch off a mild hemispherical war. I wonder how Vietnamese male and female devs in the work place (in any country where male and female Vietnamese devs predominate) play out in offices.

        Now, juxtapose that to the US H-1B Visa thing. Decades, ago, the USA was trying to liberate Vietnamese. Nowa, the USA may need Vietnamese to liberate or "survivarate" the USA. Interesting....

      3. davidp231

        Re: That's OK...

        Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooood morning, Vietnam!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That's OK...

      The USA is still #1 in:



      Sharp Sticks

      If you're talking about US *schools*, you forgot guns :(

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "If nothing else, this snapshot into the Vietnamese school system shows what can be done despite limited funds."

    Don't forget software piracy which as of two weeks ago, the rate was down to 80% compared to 82% in 2011.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Software piracy as a metric?

      Um, yeah... Keep up that "what's best for America's megacorporations is what's best for innovation" mantra, sit back on your arse voting for political platforms based on cutting education funding, and watch the whole country slide into irrelevance along with Microsoft, as East Asia takes over the world economy.

      Jeeze, is it SO difficult to figure out the connection between education and economic growth?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Software piracy as a metric?

        Doesn't the Vietnamese just show that educational funding could be cut and still get better results?

        1) You have schools that have campus wide WiFi, laptops and tablets are used as well.

        2) High speed Internet access is available and the students have remote access.

        The problem is not how much money is spent on education, but how it is spent. You have high schools spending tens of millions of dollars on stadiums. I now of two stadiums for high school use that have costs$60 and $70 million respectively. Obviously the money for education is not being spent wisely.

        1. kain preacher

          Re: Software piracy as a metric?

          That would be nice idea if it was not for the culture difference. Foot ball is an an easy draw for out side money. Take a look to see how much that money came from out side boosters to build that stadium. Now ask them for money to build a science lab or better library. thos some outside people will tell you to take a hike.

          1. Frankee Llonnygog

            Re: Software piracy as a metric?

            Gosh - who wouldn't want to go to a high-school that's an adjunct to a profitable sports business, and where meat-headed jocks in roaming rape-squads are above the law. Why wouldn't shy, brainy types flourish in such an environment?

            1. gromm
              Thumb Up

              Re: Software piracy as a metric?

              "who wouldn't want to go to a high-school that's an adjunct to a profitable sports business,"

              I just upvoted this so hard.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Software piracy as a metric?

            As for the boosters providing money; none. The school paid for it, not the boosters. Some of it was financed through bonds. Sooner or later the money needs to be paid back. The money that is earmarked for education should be spent on it and all of the other extracurricular activities should not be paid for from money taxed for education. The boosters can pay for the extracurricular activities. If they cannot, then that just proves a stadium that rivals that of the collegiate level is not required. How many high schools need a stadium that can seat 20,000 plus in attendance?

            The fact is, there is too much waste at the schools and their priorities are screwed up. How about one school district that built a new school that cost over $100 million to build and when it was completed didn't have the money to actually open it. While they couldn't open it, it still cost $1 million a year on the district. Why did the school cost over $100 million to build?

            "School will be a high-tech academic hub with wireless Internet, a robotics lab, digital smart boards in every classroom and a first-rate performance hall worthy of any "Glee" hopeful." They doesn't even touch all of the amenities of the athletic portion of the school.

            That $100 million though is nothing. Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex in LA had a price tag of $578 million. "A flat screen TV embedded in a walkway, red velvet seats and a maple basketball floor are just some of the features" "The K-12 complex to house 4,200 students has raised eyebrows across the country as the creme de la creme of "Taj Mahal" schools, $100 million-plus campuses boasting both architectural panache and deluxe amenities." "At RFK, the features include fine art murals and a marble memorial depicting the complex's namesake, a manicured public park, a state-of-the-art swimming pool and preservation of pieces of the original hotel." "The RFK complex follows on the heels of two other LA schools among the nation's costliest — the $377 million Edward R. Roybal Learning Center, which opened in 2008, and the $232 million Visual and Performing Arts High School that debuted in 2009." "The pricey schools have come during a sensitive period for the nation's second-largest school system: Nearly 3,000 teachers have been laid off over the past two years, the academic year and programs have been slashed. The district also faces a $640 million shortfall and some schools persistently rank among the nation's lowest performing." That just proves that their priorities are messed up; get rid of teachers and put the money into buildings that don't influence the education that is provided.

            How about another one:

            "Newton North High School finally opened in the fall of 2010 on Walnut Street in Newtonville. With a price tag of $197.5 million, it is the most expensive public school ever built in Massachusetts."

            Look at private schools; they are much more modest. Public schools are usually $10,500 or less per student. Without spending a dime on education, that $578 million would take 13 years to recover the cost. It will take well over 30 years before the school is paid for. Many private schools that provide a far better education charges around that $10,500. How come they can do what the public sector cannot? The answer is quite simple; a lot less waste. If we want education reform, get rid of the public system and make it private.

            1. Ross K Silver badge

              Re: Software piracy as a metric?

              It will take well over 30 years before the school is paid for. Many private schools that provide a far better education charges around that $10,500. How come they can do what the public sector cannot? The answer is quite simple; a lot less waste. If we want education reform, get rid of the public system and make it private.

              Oh fuck off you sad cunt.

              How many public schools in the USA are bankrupt because the USA prefers to spend its money on bombs and guns?

              The city of Chicago announced on Thursday that it will close 54 schools because they're $1bn in the red.

              Education for those who can afford it, huh? The rest can fuck off and join the army I suppose...

              1. david 12 Silver badge

                Re: Software piracy as a metric?

                Oh **** *** *** *** ****

                If you can't be intelligent, be polite.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Software piracy as a metric?

                You fuck off you dopey cunt.

                Ever think the public schools are bankrupt because of how THEY spend money? There is so much waste it is beyond belief. They build overpriced schools, have expensive multiple vehicles that runs over $50,000. Sometimes they are used so a group of administrators can go to a conference. I counted no less than 7 of them and they do seat 7. So did 49 people go to a conference? Sure sounds like taking a school bus would have been better rather than the need for all of those vehicles.

                I never said education for those that can afford it. I said to end the public school system and make it private. That would stand to reason that the $10,500 that the public school system would be made available to the private school systems. If the private school systems can do it better and cheaper, then why keep throwing money and causing the problem we call a public school system? They have failed and continue to do so.

                Using Chicago, really? Everything in Chicago is corrupt. They also have the highest paid teachers of ANY school system in the US. There are many other school systems that have better results at a far lower cost.


                If they teachers are making that much, imaging what the administrators make? Putting more money into the school systems that have just failed is not the answer. The people in charge need to go and the easiest way to do that, let the money (the $10,500) follow the kid to whatever school they want. Then and only then will the public school system actually compete to get kids.

    2. James Anderson

      why xp is ubiquitous

      Its the same price as Linux.1$ on a cd 2$ on a dvd.

      Not so much Windows 7, as the activation is riskier, and, no Vista because even for 1$ nobody wants it.

      Also Asian language support in xp is superb, while Linux is just OK.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: why xp is ubiquitous

        Add to that the fact that MSFT closes its eyes and does nothing until it is 90%+. In fact it used to have hired hands handing it out like cocaine laced candy to schoolkids (at least used to - in Eastern Europe).

        Once the penetration is @ 95%+ and the GDP is above a threshold where it becomes "interesting" the country president gets a visit from Balmer (used to be Billigatus himself). Pressure is excercised, money is exchanged, piracy is tackled and MSFT collects its "tax".

        As Tom Lehrer used to sing:

        "He gives the kids free samples,

        Because he knows full well

        That today's young innocent faces

        Will be tomorrow's clientele."

        1. Fogcat

          Re: why xp is ubiquitous

          Have an up vote for a Tom Lehrer reference

      2. Quxy

        Asian language support in XP is superb?

        That's got to be the most surreal thing I've heard today.

        As someone who has had to switch between English, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean on my PC for many years now, I can assure you that Asian language support in XP was only acceptable if you were using the version localised for the specific language you were using. God help you (because Microsoft wasn't going to) if you want to use Chinese on a Japanese version of XP -- or *any* Asian language on a US or EU version.

        Windows 7's mostly-complete UNICODE integration is a big step up; but applications (even Office) are still terribly inconsistent, often insisting on using a different language for menus than the desktop for instance. Unsurprisingly, OSX has long been better at multilanguage support -- but so is any modern distribution of Linux (*how* old was the Linux you were referring to, anyway?).

        1. dssf

          Re: Asian language support in XP is superb?

          I'm using:

          Linux 3.2.18-pclos2.pae.bfs (i686)

          #1 SMP PREEMPT Thur May 24 05:33:57 CES 2012

          But, I've updated apps and libraries along the way, even as recently as a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, some apps, basic ones, don't recognize or play well with Korean. Libre Office and Calligra a so KDE-dependent they demand that I fully upgrade KDE to 2013. I'm not ready to do that, since occasionally, and invariably, I end up doing 2-3 reinstalls to restabilize things. I can only afford to do that in absoute emergencies and when I have time and money so I can do a new-disk install and have an emergency fall-back disk.

          Even Libre Office won't correctly get started to download, and I have the repos updated. So, I've never seen what LO can do. Given all the spare hard drive space I have, I'm gettting pretty sick of "one-file-to-do-one-thing-well" when that mantra demans updating the entire systems for one frickin' app or suite. I want apps sequestered, sandbagged, isolated, even if I have to pay 1 GB in library files space. If I were better, I could probably link the libs, trick out my system, but that is too much for me to do and then remember months later what I did.

          Asian fonts in OO.o work, but then when my systems goes wonky, I have to turn off Korean. Wonky how? Well, the space between English letters doubles in consoles. Some shortcuts I use in English go misbehaving, and rather than play detective for more than 10-20 minutes, I just uninstall or do some limited reversion.

      3. dssf

        Re: why xp is ubiquitous

        Tell me about it! Just trying to make Korean work and work CORRECTLY in PCLOS is a royal PITA. Just when I think it is about to work, something, some dep is missing, or it works - -a while, then the system bogs down. But, within W7 in VBox it it "just works". It works fine on an android tablet, which has years younger than Linux distros...

        It sorta works, IIRC, in Abi Word. I cannot get the latest KDE-based office suites in unless I upgrade my entire base install, and past experience has told me to not do that unless I buy a new disk and do a fresh install (I don't do system clones; I preserve the last working disk, then start afresh with a new drive -- WHEN I have money...).

        Linux, though, advertises that you an install now or later a number of other languages. I do understand that some distros work flawlessly. Unfortunately, I'm hung up on Mandrake/Mandriva's impression upon me, and PCLOS won me over in 2007. Just some nigglling litte text file complication I read about in 2011 being the culprit for PCLOS' Korean language hang-ups.

        Anyway, maybe there should be H-1V (Vietnam-originating Developer Instructors) visas in the USA, with the instructors taking shcool.... Umm, school admin and teaching posts. hehehehe....

    3. JaitcH

      Hot software in VietNam is pure guesswork.

      Whomever BIS, or the outfit, is who proclaims so much 'hot' software is running in a country is out to lunch. They don't even know how many computers there are here in VietNam.

      Sure the VN government had hot software a few years ago but the they went out and switched to Linux!

      Most high school students have factory installed software on their numerous laptops, so where does it get it's numbers from? Guess work. Same goes for Laos and Cambodia, but even more so.

      And all those 'call home features' in software are usually neutered by rewriting the HOST file. Cadence includes a call-home procedure but the installation .BAT file adds a line to the .BAT file that dad-ends the attempt to call home.

  4. Mikel

    Nature/nurture: fight!

    There are a number of issues in play here.

    1. Humans are more intelligent than we need them do be. A moderately good education and diet is going to bring the average human up to a potential that is going to make him unhappy for the rest of his life as he knows his potential is far more than than his available work prospects. The world needs ditch-diggers too - far more than those constrained to the role by their intellectual ability.

    2. The state of US education is deplorable. Any ordinary kid can read at above "college level" by the third grade with sufficient diet and education.

    3. But if we maximize the potential of each young human into entry into adult life we pretty much guarantee they will be unhappy for the rest of their days. That's probably not a good thing as unhappy young people have a tendency to induce radical social change without regard to the consequences more mature folk are aware of.

    4. Regardless of the above we also have far more useful people than we actually need to produce the necessary, so we need to find something useful and rewarding for the rest to do. The alternative is to demand they do nothing. To banish useful, creative and energetic people to the fringe of society and starve them for lack of work is to demand they cause trouble. Lots of trouble.

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: Nature/nurture: fight!

      I agree with a lot of what you say regarding the quality of education in the states but as regarding overeducating, I'm not sure I agree entirely. I understand your point and it may be true for some people but not everyone. My degrees are in biology, chemistry and computing (but sure as hell wasn't any in English lol) but I ended up taking pictures of people for a living. I've used my degrees along the way and had a lot of fun but I have also had some very random jobs that didn't use them, a few of them would be considered 'menial'. I'm honestly just as happy landscaping or being a human forklift truck or taking pictures as I am working in a lab etc. Perhaps that is just a matter of different people judging themselves by different criteria? Theres nothing wrong with judging yourself by your achievements, I think perhaps we just pick different achievements to focus on.

    2. Steven Roper

      Re: Nature/nurture: fight!

      @Mikel: A well-known author by the name of Aldous Huxley beat you to it by about 80 years.

      What you're saying is we need more Deltas because not everyone can be Alphas. I agree with his (and your) point in principle, but I'm not entirely sure I'd want to live in the brave new world Huxley described in his eponymous book. I guess the feelies would be fun though.

      The only thing remaining for this world is perfecting Bokanovsky's Process and with genetic technology the way it is, that's gotta be just around the corner by now - if we can overcome the anti-eugenicists...

      Coat because I'm sure I left my soma in the pocket...

    3. Osmosis Jones

      Re: Nature/nurture: fight!

      No I would disagree. An education isn't purely a utilitarian endeavour.

      Ditch diggers with a Biology degree may be unhappy at having to take a menial job but they would still smile whenever they saw nature's code in the colourful bouqet of a meadow full of flowers.

      I'd think an unhappiness with life is more of a reflection on how we are trapped in the inequities of modern society. And every time I confront another one, I take solace in the fact that at the very least I'm not a powerless beggar AND blind.

      1. npupp 1

        Re: Nature/nurture: fight!

        One could assume ditch diggers, or just more in the general population with a degree in biology (or even just a solid base in the sciences) would mean less quack medicine and crystal healing/cure autism/etc. peddlers

        1. Rampant Spaniel

          Not to mention that just because your main job doesn't involve your degree that you wouldn't ever get to use it. Plenty of hobbies benefit from a degree, be it science or engineering (I did hear tell there are other types of degree, basket weaving etc).

          If you value yourself based on your job title its an issue, if you value yourself based on how you act and how you are as a human being \ parent \ husband etc then it may be different.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nature/nurture: fight!

      1. Humans are more intelligent than we need them do be.

      No they aren't, but we do need better educated people; educated people fight less and cooperate more.

      2. The state of US education is deplorable.

      I blame the parents; but they were poorly educated too, soo its a vicious circle.

      3. But if we maximize the potential of each young human into entry into adult life we pretty much guarantee they will be unhappy for the rest of their days. That's probably not a good thing as unhappy young people have a tendency to induce radical social change without regard to the consequences more mature folk are aware of.

      WTF? Translation = Stupid old people should be able to tell clever young people what to do!

      4. Regardless of the above we also have far more useful people than we actually need to produce the necessary, so we need to find something useful and rewarding for the rest to do.

      Agreed, but given your statement 3. your solution is likely to be "Soylent Green"!

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Nature/nurture: fight!

        The state of US education is deplorable.

        I watched "The Challenger" on the Beeb this week and I was shocked at the opening scene: Richard Feynman giving a lecture to some Caltech students, Caltech is meant to be one of the foremost Universities in the US and what was he teaching? Newton’s laws! Material I was taught at 14 or 15 for O'Level physics, really basic stuff without which I wouldn't expect to even get into a university.

        I don't know if this was an accurate representation or the producers having a laugh but anecdotal evidence suggests the former.

        1. MajorTom

          Feynman lecturing on Newton's Laws

          Regardless of whether I already knew about Newton's Laws before going into university, I would rather learn those laws from Feynman than anyone else. I'd love to hear his take on them, and how they connect to everything (physics, history, etc.). And you don't get Feynman at most high schools.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. DJO Silver badge

            Re: Feynman lecturing on Newton's Laws

            If you had a Richard Feynman available to present a lecture, don't you think he would be better employed expounding and hopefully clarifying some hard to understand aspect of quantum physics rather than repeating stuff everybody in the theatre should already know?

            If I was to go to a Steven Hawkins or Martin Rees lecture, I would be disappointed if they never got beyond KE = ½mv²

        2. Super Hans

          Re: Nature/nurture: fight!

          Actually Feynman’s physics course for undergraduates was the complete opposite of dumbing down. Rather than starting with Newtonian Physics he would first teach freshmen Atomic theory along with statistical mechanics. This would be followed by Quantum theory (including QED). Electromagnetism and Maxwell’s field equations would follow, before (I think) Special / General Relativity were taught. Only then would Feynman cover classical mechanics. This proved too challenging for a large number of Caltech undergraduates - and this was the in 60s & 70s when Caltech was attracting the brightest Physics students in the US. The result was that many undergraduates stopped attending the course only to be replaced by graduate students. Lucky graduate students I say. I would have chopped off my right arm to be taught by the guy – an absolute genius and inspirational teacher. He was also a mean bongo player! The guy was one of the all-time science greats and a pioneer in nanotechnology and Quantum computing.

          Beer as I would love to buy Feynman one if he were still around......

    5. The Indomitable Gall

      Re: Nature/nurture: fight!

      "The world needs ditch-diggers too - far more than those constrained to the role by their intellectual ability."

      Google "conservation tourism" -- intellectual people often pay to go away and dig ditches for a couple of weeks.

      One of the core ideas of early (ie. pre-Soviet) communism was that people would be happier with a bit of variety in their lives than becoming increasingly efficient at a single specific task.

      So most of the time, the local doc's in his surgery, but come harvest time, he's out there bailing hay like the best of them. Just like in a traditional community. Hence "communism".

  5. Katie Saucey
    Thumb Up


    LOGO got me hooked on programming early. There was nothing more enjoyable than refining a program at home, then making the turtle trace out profanities the next day at school.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: LOGO

      Aye, there's nothing more satisfying than spelling out the word "Fuck" with Iterated Function Systems. The best part is that you can show them the source code and they still have no idea what it will do without running it.


      1. gromm

        Re: LOGO

        As a parent, if my kid ever did that, I would immediately tell him that he did a great job and then ask him to show me how to get the computer to do it 20 times in a row.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: LOGO

      Logo was not the only language in those days. There were others - you could write a decent game in graphfort (in fact some of the commercial games for Apple ][ were written in it).

      1. Katie Saucey

        Re: LOGO

        GOTO 10, should suffice

  6. Chris_Maresca

    More than anything, this just shows the stupidity of Google's interview process....

    1. jake Silver badge


      Indeed. See my post from over two and a half years ago ...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have been interviewed myself...

    I went through a couple of Google interviews and was totally unimpressed. With a 20 year career, I was expecting some *real* I.T. related questions, not something that is readily available in the xNIX man pages or on the net. Seriously, at the age of 40 after lurching between I.T. operations, infrastructure, various OS's, various database engines, and various software dev languages you just don't have time to remember how to remove a file called "-f" or all the nitty gritty of how DNS works. At my age most of us keep an index of where to find information.

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: Have been interviewed myself...

      Exactly, open book exams were always the ones to worry about. In 'the real world' your boss never says oh you can't look it up in a book. It's far more accurate to have an open book exam with more complicated questions, it's just hard to set and mark which is why its rare. The same goes for interviews. It's easier to ask a few simple form questions than actually develop a scenario to test. You have to love those interviews where the talking ends and they walk you to a workstation in a room.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Open book exams

        Errr. Current UK government policy is that exams are to be the older style, memorise and regurgitate years later, type. Which is probably a good way to reward plodders with good memories. Maybe not so good to find who understood the subject.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Have been interviewed myself...

      I judge whether a job is worth considering based on the interview process...

      If they ask you how to solve a problem, it is good!

      If they give you a tech test... it is bad...

      The first is after a good thinker who can use the tech they have...

      the second is after a code monkey...

      I don't know a coder who DOESN"T use online resources to look things up on a daily basiss

      I have never walked out an interview, but I have been close on occasion.....

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    no surprise

    There was a very good reason i relocated my software development company in Vietnam.

    The level of ability here has been known for some time, it just that now it is effectively been spidered by a google drone so the rest of world might actually notice.

    There was a comment above about the late of funding for ICT in the US.... in Vietnam, everyone pays for their education. Parents literally work themselves ragged to get enough to put their kids through school. Education is rightly seen as the biggest opportunity here and schools are open from about 5am to 10pm with different shifts of kids to make the most use of the buildings. There are voluntary extra lessons at weekends and you see the schools filled on both Saturday and Sunday.

    Maybe the kids are worked hard, but isn't that a good ethic to give them... work hard and things pay off long term.

    Kids in the US and Europe could be at this level but there is still a large amount of people mostly 35 plus who relish in their lack of technology and society has worked hard to label anything tech geeky and uncool.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    International audience here: what the hell does "11th grade" mean in, you know, actual years/age?

    "exposes its kids early on to computers and programming" While that helps I can't believe it's directly related to the ability to solve the problem described (well, other than the "implement in pascal" bit, obviously). There are analytical skills that are far more important when getting a handle on that sort of problem. We don't seem to teach any analytical skills at all in the UK.

    1. Chris Miller

      It means roughly '11th year of education', the UK talks about year-11 students or 'Lower 6th form' in my ancient terms. So just add 5 to the number to get the approximate age. (I've no idea what age Vietnamese kids start/finish school, whether this was a US or Vietnamese '11th grade', or if there's any difference.)

      1. Charlie

        Pedant alert

        11th grade = lower sixth. Year 11 <> lower sixth.

        11th grade - American - kids who are 16-17

        Year 11 - English - kids who are 15-16.

        Lower sixth - English - kids who are 16-17

  10. MrXavia
    Thumb Up

    Good on them for getting real computing into the classroom!

    but, 11th Grade? isn't that 16/17?

    So on a UK level, it would be College/A Level students in the UK?

    And US struggle with the image tag at the same level? that is ridiculous, all the guys in my college course were self taught HTML, took us a few hours each to start putting up pages on our intranet (this was in the days before internet was everywhere), we set up the IP network on our LAN as we wanted to use TCP/IP for apps we wrote...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      In the UK, year 11 = last year of high school, before GCSEs.

    2. Scott 29

      Grade level in Vietnam

      Two points:

      Grade level and age:

      picture reference:

      More to the point: Secondary education (Vietnamese: trung học phổ thông) consists of grades ten through twelve. The IGE is a prerequisite entrance examination for secondary schooling. The IGE score determines the schools at which students are able to enroll. The higher the score, the more prestigious the school.

      So, unlike the U.S. where everyone is passed along until they're 18 years old, in Vietnam they thin the herd as you progress. So, if Google steps into a classroom, it's likely seeing the top of the top, and even all those won't get into public University. Private is expensive for most to attend.

      Also, Calculus is taught in grades 11 and 12.

  11. Schultz

    Creative versus technical

    US 1 and 12th grade students struggle with HTML's image tag, while Vietnamese students code. So the US is focused on perceived creative skills (make a nice website) and the Vietnamese learn the technical skills to code the browser.

    Of course the next sentence in the US would be: "You are not allowed to use that image, it is copyrighted", while the Vietnamese go and hack the next software packet. Kind of obvious who will have the skills to be creative in the future!

  12. Lumix

    UK schools ...

    ... are only recently (with a few exceptions) starting to teach computer science as a discipline instead of simply ICT skills. And they need your help!

    1. Mark 153

      Re: UK schools ...

      I'd start by not calling it "ICT". That gets right on my nerves. It's IT. Or, I don't know, Computing.

      It's symbolic of not teaching computing as an actual area of engineering and mathematics. Just an evolution of secretarial skills.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: UK schools ...

        Actually it's useful to call it ICT. Anyone who does immediately gets marked down as a graduate in one of those "how to use MS Word" courses and likely to be unable to do anything actually technical.

        As you say, it's an evolution of secretarial skills. Those who possess tech skills usually know full well that "ICT" has perjorative overtones and avoid using that moniker.

  13. DaemonProcess
    Paris Hilton


    I didn't understand the question.

    Was there an associated diagram?

    1. clean_state
      Paris Hilton

      Re: confused

      Same here. What is a maze with diagonal walls and how is it different from a "normal" maze rotated 45° ?

      1. Ragequit

        Re: confused

        They were given a data file describing the maze. Even if you assume that rotating the entire maze 45 degrees would make the math simpler writing the code to do so is a little more difficult than turning a diagram on a piece of paper. I know I wouldn't have been able to apply the math and geometry to that coding problem in under an hour in high school. My high schools idea of a intro to computer programming class was apple basic. There was supposedly an intermediate class teaching C that would be held providing there was enough student interest but that never happened.

        Knowing a computer language does not mean you have the skills to tackle any problem. I would have loved to be in a school system that actually challenged me like that. I was bored to tears and spent my time teaching myself via books.

      2. Phil Riley

        Re: confused

        Bit more information here, including a slightly better translation (about half way down)

  14. JaitcH
    Thumb Up

    The key to education in VietNam is ATTITUDE

    I recently met a Vietnamese parent, who is employed by a foreign entity and who obviously makes way higher than the average wage, who told me he had moved his Vietnamese children from the State system to one of the for-big-profit foreign schools because he was of the opinion VN schools 'were no fun' and the foreign schools had fun things like sports. His two children are costing him around USD$25,000 annually.

    My daughter, whose right to State schools is through her citizenship, gets up at some unGodly hour, shortly after 06.00H, meets her friends for breakfast where they compare homework and then start their school day at 07.30H. They have two 15-minute breaks and an hour for lunch and leave school at 17.00H. She has extension classes three or four nights a week AS WELL AS Saturday school. Many also study on Sundays.

    There is homework every day.

    Parents have to pay for schooling, around USD$60 per month, per child, which is quite a burden where a good family income is around USD$300.month.

    Children here aren't just 'interested', they have a hunger for knowledge. Every weekday evening our offices remain open until 22.00H so the local children can do their homework, or study. KhanAcedemy.Org is a great resource, especially now it has sub-titles. We were watching a video of calculus recently and some children could even work out the answers in their heads! It made me feel old.

    I met a 13-girl recently who has perfect fluency in Vietnamese, English and Chinese/Mandarin. When I say perfect English I mean she understands the subtleties of the languages, as usually only someone from a country does.

    I recently acquired 10 Raspberry Pi computers, set them up on tables in a spare room, and left many copies of various RPi books around and left them unannounced. Within a couple of days some kids had figured out how to make them do basic things and now, after 17 days, they are practicing basic programming. Completely hands off from myself and my partners.

    This is the competition the West is facing not only from the 50-million odd school children in VietNam but a few hundred million more in China and India.

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: The key to education in VietNam is ATTITUDE

      You just had to find a way to get me to agree with you didn't you! Is it one of those monkey typewriter scenarios? :-)

      You are correct, your kids want a better life, our kids (most of them) actually have that already and so are complacent. If it makes you feel any better I pay 20k + compulsory fundraising and volunteering to send my kids to a school that focusses less on fun and sports and more on actual learning. What you describe in a state school in Vietnam is exactly what we looked for in a private school here. The local state school is a cross between downtown hebron on a Friday night crossed with Barney on crack. They can all break into a car and sing the elmo song in Spanish but god forbid you ask them about fractions.

    2. PhilBuk
      Thumb Up

      Re: The key to education in VietNam is ATTITUDE

      Your use of the word 'hunger' is interesting. My wife is a senior lecturer (biological sciences) at a major UK University and describes her asian and middle-eastern students of having 'hungry faces'. They go to university to learn and have the 'hunger' that JaitcH talks about.


  15. maccy

    If those kids are as good as a Google engineer ...

    .. why not hire some to maintain Google Reader? (and while they're at it, fix the long-lasting bugs in Google Drive client).

    I suspect the reason Vietnamese kids can pass the Goog entrance exam is because Google are nowhere near as good as they think they are.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We're fat, wasteful and decadent.

    What has it to do with computers per-se? It's about encrouaging kids to use their noggins to solve logic problems, giving them a solid grounding in common sense and logic, something sadly lacking in our fat, flabby and quite laughable western education system.

    There's the old chestnut in the US that it's always the Asian kids that get the top grades, well that's because they come from cultures that push the idea of standing on your own two feet and thinking your way through problems with the minimum of "resources". 50 years of post-war culture in the UK and US we've got used to the idea that bigger and more expensive is the way to solve something. These 2nd and 3rd world nations have had to make do with whatever they had to hand and they're reaping the rewards with their inherent ausertity. We are now only just learning that money can't solve everything, bigger, faster and newer is not always good.

    We have very unhealthy societies, obesity a horrendous pandemic, our forebears pre-WW2 had less to eat but far healthier life-styles. We need to start learning to put the fork down, put the credit-card away and make do, think "Do I really need a new XYZ? Can't I make it last a little longer with a few simple and cheap fixes? I don't need a new iGadget, this one will not stop working next week just 'cos the new one has come out!". Once we learn to do this, then we will start to match up to pre-teens who can out -smart some of the supposed best tech minds we have to offer!

    1. PJI

      Re: We're fat, wasteful and decadent.

      Healthier? That must be why people today are living longer by several years, are staying active physically and mentally to an age when our great grandparents were considered old and infirm if still alive with false teeth and ulcers, when infant, child and maternal mortality was a normal, everyday fact of life and malnutrition was a debilitating factor for much of the working class population. There was a good reason for the introduction of state pensions and the National Health Service after the Second World War.

  17. happyBoy
    Thumb Up

    Good show

    Sounds very similar to how we were taught computer science when I was in school in India - except, they seem to be starting even earlier in Vietnam :)

    If I recall, we did LOGO in 6th or 7th standard followed by BASIC in the next year, next up was PASCAL and ending 11 and 12th standard with C/C++.

    1. V.Srikrishnan

      Re: Good show

      Sure, any paanwala with cash opens an IT college and buffoons clamour to get admitted. Bless the exchange rates for the code monkeys getting employment and oafs becoming PM. Unfortunately, they clog up the roads so and push up land prices with the money they save by living 5 in a room when going "onsite".

  18. NomNomNom

    I am no longer allowed within 0.8 miles of a school but I admit I find this story fascinating

  19. Gannon (J.) Dick

    Pricy though

    Well of course they are smart enough,

    do they work cheap ? (seriously, do I need to explain this one ?)

    do they really like the torture of small animals ? (we like to promote from within, not train)

    have they studied sociopathy ? (you can lead a horticulture, etc.)

  20. Domino

    Some interesting points in the comments.. I dropped out of UK college back in the late 80s when I was told I could no longer do my programming at home. It was back when mainframe time was limited so I'd work stuff out on paper, come in and type it in to test and debug. Guess they thought I was just getting the code from somewhere rather than the truth that I loved programming and was good at it.

    Years later, I didn't get a consultancy job because one of the interview questions was what irq does an lpt1 parallel port use. At the time I was doing telephone support for a large distributor and had come across odd irq settings often enough not to rely on defaults. I stood strongly by my answer that there wasn't a set irq and that it should be checked in the manual and configuration of the particular PC (the number of times people had changed jumpers and forgot!). The interviewer kept insisting that there was one correct answer and I just gave up on the interview as I didn't want to work for a company with such a flawed hiring (and most probably operating) procedure.

    I'm kinda envious of the education the Vietnamese are getting (apart from the XP part) as it's what I'd have loved to have both for myself and the people who pay for my services. Still, being mostly self taught never stopped me from making a living, it just could have been a little easier at times ;)

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Our schools have high speed access to vast amounts of content, our students also have access to all that content when they're not in school. They have much better things to do with computers than learn to make them do things, like updating their Facebook and Twitter status, chat with the friends who they'll never actually meet or know, or listen to all their pirated music from their <insert cloud provider of choice here> account. etc. etc.

    When students don't have access to all that distracting material, they have no other option than to make the computer do what they want it to. Better yet they can't even go and look up how someone else solved the problem, so they have to work out how to do it themselves... and learn some critocal thinking skills along the way.

  22. rdtsc

    This is the fertile ground envisioned by Nicholas Negroponte of OLPC, but it's going to disappear.

    It mirrors my experience in 1990-1995 in Hong Kong. Affordable computers. Rampant piracy. And ... most importantly, unreliable internet (14.4K, anyone?), and lack of entertainment.

    When children have access to computers but lack entertainment, they will find entertainment on the computer itself - a hacker's delight.

    This phenomenon WILL dissipate once they have access to broadband internet, plenty of entertainments, and stepped-up piracy enforcement.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like