Nguyen Vinh Hien, Deputy Minister of Education and Training spoke to the Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper about the implementation of the VNEN project in secondary schools in 2015-16 .
After four years implementing the Global Partnership of Education – Viet Nam Escuela Nueva (VNEN) in over 2,500 primary schools nationwide, have you drawn any lessons learned from the project?
In this school year (2015-2016), the Ministry of Education and Training will continue to implement this project at 1,600 secondary schools nationwide. The key objective of the VNEN project is to strengthen the students' skills in self-management, communication and expressing their ideas.
Following four years implementing the projects in primary schools, I can say that the three mentioned skills of students from grades 1 to 4 have been improved a lot. However, for students in Grade 5 they have not yet learned the three skills in the VNEN project. So, no doubt, in this school year, when the Ministry of Education and Training decides to expand the project to secondary schools, the six graders will find some difficulties. But, from the perspective of educators, we'll organise training workshops for teachers and managers on how to overcome difficulties in building independent and creative thinking for the students. Teaching and learning methodology in the VNEN schools is placing the student at the centre instead of the tradition where the teacher is at the centre.
Some teachers have acknowledged that the new teaching and learning methodology of the VNEN project is totally new to them. Do you have any comment on that?
It is a normal thing. When we introduce a new teaching methodology, we cannot expect all teachers to understand the new methodology's requirements. Of course, during the application of a new method, the teachers sometimes have to adjust to it to make it suitable to their own circumstances. And a very important point that I want to emphasize here is the teachers have to prepare their lessons carefully.
The Ministry of Education and Training promises to create all favourable conditions to the teachers to apply the new method in their own creative way – but not to change the main core of the method. We will organise on-line workshops for teachers to exchange their experiences about the project implementation.
One component of the VNEN project is the involvement of the local community and the parents in the course of education. But experiences in the past four years have shown that some of the parents' capacity is limited. How do you respond to that?
I think that parents having sent their children to school, should sometimes visit their schools to see how their children are doing. They should also look at their school books to see what they learned in class and offer them help if they need it. In other words, parents themselves should learn together with their children and help them when they are in difficulty.
Has the Ministry of Education and Training adopt any instructions on checking and evaluating progress of secondary students during the implementation of the VNEN project?
Yes, the Ministry has already got a plan in place on checking and evaluating the students' progress during the implementation of the VNEN project. But a big change in the evaluation process is to switch the focus from the students' final study results to regular checking to find out what weaknesses are and then find ways to help them improve their knowledge.
Of course, there won't be one method to evaluate the students' knowledge. We'll introduce various methods, including the students' reports or writing an essay following an excursion and others to evaluate the students' capacity rather than only their knowledge tests.
Some people have complained that upon the instructions from the Ministry of Education and Training, teachers don't give marks to students at primary schools. That decision has some how affected the students' studying quality. How do you respond to that?
If we simply look at the students marks, we cannot say that they are academically good or bad students. I can assure you that the academic knowledge of 6th grade students in the 2015-2016 school year is not weak, because while they were at primary school, the teachers didn't give them marks on their homework and assignments. However, in my opinion the only weakness that a 5th grader has is that he or she does not have the skills to do a test throughout the five years at primary school because he or she didn't have to take any test.
In addition, there are various methods to assess the educational quality at present. They cover various factors, including knowledge and other soft skills. We can't say that students who are only good at maths or Vietnamese language are the examples of our high quality education. — VNS