Careful thought required in choosing schools
by Trung Hieu-Do Vui
State-run Ha Noi Thuc Nghiem (Experimental) Primary School issued entrance examination forms to parents last Friday, but had to immediately postpone them on Saturday morning when frantic parents began jostling and fighting in front of the school gate on Lieu Giai Street.
Meanwhile many high school students are forced to register for university entrance examinations' groups that they don't like, yet their parents insist on.
This year, only eight per cent of young people registered to sit for the exam for Group C (Literature, History and Geography). Many parents do not want their children joining these sectors, and educational theorists say they are worried that the social sciences and humanities may risk eradication due to the low enrolment.
Professor Nguyen Kim Son, vice principal of Ha Noi University of Social Sciences and Humanities, says that the economics and technology sectors attract many young people today, while social sciences and humanities are neglected.
"A reason is that social sciences and humanities have problems with employment, while the economics and technology sectors create many job opportunities with a good income, so most young people rush to them," he says.
Mai Chi of the Hoan Kiem District says: "I'd love to become a teacher, but my mother forbade me, saying that this job is not safe. As in, if a teacher gives bad marks, she may be attacked by students, while the salary is low. She asked me to sit for the exam for the Finance, Banking or Accountancy sectors where graduates have more opportunities to find jobs."
Ngo Manh, a father, says: "Teachers and doctors are two professions worthy of respect, but we advised our children to not to sit for exams for these sectors. Teachers often have a low salary, while doctors face too much pressure, so they have no time left for their family. That's why I asked them to sit for exams in Foreign Trade and Economics."
Many parents are not aware that the final goal of education is to create an individual who will be useful to society. Parents do not pay attention to bringing into play their children's abilities and strengths, they only follow social tendencies and rumours.
This imbalance in training will have negative implications on the structure of jobs in the future.
Professor Ho Ngoc Dai, founder of the Thuc Nghiem School and the first to study and build off of the experimental education method, says that many parents don't really know the good points of the model.
"They just act based on rumours that the school is very good. That's why many were ready to wait throughout the rainy night in front of the school to buy entrance forms for their children. I pity them as parents who simply want to find a good school for their children and suffer for it."
This fact has once again sounded an alarm around the shortcomings of enrolment and how urban parents find schools.
Normally, school enrolment runs from July 1-15. However, the race to have a seat in the top ranked classes often starts in April or May.
Hoang Mai Phuong, from Kim Ma Street, filled out the documents for her daughter to sit at the entrance exam for Doan Thi Diem Primary School (a popular, high quality school), but she still queued to buy an entrance form for the exam to the Thuc Nghiem School.
"I was very tired in the queue all night through the rain, but I would do everything for my child to attend a school with a good learning environment. Moreover, this school has advanced education methods so our child will not have to attend extra-classes and suffer from pressures of homework and marks. All of us parents maintain this line of thinking, which is why we struggled for it."
Engineer Quang Long, one of the parents involved in the crowded mess in front of the school that day, says: "The parents who were jostling were mostly doctors, engineers and State employees. Over the last few days, as I have read newspapers and seen our images, I've felt embarrassed at how desperate we look. But I must confess that I would do the same if I had another opportunity because this was the only way for my son to be able to study in the Thuc Nghiem School."
The most expensive schools are not always the best.
While the schools' managers should have alternate methods for issuing entrance forms, such as selling forms more widely and accepting registration via the internet, parents should also think carefully before deciding on the school for their children.
Dr Dinh Kim Thoa from Education Psychology Genre of Ha Noi National University, says schools that are much less famous by rumour sometimes have excellent teachers.
"The important thing is the pupils' ability. If a child is not a very strong pupil but you still try to enrol him/her at the top school, this creates pressure and could destroy the child's ability," she says.
Professor Pham Minh Hac, President of Education Psychology Association, says most parents base their decisions on public opinion, rumours and experiences from others when choosing schools for their children.
"Some schools are not recognised for their teaching methods, but they nevertheless have some highly qualified teachers," says Hac. "The most expensive school does not mean the best school. Parents should think in relative terms as well, for example, a couple who has a monthly income of VND5 million (US$240) should find a school with a reasonable tuition."
"People often think that, as with commodities, the more expensive the better. But education is different. Suitability with family conditions and parental education are more decisive elements," says Hac.
Professor Van Nhu Cuong, Principal of People-founded Luong The Vinh High School, says a disadvantage in top schools is the packed environment of children from high-class and ascendancy families that can easily create psychological issues of competition.
"These top schools often shape excellent students who win awards and pass entrance exams to higher level schools. But on the other hand, classes have too many students. Some such schools have famous names, but their infrastructure is not very good," he says.
Thuc Nghiem School vice principal Huong, in order to placate the desperate parents, says every potential candidate will be allowed to sit the school's entrance examination.
Though this may help solve demands for a number of parents this year, it is questionable as to whether this process is a sustainable solution for future academic years. — VNS