Nguyễn Thị Kim Thúy, deputy chair of the National Assembly's Committee for Social Affairs, spoke to Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper about the textbook reform programme, which is expected to see the assembly's highest supervision next year.
What is your view on the textbook and curriculum reforms being one of the four topics proposed for the National Assembly's supreme supervision in 2023?
I believe that this matter should not be limited to the oversight of the Standing Committee, but should be under the supreme supervision of the National Assembly (NA). These two NA resolutions [No 88 in 2014 and No 51 in 2017 on textbook and curriculum reforms] have a special significance. According to the roadmap specified in Resolution No 51, after two more years (2024 – 2025 academic year), the first phase of textbook and curriculum reforms will be completed at all levels of general education.
The NA's supreme supervision at this moment will help comprehensively and promptly evaluate the advantages and disadvantages in the implementation process of the aforementioned resolutions. From that point on, there can be new directions and guidance for effective reforms in the upcoming years.
Since put into use, the new textbook sets have revealed several errors in terms of science and education. Have these issues been addressed?
In the first school year [of applying the new textbooks], when the public criticised the inappropriate language in some of the reading texts in the Cánh Diều (Kite) book set, the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) gave direction to the publishing unit to properly and promptly address the issue, which is commendable.
However, when there are many more serious errors detected in the books Vietnamese 1, Vietnamese 2, Literature 6, and Natural Sciences 6 by the Việt Nam Education Publishing House, the ministry and the publishing unit did not constructively address the problems and adjust the content.
The books that are currently in use are not yet revised. However, in the response to the NA deputies, the MoET said that hundreds of thousands of books have been recalled and corrected, which is not the reality.
Many parents don't agree with how textbooks cannot be reused, which is uneconomical. They also said that each textbook requires many additional workbooks and reference books, which increases the financial burden on families. Do you share the same perspective?
The MoET has given the direction to publishing houses to design and print textbooks in a way that does not require students to write on the pages; this is also a requirement of the textbook assessment councils. If there are exercises that require writing or drawing, those will be put in separate workbooks.
Therefore, if parents or teachers see any textbooks that include written exercises, they should give feedback to the MoET so that the ministry can order publishing houses to recall the book and make adjustments.
The MoET also needs to require publishing houses to create workbooks not for all the subjects, but only the necessary ones. Publishers also need to stop putting textbooks and workbooks together in the same package, because workbooks are not compulsory. While it is easier to use workbooks, it is totally possible for students to use their usual notebooks.
The MoET currently gives local textbook councils the right to select textbooks, however, there could be cases that are not fair, just, or transparent. How do you think the textbook selection process should be changed to ensure fairness and transparency?
The MoET needs to make immediate amendments to Circular No 25 [on selecting textbooks in general education institutions] to address the issue where the provincial textbook selection councils ignore schools' opinions. On the other hand, the ministry needs to conduct regular inspections to eradicate the lack of objectivity, of fairness and transparency, including the 'backdoor lobbying' that the public has talked about. The press has also reported on a company under a textbook publishing house that spends tens of billions of đồng on 'market development'.
Inspectors should bring to light what are these 'market development' expenses. Only then can we ensure healthy competition to improve the textbooks' quality for the interests of learners and teachers. On the contrary, if shortcomings persist, it will only be a matter of time before the socialisation policy in designing textbooks, as stated in Resolution No 88 and Law on Education, ends in failure.
The Government has just announced that they will consider making history a compulsory subject in the general education curriculum, instead of optional like the MoET has designed. Do you think that is suitable and necessary?
From the 2022 – 2023 academic year, as the 2018 general education curriculum is applied for Grade 3, 7, and 10, there is inevitably inadequacies during implementation. Many people now support putting history, along with nine other subjects in the general curriculum, as optional subjects according to individual preference and career orientation, which is in line with NA's resolutions No 29 and No 88 [on educational and textbook reforms].
However, a large number of people disagree and are concerned that students who do not choose to study history will not understand 'the roots of their homeland Việt Nam', which would lead to a lack of patriotism and 'unpredictable consequences'.
Meanwhile, the MoET has yet to announce the opinions of the curriculum assessment council, of departments of education and training, teachers, experts, ministries and agencies, among which there is the 14th NA's Committee for Culture, Education, Adolescents and Children, and of the people during conferences and seminars that collect feedback on the new general education programme.
The new curriculum has been approved for four years and recently implemented in high school. These schools have put in the effort to design subject groups, now with another compulsory subject added, they would have to start again from scratch.
The Government and especially the MoET need to be cautious and closely monitor the implementation process to provide prompt guidance, listening to the public's opinion for diverse perspectives. It is necessary to define and communicate the pedagogic philosophy of the new programme so that everyone is fully informed.
I ask the Government and National Assembly to be calm and make careful consideration before reaching a decision, to have an adequate theoretical and practical basis, thereby introducing convincing solutions. It is possible to implement the new programme for at least one school year, followed by a practical evaluation, before making decisions.
By developing the programme, we can adjust to perfect it. However, changes need to be clear and specific. Adjustment plans need to be thoroughly prepared, and the time and schedule should avoid causing major impacts on the programme structure that has been researched, built, and gone through a rigorous process for approval. — VNS
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