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International cooperation promoting the development of training contents and programmes for civil servants and public officials - the case of leadership studies in HCMA

1. Continuous reform of training contents and training programmes is a compulsory task and an inevitable trend to meet the increasing requirements of the civil service and social development

The role of training for the civil service

For human resource development for the society in general, training is considered as one of the key measures to improve individual and organisation capacity.

For the Public service, regardless certain shortcomings training for civil servants and public officials have provided many benefits as follows(1):

- Enhancing the performance of individuals, units and organisations (in terms of productivity, quality, speed and flexibility for multi-skilled staff ).

- Increasing the confidence, motivation and job satisfaction.

- Increasing the commitment by encouraging civil servants to identify their capabilites and position themselves in relation to the organisation’s missions and objectives, the core values of the public service as well as the public values.

- Supporting leadership and managing changes in organisations through enriched understanding of the causes of change, the impacts of change, supporting them to adapt to changing context and new challenges, making use of the advantages of change and proactively taking part in creating changes in the Public service.

- Promotion of the development of a positive model of organisational culture- of which continuously improvement performance is at the heart of the working style.

In a nutshell, training is for long considered as a meaningful measure to develop competence for civil servants in general and public officials in particular, helping them to expose their potentials, supporting them to perfect their personality and life style; shaping and promotion of organisations’ and the public service’s potentials and capacity, image and reputation.

Motivation to reform training content and programmes

In achieving the above mentioned objectives, the contents and training programmes for civil servants and public officials are expected to:

- Reflect and contribute to realizing political orientations, ideas and objectives; vision and administrative goals, and public values;

- Fully reflect the political mission, functions, training and development orientation, strategy and philosophy of the training institution;

- Contribute to enrich the specialized and inter-disciplinary knowledge;

- Make the best of capacity and resource of the civil service training institutions while wisely mobilising the intellectual competence from the whole society;

- Constantly reform for social changes, both developing professional knowledge and quickly grasping and meeting social needs.

Continuous reform of the training contents and programmes has been both being promoted by pressures and motivation, with the details as followed:

(1) Challenges for better capacity of the political system and the Public service in preserving national sovereignty, increasing national competitive advantage, effectively pursuing development goals, searching and receiving development opportunities through the maximum mobilisation of the potential from within and outside of the political system, the public sector, country and region. This asks for better learning skill and continuously improving mindset, quality of thinking and action.

(2) The rich of information and knowledge in the society, the better informed and knowledgeable citizens, communities and businessmen, being well supported by the Internet and digital platform. On the other hand, as data and information are available in the mass media and social networks, there would be a resistance to learn seriously given the psychology of “I know everything”. This brings about great challenge for knowledge creation in designing and delivering training programmes for civil servants and public officials.

(3) The pressure of higher speed and quality for political and administrative activities and reforms costs them more time at work and less time at classes. For that, it is important to design training programme and contents in a way that integrate multiple purposes, cohesion, and interconnection between programmes.

Given the expectations, backwardness is an evitable and major threat to the training process, effectiveness and efficiency.

International collaboration is one of meaningful solutions to this problem.

2. International collaboration fosters the formation and renewal of training content and programmes on leadership studies in Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics (HCMA).

The establishment of a research and training unit on leadership and public Policy

In 2011, the President of the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics (hereinafter referred to as the Academy) decided to establish a Center for Leadership studies and Policy Research(2) (CLAPS) as the precursor of the current Institute for Leadership studies and Public Policy.

The Center’s name and missions are inspired by the Academy’s continuing ideas and discussions about the establishment of a forum with a focus on leadership issues both from academic and practical perspectives.

In addition, the inspiration to discover knowledge about leadership and public policy comes from the two international cooperation projects that has just started.

The knowledge of leadership and public policy

Through the process of collective thinking, the Center and the Institute have developed the content and training programmes within the framework of HCMA training and tailored in accordance with training needs of other organisations in the political system.

The foundation of the knowledge, content and programmes comes from many sources, including:

(1) The fundamental knowledge comes from the modules of basic knowledge such as philosophy, socialist science, political economy, development economics, international relations, politics and human rights research. These knowledge serves as the basis for thinking about the leadership process and policy process. As the outputs and outcomes of leadership that affected by the context and leadership cometence so they should be shown specifically on indicators of political stability, political innovation, sustainable economic growth, ensuring a close relationship between economy and politics as well as the protection and ensurance of human rights.

(2) The knowledge comes from a number of topics directly related to the framework of the HCMA Advanced theory training programmes such as: Thinking System, Public Policy (originally provided by Institute of Politics), the system of topics under the science management module (originally provided by the Department of Economics); etc.

(3) Practical knowledge of Academy leaders, scientists inside and outside the Center and HCMA as well as the practical knowledge shared by the learners;

(4) Knowledge from international collaboration projects.

International collaboration foundation for the development of contents and training programmes on leadership studies:

1- Research project on Public leadership for the sustainable development of Vietnam

This joint project implemented by HCMA in collaboration with Portland University (Portland State University-PSU) from Oregon, USA. The project lasts from 2009 – 2011, consisting of three components: (i) Research and exchange knowledge about leadership studies; (ii) Organization of some training courses for the Academy and knowledge creation on the subject of leadership for sustainable development; (iii) Funding for 01 scholarship for PhD degree in Public Administration and Public Policy at PSU.

The approach to leadership studies based on joint research of this Project is summarised as followed:

It can be said that international collaboration in research and training is an essential source for the Center/Institute for Leadership and Public Policy to build the core content for:

(1) 01 module for the Advanced Theory Training Programme.

(2) 02 Master programmes: Master of Public Policy (set up within the Programme no.1677 (2012-2013), and Master of Leadership Studies.

(3) Some training courses:

- In collaboration with UN Habitat Vietnam to design and implement some short-term leadership training courses for Quang Nam province (2012).

- In collaboration with Portland State University (PSU), Oregon, USA) to design and deliver short training courses on leadership skills for a number of localities and agencies such as Binh Duong (2012).

- In collaboration with PSU experts to design and implement leadership skills training for women in politics, co-organized by the Spanish Agency for International Development (coordinated by Paz Y Desarrollo-PDD) and the Department of Gender Equality, Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, Women’s Union and Department of Home Affairs of Quang Nam and Da Nang provinces (2015).

The modules of recommended by this joint reserch project can be summarized as EMERGE leadership. The name and main contents of the EMERGE modules can be compared with the names of the topics included in the Academy’s Advanced Theory programme as followed: (please see the Figure in the following page).

The above contents also continue to be promoted in the Master program on Leadership studies.

2- Research project on Enhancing research capacity of evidence-based policy

This joint research project implemented by the Academy in collaboration with the Institute of Social Studies (ISS), the Netherlands. The project lasts from 2009 - 2011. The primary knowledge that this Project develops is about evidence-based policy making.

The knowledge created by the project is promoted in the Advanced Theory Program (as shown in above Box) and some other programmes such as:

- Topic of evidence-based policy planning; materials of the training classes for the 12th Party Congress strategic cadres.

- Some modules for the Master program in Public Policy.

3- Some collaboration activities with Japan research partners on knowledge-based leadership

Under the sponsorship and expert support of JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency), HCMA has conducted oa number of international collaboration activities in research and training about knowledge-based leadership.

This research topic originally initiated by a Japanese business theorist who works and publishes in the United States, Professor Nonaka. This theory discovers the underlying reasons of the survival, thrive and prosperity of many businesses in the context of fierce competition today. This theory emphasises the role of knowledgeable leaders, leading the development process of the organisations based using and creating knowledge within and without the organisations. The process of creating this knowledge is summarized into model SECI (Socialization, Externalisation, Connection, Internalisation).

JICA and Japanese research partners such as GRIPS (Graduate Institute of Policy Studies) and HCMA have co-organised a number of scientific conferences, seminars and co-studies on the theory. The author of this theory, then, on the basis of the above discussions, has adapted his theory for leadership in the public sector. Some of the Academy’s researchers have published comparative research on knowledge-based leadership practices in Vietnam.

Knowledge created based on the results of the research collaboration process with Japan partners has been conveyed and promoted as followed:

(i) two case studies on Hoi An (Quang Nam province) and VSIP (Binh Duong province) for the purpose of training the module on Knowledge Creation (special subjects conducted by Japanese experts for Trainings for potential strategic leaders for the 12th Party Congress);

(ii) provision of the input for some part of the module on Leadership skills in the Advanced political Theory training (both in the previous and current versions).

4- FES project funded by the Federal Republic of Germany on Leadership Skills

This project was carried out under the sponsorship and support of experts of the Federal Republic of Germany.

This project transfers the content and training methods on some leadership skills.

The knowledge gained from this collaboration has been integrated in a number parts in the module on Leadership skills in the Advanced political theory training.

3. Some lessons learnt

Firstly, the important role of international collaboration in designing and innovating training contents and programmes(3) in general and in civil servants an public official trainings in particular.

In overal, the long-term cooperation projects and programmes, if designed deliberately, having a serious roadmap and clear outputs, are to provide a rich source of knowledge input and thinking for the design process of contents and training programmes.

As in the case of leadership studies in HCMA, the combination of fundamental knowledge and specialised knowledge of the Academy with other social sciences studied in Vietnam and the approach developed in international collaboration activities has created a fundamental knowledge foundation for a major of study of-graduate education including Master on Public Policy and Master on Leadership studies.

At the individual level, taking part in the joint international research programmes or projects, is an opportunity for scientists to learn, to broaden their vision, to re-shape their knowledge and to be more open-minded, eager to learn, to form a modern working style as well as the ability to withstand multi-dimensional pressure in modern working life.

Secondly, the general requirements for international cooperation in the training are to realise the training institutions’philosophy and strategic, being realistic, aiming at improvement of skills such as problem solving and constant personal development(4).

Thirdly, it calls for well defined one’s position and demand in collaboration

International collaboration is a multi-content transfer process (knowledge, technology, technology, finance,,..), multi-objective (professional, technical, political, economic, financial, even relative ideology) and multi-party (transferor, recipient, finance and management agencies/organisations, international, regional or local organisations managing intellectual property,...).

The transfer programmes always accompanied by inherent and hidden messages and values, messages, while also bringing in some unintentional messages. It can be about culture, lifestyle or the critiques of the role of the state and governments in national development, the appreciation or extreme honor of the role a force in society such as the state, the market or social organisations, etc.

Therefore, before collaboration commitments are made, training institutions need to clearly identify their objectives, benefits and risks of international collaboration in training; on that basis, determining their position (approach, behavior). Having done that way, the collaboration process will be meaningful for the Public service and the society as a whole; supporting the learners and stakeholders to avoid some extreme behavious such as a bias to foreign knowledge, solutions and experts or frustration (leading to foreign-alienation psychology). With this viewpoint, the training institutions have the wisdom to select partners, choose the contents and methods of transfer or sharing to suit the training needs and orientation.

This is especially true of the knowledge of leadership and public policy when these two areas reflect most clearly the unique context and features of political and cultural settings.

It should also be emphasized that international collaboration is not a one-way process in that the Vietnamese side is merely a recipient. This is also an essential process of people’s diplomacy and multi-dimensional diplomacy to promote Vietnam (in general) and HCMA’s (in particular) images, ideas, viewpoints, life style and working style of the Academy to foreign partners.

In addition, the goals and methods of international collaboration in civil servants system should take into account the needs of the three factors: (i) the learners’s management and leadership; (ii) the learners; (iii) the training institutions. These needs need to be thoroughly expressed from the initial stage, the development of collaboration commitment (MoU), the design of project documents as well as when evaluating cooperation results to ensure results as desired. 

On the basis of clearly defined stance and needs, it is necessary to choose partners wisely to create knowledge and resources for formation and reform training contents and programmes.



(1) Tran Thi Thanh Thuy, Dang Khac Anh and Nguyen Thi Tuyet Mai, FAQs on Leadership and Management of Commune People’s Committees, National Politics Publishing House, Hanoi, 2010.

(2) Decision No. 3302/QD-HVCT-HCQG dated October 26th, 2011.

(3) Tran Thi Thanh Thuy: “The benefits of international cooperation in training and retraining cadres and civil servants today”, Journal of State Organization, 2010, pp. 43-45.

(4) Tran Thi Thanh Thuy: “Policy considerations to ensure the effectiveness of international cooperation in training and retraining civil servants in Vietnam in the current period”, Journal of Theoretical Education, 2010, pp.41-45.

Assoc.Prof., Dr. Tran Thi Thanh Thuy

Institute for Leadership Studies and Public Policy


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