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Anti-corruption education: International experiences and suggestions for Vietnam

(LLCT) - Anti-corruption education is one of the important measures to raise awareness and responsibility of social actors on how to combat corruption and how to gradually build and form a culture of anti-corruption in society. This article will present experiences of some countries in the world and propose suggestions for Vietnam in anti-corruption education.

Keywords: anti-corruption education.

1. Experiences of countries around the world in anti-corruption education

Education on integrity and civil service ethics for civil servants has long been considered as a pillar in the anti-corruption policy by many countries around the world. Thereby, education helps civil servants realize corruption is an act that violates morality, responsibilities, and obligations of civil servants while performing official duties. In several countries, education on integrity is carried out annually and is compulsory for all civil servants and personnel. All OECD countries have a mandatory program on integrity training for their officials and employees. Furthermore, to raise public awareness about civil service responsibilities and corruption prohibition in civil services, some countries even issue specific laws on the ethics of civil service. In addition, some countries have established specialized agencies in charge of civil service moral conduct such as Sweden, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Germany, China, and Singapore. In the Republic of Korea, there is a committee on civil servant ethics whose main responsibility is educating civil officials’ morality and monitoring their performance. Meanwhile, Singapore educates civil officials about self-respect, and corruption is deemed a humiliation to their dignity. Singaporean officials instead are afraid of legal sanctions and consider corruption risky behavior, making them want to avoid corruption while working.

In anti-corruption education, countries do not only pay attention to civil service ethics for civil servants but also for citizens especially in the form of the national education system. Countries of Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and China introduce the subject of anti-corruption with different levels of educational programs at schools. Since 2008, China has officially implemented the integrity education program in schools. The anti-corruption education programs for citizens in some countries include ethics, healthy lifestyles, antipathy to corruption and a strong spirit to fight it, knowledge to identify acts of corruption and report those acts to mass media outlets and competent state agencies. Hong Kong (China) has educated citizens to treat corruption as unacceptable behavior in society. Since the establishment of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), Singapore has built a serious educational program to deepen people’s awareness of anti-corruption. These efforts have been synchronously implemented in student and community education. The Singapore CPIB’s director emphasized: “Our anti-corruption culture is rooted in society with a long-term education policy. It is divided into two programs: educating the community and educating students. We educate the students since they are young in many lively and attractive forms but also serious. All efforts are aimed at making every citizen understand the consequences of a country if it is deeply in corruption, as well as understand honor, dignity and moral values of man and the whole nation”(1).

CPIB regularly organizes training programs with school principals to update the latest information in teaching. In addition, the CPIB also conducts meetings called “Learning Journey” for high school students to help the younger generation be aware of corrupt behavior. CPIB also organizes special classes for students of public administration and government management to learn techniques to fight corruption with real-life examples. Regarding the educational program in the community, Singapore organizes extensive communication campaigns to let people acknowledge how corruption seriously affects the security of the nation. This education process changes the perception of corruption from being a low-risk high-profit activity to a high-risk low-profit activity. In the United States, according to Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), before American businesses enter into business contracts with foreign businesses, they need to ask their partners to organize courses on integrity and anti-corruption for their employees.

2. Current situation of anti-corruption education in Vietnam

In Vietnam, the process of raising awareness about the importance of anti-corruption education has been progressing more and more. Currently, in the 2005 Anti-Corruption Law and the amendments and supplements in 2007 and 2012, there is no separate section on anti-corruption education or communication. However, they have been mentioned in specific task regulations for each institution and organization. Article 85 of the 2005 Anti-Corruption Law stipulates: The Vietnam Fatherland Front and its member organizations are responsible for cooperating with competent State agencies to propagate and educate people and their members observe the provisions of law on corruption prevention and combat. Article 86 of the Law stipulates: Press agencies shall have the responsibility to commend good spirit and positive deeds in corruption prevention and combat; condemn and struggle against persons who commit corruption; participate in propagating and disseminating the law on corruption prevention and combat.

At that time, there was no specific law on anti-corruption education, but the Government had specific programs to train institutions on anti-corruption issues. The issue of incorporating the content of the Anti-Corruption Law into educational programs had been raised in the Resolution of the 3rd Plenum of the  Party Central Committee (10th tenure). On December 2, 2009, the Prime Minister signed Decision No.137/2009/QD-TTg approving a scheme to integrate anti-corruption content into education and mentoring and training programs, called Scheme 137. The Government Inspectorate was assigned as the standing body to assist the Prime Minister in directing the implementation of the project within ministries, departments, agencies, and organizations including the Ministry of Education and Training, the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Office of the Central Steering Committee on Anti-Corruption, Supreme People’s Court, Supreme People’s Procuracy, and Municipal People Committees in provinces. Training institutions such as these are responsible to perform tasks within Scheme 137. In addition, the Prime Minister’s Directive No.10/CT-TTg dated June 12th 2013 required the introduction of anti-corruption content to be taught at educational and training schools starting the academic year 2013-2014. The Ministry of Justice developed the project “Communicating and disseminating anti-corruption law, United Nations Convention on anti-corruption among officers and public servants, and people from 2012 to 2016”. At the 12th National Party Congress, the issue of anti-corruption education was emphasized: “Communication and education are to intensify awareness among government officials, Party members, civil servants and ordinary people of, and their sense of responsibility for, the prevention and control of corruption and wastefulness, so that they act unanimously, voluntarily and highly”(2).

On that basis, the Anti-Corruption Law was passed in November 2018 and took effect starting July 1st 2019. This law has a separate section on communication, dissemination, and education on anti-corruption with its contents including: 1) Information, communication, and other agencies, organizations and units within their scope of tasks and powers have the responsibility to communicate, publicize, and educate about preventing and combating corruption in order to raise the awareness of citizens and people. 2) Education and training schools are mandated to integrate personality, ethics, and anti-corruption lifestyle education into educational programs for secondary students, high school students, university students, and people in positions of power.

Thus, the 2018 Anti-Corruption Law specifies the agencies responsible for anti-corruption education are the information and communication agencies; educational and training institutions. Meanwhile, objects of anti-corruption education are citizens, pupils, students, people with positions and powers.

In recent years, the agencies directly involved in anti-corruption education have been the press, media, Fatherland Front, and educational and training institutions. We have already achieved initial results by teaching the anti-corruption curriculum. From 2007-2013, more than 29 million turn of officials, civil servants, officials and people were disseminated, introduced, and educated about the law on anti-corruption. 478,000 classes on communication and dissemination of anti-corruption law were taught and 2.3 million documents and books on anti-corruption were published. At the high school level, the content of anti-corruption is integrated into teaching under the subject of citizen education. The class spans a duration of 6 periods throughout 3 school years. The content of anti-corruption includes social and legal knowledge to equip students with the concept, expression, causes, and effects of corruption on society. Furthermore, the content of law communication on anti-corruption has been integrated into the project of building and promoting law propagation and advocacy among citizens by the Fatherland Front at different levels from 2006 to present. Press agencies are actively involved in anti-corruption activities, including displaying communication about anti-corruption law as well as creating public opinion that criticizes corrupt acts. The press not only contributes greatly to detecting corrupt acts but also acts as a major force for communication, advocacy, and education in raising people’s awareness of anti-corruption through publicizing good examples and good practices. Each year, about 5,000 articles and news on anti-corruption issues are published in more than 40 newspapers (20 central level newspapers, 10 local level newspapers and 10 electronic newspapers)(3). 77.83% of reporters agree with the media’s participation in communication and dissemination of the Party and State’s guidelines, policies, procedures, and laws on anti-corruption(4).

Despite these successes, the anti-corruption education in Vietnam in recent years is still limited. The dissemination and communication on anti-corruption education have mainly focused on the internal implementation of agencies, units and organizations with public personnel and Party members. It has not yet been conducted on all strata of people; the content and form of communication are not abundant; the duration of communication is still limited and does not meet the lawfully defined requirements. Because the amount of anti-corruption educational content is so large yet constrained to such a short amount of time, teachers mainly teach theory. Theory has not created a strong enough interest and sense of anti-corruption among students. Sometimes, teachers have not been officially trained on this issue and instead mainly learned anti-corruption by themselves. Furthermore, civic education, in general, is a subject that has been paid little attention in some schools. Activities of communication, dissemination, and education on anti-corruption of the Fatherland Front and its member organizations are still impractical coupled with inappropriate methods. The role of the Fatherland Front in propagating and disseminating legal education on anti-corruption is inadequate given the position of the Fatherland Front and the importance of having communication about laws on anti-corruption. Since legal communication activities are integrated with the general legal education program or the campaign for learning and following Ho Chi Minh’s moral example, these programs fall short on both the amount of content and time anti-corruption is taught. Media agencies have mostly reported corruption cases a satisfactory amount meanwhile news about good examples for corruption prevention and policies on anti-corruption is limited and irregular. Overall the media’s role in anti-corruption education is mediocre.

Meanwhile, the number of corrupt acts public personnel and civil servants participate in continues to increase and has only become even more serious and sophisticated. Regardless, Vietnamese people’s anti-corruption awareness remains low. Vietnamese people’s large tendency to accept corruption without challenge impedes the process of anti-corruption activities. Only 6% of the Vietnamese population does not accept corruption, compared to 70% of Sweden’s population(5). Many corporations still intentionally bribe for their own interests. According to a survey, among enterprises paying unofficial fees, more than 70% of cases are proposed by enterprises and less than 30% are asked to bribe by officials and civil servants(6). In a survey about people’s reactions when they were suggested to pay unofficial fees, 37% answered they would pay the fees to get things done, 11% of people answered they would pay but also negotiate a bit, only 3% would not pay the fees and would report to the competent person, while the rest (34%), would not pay and wait for settlement(7). For officials and civil servants, 86% of them said that the fear of fighting against corruption is still widespread among officials and public employees. Even though awareness of corruption has improved, the level of readiness to fight against corruption among officials and public employees remains unclear(8). From the above limitations, it is an urgent requirement for Vietnam to promote anti-corruption education to fight against and admonish corruption among officials and people.

3. Solutions to enhance anti-corruption education in Vietnam

First of all, an anti-corruption educational program for each specific subject needs to be built

The subjects of anti-corruption education must be comprehensive, including citizens, students, and people with positions of power. The inclusion of anti-corruption content into education and training programs must be carried out in all education and training institutions, schools, universities, academies and colleges, vocational colleges and schools, administrative schools, professional management schools of the Party, State agencies, armed forces schools, socio-political organizations, etc. For each specific subject, the content, communication, and educational program need to be built accordingly. For public personnel, civil servants, and people with positions of power anti-corruption education is necessary. Anti-corruption education needs to be associated with moral education, lifestyle, political awareness, and responsibility. It is essential to link the ethical education of officials, party members, and people. It is needed to communicate and educate officials and civil servants so that they understand and instill responsibility, self-esteem, and pride in doing a corruption-free job for the benefit of the whole community. With this mentality, the attitude of criticizing corrupt acts would be formed, considering corruption as an act of insulting the honor and self-respect of officials and public employees. For people, it is important to pay attention to education in order to help them realize the multifaceted harms of corruption and recognizing corrupt behaviors, thereby creating a general social response to say no to corruption in any form. At the same time, it is necessary to educate citizens’ on responsibility, respecting the law, fairness and integrity, and how to build a culture full of acts of integrity and free of corruption among people. For businesses and enterprises, the communication against corruption should be linked with communication in building business culture and social responsibility of enterprises.

The second solution would be improving the quality of anti-corruption education staff and the responsibilities of anti-corruption education agencies.

In order to improve the quality of anti-corruption education, attention should be paid to raising the quality of anti-corruption education teams involved in education and training institutions, press agencies, and the Vietnamese Fatherland Front along with other member organizations. There should be specific requirements and standards for people who are directly involved in anti-corruption education. Ranging from those who regularly organize training courses to those who include updated knowledge on anti-corruption educational content and teaching skills for that content. In addition, the State needs to allocate appropriate funds to implement this regime and policies for these people.

The Party and the State need specific regulations and regular checks on the implementation of anti-corruption education by responsible agencies and units. For education and training institutions, it is necessary to increase the duration of anti-corruption educational programs. Specific regulations are needed including commending press and media agencies which publish news about positive deeds and praise for those deeds, in the fight against corruption; as well as agencies that participate in anti-corruption, laws, policies communication activities. These regulations also must condemn and fight against people who commit acts of corruption. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese Fatherland Front and its member organizations also need to increase the amount of time to propagate and educate on anti-corruption laws during the dissemination and communication of general laws, as well as create separate sections for anti-corruption law.

The last, but certainly not least solution is changing the methods and forms of communication and anti-corruption education.

To instill anti-corruption attitude in officials, Party members, and people, there must be appropriate and effective methods and forms of communication and education. The responsible organizations need to pay attention to how to change their methods and forms of communication when educating on anti-corruption. The method of concentrating on only theory should be avoided, especially in educating students. Organizations and agencies need to diversify their forms of communication and education. For example, they could organize writing contests to learn about Anti-Corruption Law or anti-corruption works; analyze case studies, and examine the consequences of previous real and serious corruption cases. In particular, the internet should be used as a new form of communication and education on anti-corruption. The internet through its convenience easily attracts interested people to learn about anti-corruption.

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Endnote:

(1) Excerpts from Nguyen Dang Dzung, Pham Hong Thai, Chu Hong Thanh, Vu Cong Giao: Theory and Law on Anti-corruption Textbook, Vietnam National University Press, Hanoi, p.71.

(2) CPV: Document of the 12th National Congress, Office of the Party Central Committee, Hanoi, 2016, p.212.

(3) Cao Thi Dzung: “Communication activities on anti-corruption in Vietnam today”, Science and Political Theory Journal, Vol. 9-2018.

(4) According to the survey results of the author Cao Thi Dzung in her doctoral thesis of Political Studies, The participation of press agencies in anti-corruption in Vietnam, 2019.

(5) Trinh Thi Xuyen (chief editor): The mechanism of citizen participation in anti-corruption in Vietnam today, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2014, p.177.

(6), (7), (8) Vietnam Inspection and World Bank: Corruption from the perspective of citizens, firms and civil servants’ results of sociological surveys, National Political Publishing House, 2012, p.52, 52, 60.

MA. Trinh Xuan Thang

Academy of Politics Region IV

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