by Ngoc Bich
The recent draft decree on administrative punishment in education compiled by the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) has once again stirred public concern over the situation that children will have to attend many private tutoring classes.
The decree is evidence of the ministry's strong determination to tighten control over - and gradually remove - the occurrence of teachers who open extra classes to earn extra money.
The decree states that teachers must obtain permission from official agencies when running private tutoring classes, or they would have to face being fined up to VND20 million (US$952).
The VND3-5 million fine has been suggested for those teachers who cut official curricular lessons from their schedule and give these curricular lessons at their extra classes, thus forcing students to attend such extra classes, or they would not get enough lessons as required by the MoET.
The question arises as to what extent these regulations are taking effect and whether teachers who are running private classes will close the classes or pay the fine and continue their work. More importantly, the MoET has many times affirmed that the opening of extra classes cannot be continued. The ministry is yet to act on such an affirmation or yet to enforce the legal parameters for these activities
To bring an end to this kind of activity, we must answer such questions: Are the extra classes really necessary for students and children? Who and what is forcing them to pursue extra classes? Are the teachers directly forcing them? Or it is the shortcomings of the education system?
Undeniably, there are cases in which teachers intentionally cut lessons from the official curriculum and add lessons in the form of extra classes that leave students with no choice but to attend these classes and pay a fee to attend. This kind of action is unacceptable.
One high-ranking official of the ministry once admitted that it is the teachers who create the parents' demand for bringing their children to extra classes. He said that teachers asked students to solve overly difficult questions and in order to learn the skills necessary to answer such questions, the students would have to attend the teachers' extra classes.
Teachers in turn often blame their low salary for operating these kinds of activities, saying that extra classes are their main source of income. Thus simply, with a higher salary, they would not feel the need to offer paid extra tutoring. Furthermore, they also argue that doctors can open private clinics, so why should they not open private classes?
A lot of parents want their children to receive after-school tuition with prestigious teachers so that they can improve their knowledge and adapt to the heavy and continuously changing curricula. My parents often told me that about 30 years ago, they merely studied in official classes and did assigned homework, yet they still managed to pass university exams. In a family, a Grade Three schoolbook could be handed down from the eldest to the youngest siblings because its content did not have to be changed year by year in the way it currently does.
On the other hand, parents nowadays do not have much time to teach their children, let alone keep up with the changes in curricula.
Clearly though , wherever there is demand, there comes supply!
However, students from very poor families who could not afford to attend extra classes were still hailed for passing the universities' exams. Why? It turns out that extra classes are not necessary if teachers' salaries are raised and the curriculum is reduced to suit every level of education.
It turns out that extra classes did not help the students in the ways parents expected as teachers were not feeding suitable knowledge to students in their classes. The classes hardly developed students' creativity, level of activity and independent thinking. All they seemed to do was make parents feel secure in the idea that their children were being equipped with enough knowledge to pass some exams. Parents did not seem as keen on the idea that extra classes could promote their children's propensity for future self-study.
These extra classes are turning out to be a huge waste of time, especially when taking into account that children are now spending far too much time on developing their academic knowledge and not enough time on activities that develop their health and their life skills!
In short, such administrative regulations are bound to fail. They seem to have been put in place for people to dodge. The long-term solution lies in the ways that the State chooses to address the education system's shortcomings, for example by issuing incentive policies for teachers to maintain their work ethic and improve professional skills; or simply by developing suitable and accessible curricula. — VNS