Learning through heritage

NDO - Van Mieu (Temple of Literature) attracts a large number of student visitors every year, mainly for spiritual purposes. How do the young people who come to the Van Mieu in hopes of understanding and respecting the true value of the heritage make the most of their experience? A programme on studying though heritage has been initiated in some primary schools in Hanoi and the results look good.


Different from the normal visiting model, the programme named ‘Ancient Class’, is a combination of visiting and learning in Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam. The trial programme is built in accordance with one or more classes as opposed to the school as a whole.

The students are divided into 15-student groups to enjoy games, such as drawing pictures, solving riddles, finding artifacts in the gallery, reading poems and staging plays on ancient classes. Through the games, the students directly approach the artifacts, such as the ong do’s(“calligrapher”) clothes, pen and ink slab. At the same time, the guides also tell the story of the ancient classes.

Thereby, students learn what the concept of an ancient class is, the "primordial" lessons of the Tam Tu Kinh (Three Character Classic) and Chinese characters which the forefathers used to record all things related to their life.

According to teacher Nguyen Kim Toan from Ly Thuong Kiet primary school, which was one of the first schools to participate in the programme, the students have shown great enthusiasm and joy for the programme. After concluding the trial, every student eagerly wished to return, she added.

The knowledge, which students have received as a result of the programme, is expressed through specific products, according to teacher Chung Thuy, Deputy Head of Nghia Tan primary school. As a result of these tangible products the teacher can see the depth of the childrens’ knowledge.

The success of this model will see new approaches and explorations into the way heritage systems are taught in Hanoi and throughout the country in general. In the future, it will be possible to launch similar models for tourists, contributing to the enrichment of the tourist experience and in turn attracting more tourists.

Currently, other places are building similar learning models with successful results, such as "I am an archaeologist" at the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, or "Love the history" club at the National History Museum. At first the "I am an archaeologist" program was held only on Sunday mornings, but demand was so high they now open on Saturday mornings and are always overloaded. Meanwhile, the "I love history" club has been running regularly since 2007.

There are many ways to effectively connect heritage with education and preservation, but the most important thing is making heritage sites more attractive and engaging. According to Associate Professor Doctor, PhD Bui Thanh Mai, who is Deputy Director of Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts, the most important aspect of artistic education must be bringing joy to the learners.

The education program of Van Mieu is taking heritage development in the right direction and investing in the future, according to Hoang Yen, a delegation of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long. However, besides developing attractive programs to suit children, it is necessary to change current perceptions regarding heritage and extracurricular activities in the schools. The collaboration of the Ministry of Education and Training with the Departments of Education and Training contributes to the high efficiency for the programme.

It is necessary to replicate this education model and share experiences in many other localities, according to Pham Thanh Huong, representative of UNESCO Vietnam. From the success of this model, it is possible to diversify products for both tourists and the public in general, she added.