Methods used to train auditors and accountants need fundamental change, said Vietnam Association of Accountants and Auditors president Dang Van Thanh at a forum on April 20 in Hanoi .

Vietnam 's accounting and auditing systems needed greater capability to analyse economic and financial information and make forecasts, Thanh said.

"It's necessary to put an end to passive teaching methods that compel students to view State accounting standards as the standard for accounting knowledge," he added. "Students need to understand and develop intrinsic theories instead."

"The perception about accounting needs to be changed," agreed Prof Nghiem Van Loi from the University of Labour and Social Affairs. "Many universities in Vietnam are still training bookkeepers, not real accountants."

Vietnamese exporters had encountered international lawsuits because of the differences in accounting data from foreign firms, noted Thanh.

"It was not because Vietnamese accounting and auditing regulations were not in line with international practices, but because enterprises did not strictly follow tax and accounting regulations," he said. "In 2003, I was directly involved in the basa fish lawsuit, through which I found that enterprises had not seriously complied with regulations." he said, noting that some Vietnamese firms were found to have no accounting or internal audit systems in place.

An international standardised accounting and auditing system needed to be built and applied effectively in practice, he said. Both were critical elements to creating a healthy business environment and helping Vietnam be recognised as a market economy.

Dang Thai Hung, head of the Department of Accounting and Auditing Policies of the Ministry of Finance, said: "Legal provisions should be mixed with specific case studies to prepare human resources with practical knowledge."

"Virtual accounting departments should be established to provide actual accounting and auditing templates and case studies for students," agreed Thanh.

Rhys Johnson, head of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in the Asia-Pacific region, shared a Chinese experience in offering embedded programmes in universities.

"Students took auditing courses from both the universities and the ACCA," Johnson said. "These programmes were applied in the second year at universities, so they helped students save a lot of time to earn ACCA papers."

Chinese universities faced similar challenges, including a lack of qualified lecturers, he said, but the challenge could be met here by co-operating with the private sector to deliver courses for embedded students. /.