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Meet this humble Vietnamese Olympiad gold medalist



Editor’s note: Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters recently sat with Nguyen Tuan Phong, a Vietnamese student celebrated for his numerous achievements in prestigious competitions, including an Olympiad gold medal, to delve into his journey and future aspirations. Phong maintained a remarkably humble manner throughout the interview, often characterizing himself as ‘quite ordinary.’

While attending Bac Ninh High School for the Gifted in Bac Ninh Province, northern Vietnam, Phong achieved second place in the National Physics Competition in 11th grade, secured the top spot in the same competition in 12th grade, won a silver medal in the 2022 European Physics Olympiad, and claimed a bronze medal in the 2023 Asia-Pacific Physics Olympiad.

He won the gold medal in the 2023 International Physics Olympiad, which was hosted by Japan in July and featured 398 participants from 84 countries and territories, and was directly admitted to the Hanoi University of Science and Technology. 

Fortunate failure

“I was born into a family that wasn’t very affluent but always managed to provide a conducive learning environment for their children,” Phong said. 

“As early as high school, I became accustomed to an independent lifestyle, moving into a dormitory because my school was more than 30 kilometers away from home. 

“It might come as a surprise to many, but my initial academic focus was on math, not physics.”

During his middle school years, Phong, like many of his peers, primarily concentrated on mathematics, deeming it the most vital subject. 

However, he found himself unable to keep pace with his teammates and ultimately finished last in the district examination. 

Although he was initially taken aback by the outcome, he came to appreciate that failure as it became the turning point leading him to discover his passion for physics.

This newfound subject revealed to Phong the opportunity to apply his skills more intimately and approach problem-solving in a more profound manner. 

Over time, his passion for physics blossomed, and he came to recognize that the earlier setback had, in fact, opened a more fitting door for him.

Phong never considered himself exceptionally intelligent, so studying was not as effortless as some might assume.

“I believe intelligence acts as a catalyst, facilitating a more thoughtful and less stressful approach to learning,” said Phong. 

“However, achieving great success demands relentless effort, day and night, from anyone.”

Lesson learned

In Phong’s view, even the most intelligent individuals cannot gain the kind of experience and understanding that takes months or years for most people to learn and research in just a few days. A lot of knowledge is intricately tied to life experiences.

Phong drew inspiration from a personal setback, which occurred during the 2023 Asia-Pacific Physics Olympiad. 

In this competition, he ended up in second place within the Vietnamese team, a surprising turn of events as he had often outperformed a friend who triumphed this time.

Upon reflection, he recognized that the exam did not demand unwavering precision in solutions, and his innate meticulousness had become an unnecessary time drain. 

“I learned that each competition has its unique rules, and, to excel, one should not fixate on perfectionism,” Phong recalled.

“Instead, the key is to comprehend the competition’s criteria and concentrate on aligning oneself to be the best fit for those standards.”


When asked if he himself needed any improvement, Phong admitted that during his final years of high school, he dedicated most of his time to his academic pursuits and team activities, which left him with limited contact with friends and little time for other social activities.

As a result, he recognized certain areas where he believed there is room for his improvement, particularly in English proficiency and communication skills. 

Currently, he is committed to refining these aspects, along with many others.

“I value a tranquil life and consider success and happiness as having enough resources to provide for family and indulge in personal interests,” Phong said. 

“Considering a more ambitious aspiration, it might involve earning a scholarship to study abroad at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, obtaining a doctoral degree, and contributing to noteworthy research or projects that leave a lasting legacy in people’s memories.”

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Vietnamese high school principal’s enthusiastic greeting on first day goes viral on social media



A video capturing the spirited moment of a high school principal, dressed in a white shirt, standing in the schoolyard and wholeheartedly applauding and welcoming every student on the inaugural day of his new role in Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam, has garnered significant attention on social media.

The video began circulating on social media on Friday last week, marking the first day that Le Trieu Son took on the role of principal at Hai Ba Trung High School in Hue City, Thua Thien-Hue Province.

Numerous teachers at the school were surprised to witness the new principal standing and warmly greeting each student, a scene that also took many students aback.

Following the school drum signaling the commencement of the school day, Son took advantage of the 15-minute bellwork period in each class to visit every classroom, extending personal greetings to students and homeroom teachers.

During these visits, Son humbly introduced himself to the students and teachers, saying, “I have been assigned by the Department of Education and Training of Thua Thien Hue Province to serve as the school principal, and today marks the beginning of my job.”

“I hope you will join hands with me to transform this hundred-year-old school into a happy place.” 

In response to the principal’s sincerity, many students expressed interest and asked to shake hands with him.

Le Trieu Son visits every classroom on the first day of his new role as the principal at Hai Ba Trung High School in Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam, December 1, 2023. Photo: Anh Thu / Tuoi Tre

Le Trieu Son visits every classroom on the first day of his new role as the principal at Hai Ba Trung High School in Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam, December 1, 2023. Photo: Anh Thu / Tuoi Tre

Son, confirming the incident to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, said that he extended this personal greeting not only to morning classes but also to afternoon classes on Friday. 

Reflecting on the motivation behind his actions, Son explained that upon arriving at the school, he noticed the hurried faces of students rushing to their classes. 

In response, he headed to the schoolyard, greeted the students, and reminded them to walk slowly to avoid tumbles.

“I remained standing to welcome the students until the start of the class,” Son said. 

“Subsequently, I visited every classroom to personally meet with all the students and their respective homeroom teachers throughout the entire school.

“The fulfillment of my assigned tasks at this school hinges on the cooperation and engagement of the students.”

The Department of Education and Training in Thua Thien Hue Province has designated Son, the former principal of Gia Hoi High School in Hue City, as the new principal of Hai Ba Trung High School.

This decision comes in the aftermath of Ngo Duc Thuc’s resignation due to financial management violations.

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UK government scholarship recipients train Vietnamese students in clean energy



Luu Nguyen Nguyet Minh, an alumnus of the UK government’s Chevening Scholarship Program, is working alongside a cohort of her fellow Chevening alumni to promote the shift to renewable energy in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region.

Last weekend, the group hosted a two-day training program for 9th graders at Doan Thi Diem Middle School in Ninh Kieu District, Can Tho City.

The program, named ‘Enhancing Awareness of Renewable Energy Toward Achieving Zero Net Emissions in the Mekong Delta,’ brought several Chevening scholars and local experts together to teach the participants about simple renewable energy models.

Minh, a Can Tho native, has spent the better part of her academic and professional life working to create positive changes in the Mekong Delta region.

“The project brings together Chevening alumni, young engineers, and lecturers from Can Tho University,” Minh said. “Young people in the Mekong Delta, especially in Can Tho, have the ability and passion to build a sustainable and healthy delta.”

During the training program, Nguyen Thi Anh Thu, a Chevening scholar who specializes in environmental and energy studies, spent time teaching the participants about energy, including different sources of energy and actions they can take within their families and schools to implement renewable energy and efficient energy-saving practices.

Thu specifically focused on the Mekong Delta’s abundance of wind as a clean, renewable energy source for the region.

Contributing to the project, Bui Minh Duc, a construction engineer in Can Tho, along with a team of experts, built a visual model depicting four systems of renewable energy production.

According to Duc, the model allows students to visualize the basic principles of generating electricity from renewable sources. The students also wrote down the ideas for their own model and presented them in English.

The model will eventually be donated to the school so that it can continue to be used to inspire the transition to renewable energy.

On December 11, a convoy from the British Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City will visit the school to present awards to the teams who participated in a solar energy-powered mini vehicle design competition.

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Vietnam university awards honorary doctorate to S.Korean province governor



The University of Social Sciences and Humanities under the Vietnam National University-Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday awarded an honorary doctorate to Lee Cheol Woo, governor of North Gyeongsang Province in eastern South Korea for his contributions to the friendship between the East Asian country and Vietnam.

Speaking at a ceremony to give the doctorate, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Minh Tam, vice-president of the Vietnam National University-Ho Chi Minh City, hailed Lee’s assistance, informing that Lee had received many medals and prizes, including the Order for the Hongjo Geunjeong Medal, the Proud Korean Grand Prize, and the grand prize for Proud Koreans Who Shined for Korea.

He promoted the establishment of the Saemaul Globalization Foundation in Vietnam.

Activities of the foundation and the Center for Rural Development – Saemaul Undong have helped foster Vietnam’s socio-economic development, which has been recognized by many Vietnamese localities.

Saemaul Undong is also known as the New Community Movement, a political initiative launched in 1970 to modernize the rural South Korean economy.

“Through the operations of the foundation and the Saemaul movement, North Gyeongsang Province governor Lee has helped with increasingly tightening the Vietnam – South Korea relations,” Tam said.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ngo Thi Phuong Lan, rector of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City, said Lee had contributed significantly to the local community through the Center for Rural Development – Saemaul Undong’s activities.

Lan added that Lee would continue making great contributions to the currently strong Vietnam – South Korea relations.

“It’s my great honor and pride to receive the honorary doctorate from the Vietnam National University-Ho Chi Minh City, which is known as the largest university in Vietnam and the cradle of many talents of the country,” Lee remarked at the ceremony.

He added he used to be a teacher and has more than 40 years of working in the National Diet of Japan and then the North Gyeongsang Province administration.

“I get a new feeling when standing here because Vietnamese educators recognized my efforts and achievements from my contributions to human prosperity through the Saemaul movement,” Lee shared.

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