(VOV) – Although Vietnam has carried out three post-1945 education reforms, many of its policies are now outdated, inspiring public concern.
At a Hanoi conference last November, the Party Central Committee approved a national master plan on comprehensive education reforms hoping to help the educational sector meet the demands of national development and keep pace with regional educational standards.
An uphill task
Education managers and experts are expecting drastic changes, but warn realising the national plan’s reform ambitions will require overcoming the entrenched attitudes of Vietnamese society.
The Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) intends to cease the expensive and time-consuming annual national tertiary entrance exams and endow universities and colleges with the authority to enroll students independently based on high school graduation exam results.
Vietnamese mathematician Professor Hoang Tuy admits such a move would demand radical pedagogical changes in Vietnamese high schools and ensure graduation exams are conducted in a fair and objective manner.
Vietnam Learning Promotion Association Vice President Professor Pham Tat Dong says the educational sector cannot implement the master plan on its own.
“Parents must be aware their children’s future relies on genuine academic capabilities, not through bribes,” Dong stresses.
Teachers: a decisive factor
Experts say teachers will determine the master plan’s success or failure. Vietnam needs competent teachers devoted to cultivating the quality human resources national development and international integration require.
Professor Dinh Quang Bao, the former director of the Teachers’ Training Science and Research Institute, believes teacher training itself needs comprehensive reforms. He underlines widening locality disparities in teacher numbers and professional standards, saying many teachers lag behind national education reforms.
MoET Minister Pham Vu Luan recently asked six key teacher training universities to conduct fact-finding tours overseas to inquire into education development.
Professor Bao says the research is at best an initial step, pointing out the fact teachers, generally respected in society, face mounting pressure during reform campaigns.
He believes professionalising teaching, adding to its prestige as a long-term career, would be of major assistance.
Seventeen years ago, the Party Central Committee concluded the minimum salary for teachers should be the highest in State employee wage scales. But teacher salaries still dwell in 14th.
A 2012 Vietnam Education Science Institute survey revealed half of respondent teachers wished they had never chosen their career, primarily because of low incomes.
Many teachers are forced to run extracurricular classes and tutoring to cover their daily expenses, overloading students.
Private tutoring: still a headache
At a 2013 Vietnamese Teachers’ Day celebration, Vietnam Fatherland Front Central Committee President Nguyen Thien Nhan, who was also former MoET Minister, acknowledged extracurricular classes and tutoring are evident at almost every school.
He said some parents feel their children must attend the extra classes or risk failure due to unfamiliarity with testable material.
Only when teachers receive a living wage, will the extracurricular classes only reduce, said Nhan.
This is a big challenge for the education sector as the MoET permits universities and colleges to enrol students autonomously.
Thousands of informal training course graduates are left unemployed when they find their academic certifications are not recognised. Some provinces and cities ignore the problem.
Education managers are concerned about the feasibility of autonomous enrollment, querying how tertiary institutions intend to compensate for test quality and extracurricular tutoring.
Addressing these issues plaguing education asks challenging questions of Vietnamese society as a whole.