Viet Nam’s schools prepare for fresh start

Raring to go: Students of the Ba Vi Boarding School for Ethnic Groups mark the opening of their new school year with flags and banners.- VNA/VNS Photo Quoc Khanh

Raring to go: Students of the Ba Vi Boarding School for Ethnic Groups mark the opening of their new school year with flags and banners.- VNA/VNS Photo Quoc Khanh

Students nationwide have excitedly begun the new academic year. The Ministry of Education and Training has introduced a raft of new measures to bring the best out of youngsters and ensure a good education for the country’s poorest pupils. Nguyen Thanh Ha reports.

Over 20 million students and their parents across the country were excitedly starting their new school year early this week. Among them, hundreds of students in remote and disadvantaged areas will enjoy new policies from the State.

This school year, 15 year old Nong Thi Hoa, a poor student from Nguyen Binh District, is happy because she and her parents will receive 15kg of rice per month as part of one of the new policies.

“My daughter’s school meals will also be subsidised this year,” said Ngan’s mother, Hoang Thi Noong.

All smiles: The joyful faces of students at Ha Noi's Tran Quoc Toan Primary School. - VNA/VNS Photo Quy Trung

All smiles: The joyful faces of students at Ha Noi's Tran Quoc Toan Primary School. - VNA/VNS Photo Quy Trung

She said that thanks to the State, her children would not drop out of school because otherwise they would not have enough money to pay for her tuition fees.

“This will help disadvantaged students to attend school. We are illiterate so we hope the children in our village learn how to read and to write and even go to university,” Noong said in tears.

Deputy Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Thi Nghia said the State would provide asssistance for students from poor areas via education and training units.

Tran Thi Tham, deputy head of the Ministry of Education and Training’s Primary School Department, said the ministry was drafting a new direction to stop first-grade students from having to take tests to release the pressure on them.

Under the draft, the ministry is encouraging first-grade teachers to only comment on their students’ progress without marking them on their work.

“Teachers should not compare students or speak harshly to them so they are free to learn naturally,” Tham said.

Back with a bang: A teacher sounds the traditional drum beat at a Ha Hoi school to declare the start of a new school year. - VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Tung

Back with a bang: A teacher sounds the traditional drum beat at a Ha Hoi school to declare the start of a new school year. - VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Tung

Bui Thi Thao from Ha Noi said the last year, her family was on edge because her first grade son was a troublemaker who refused to do his work.

“When my son got bad marks, my husband often shouted at him while I had to sit with him to write his letters until 10pm but the situation was not improved much,” Thao said, adding that she agreed with the ministry’s drafts of not to give marks but positive remarks by teachers to help releasing pressures from the child.

However, teacher Nguyen Thi Minh from Ba Dinh Primary School in Ha Noi said marking first grade students would give their parents an idea of what level they were at.

Pham Duc Chuan from the Ha Noi Research Centre for Psychology of Children, said the pressure on first grade students was not from being marked, it was the heavy workload that was forced upon them.

Before the start of the new school year, the Ministry of Education and Training urged local education departments to find solutions to deal with this problem and all the extra classes that are draining the children mentally and the parents financially.

So far, 41 out of 63 provinces and cities have issued decrees on extra classes and teaching management to stop parents being forced into sending their children for additional tuition that supplements teachers’ salaries.

First day fun: First grade students excitedly join a lesson on their very opening day in class. = VNA/VNS Photo Quy Trung

First day fun: First grade students excitedly join a lesson on their very opening day in class. = VNA/VNS Photo Quy Trung

Pham Hoang Long, the father of a 10th grade student from Ha Noi’s Cau Giay District said his son had suffered a lot from the extra lessons.

“My son spends most of his time studying because of the extra lessons, but they’re not helping him or his friends.” said Long, adding that the ministry had been calling for an end to extra teaching for years, but the situation seemed to be getting worse.

Ta Diem Huong from Ha Noi’s Hoan Kiem District said her third grade son had enjoyed his summer vocation because he did not have to attend summer school.

“Extra teaching and learning in primary schools is being strictly managed to follow regulations issued by the city’s education department,” said Huong, adding that the regulations made it a happy summer break for students and their parents.

“My son is healthy and excited about going back to school. I hope this refreshed frame of mind will help to study well,” Huong said.

This school year is the first year the sixth plenum of the Party Central Committee’s decision that a comprehensive overhaul of Viet Nam’s education and training system has been implemented in order to keep up with the rest of the country’s modernisation process.

The project aims to replace old teaching and training methods and management and improve basic infrastructure and personnel.

During a recent conference on the project, Dang Xuan Thao said that to have a completely new education system, the country needed to ensure transparency in the recruitment process, while teachers should be respected both morally and in a material sense.

“If the system is not transparent, talented people will continue to be ignored while bad teachers hold onto important positions,” said Thao.

He added that the salary for teachers should be increased, as this would drastically improve the quality of their work.

Former Minister of Education and Training Pham Minh Hac said the goals of general education, vocational training and university education should be clearly defined.

“We need to stop imposing ideas on students, and instead help them to cultivate their own independently and creatively. By doing so, schools will train confident, self-reliant citizens,” Hac said.

Agreeing with Hien, educationist Tran Quoc Toan said: “We should think carefully about cutting certain aspects of the curriculum because students may lose out on important knowledge, experience and life skills.”

Nguyen Huu Do, director of the Ha Noi Education and Training Department, said for comprehensive overhaul of education and training, Ha Noi’s education sector needed to promote compulsory secondary education and 85 per cent of its primary school in the morning and afternoon so they could complete their exercises during school time, not at home.

“We aim to encourage students to develop their talents and capacity,” said Do.

Deputy Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Vinh Hien said more than 2,000 primary schools in Viet Nam would implement the new school model this year.

The model aims to ensure all students receive a comprehensive education and develop their life skills.

“The model is designed to help students develop the capacity to self study and apply their knowledge to practical situations in everyday life,” Hien said.

The model places importance on individually evaluating students in order to push those who need pushing, and help those who need helping.

“This way, teachers will know each of their students’ capabilities and be able to teach them accordingly,” Hien said.

Asked to explain more details about the new model, Hien said that each lesson had been designed for students to self study and then show their understanding and how they could apply that knowledge at school, at home and in the community. – VNS

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