by Thu Van
As the university application process ended a few days ago, many complaints were made about the shortcoming of the new model. Top of the list was how high-school students had an intense time trying to get into college.
The education ministry made a big change this year by combining the national high school graduation and university admission exams. In previous years, students sat for entrance exams organised by the universities of their choice. This year, they made their choices after receiving their exam marks.
Since universities now calculate the passing score based on the number of students registered, students have a 20-day window of opportunity to withdraw applications. They can then resubmit them to universities they think might accept lower results, if they feel their chances with the university-of-choice are fading.
The application process was, however, a bit too bumpy for many students, mainly those with exam marks low enough to see them fail their first choice. During the waiting period, student rankings can change every hour.
If students feared they might not get into a certain university, they rushed to withdraw their applications so that they may resubmit their application to one of their three backups. This required that the students physically go to the university, take back their application and submit it to a different institution.
The media ran many stories about events during this application time. Parents took time off from work to accompany their children from distant hometowns to the universities.
Worried parents and students waited, often with tears in their eyes, in university halls to decide whether or not to withdraw their applications. The tension reached a peak for one parent who hired an ambulance to take her child to withdraw his university application before applications closed.
There have been plenty of critics of the new system. Some said the combination of high-school graduation exams and the university admission process was a disaster. Others thought the new application process had failed and wanted to go back to the old way, where students registered for a university before sitting for entrance exams.
But it is unfair to blame everything on the education ministry.
As we take a deeper look into the whole picture, we might see it differently.
Was it really the ministry's fault that students and parents were so stressed? Many students said they decided to change their applications just to make sure they were enrolled somewhere.
This goes against the idea of career orientations set by the education ministry. If a student's marks were not high enough to sit for a medical degree, but good enough to be accepted by a university of technology, who is really losing?
It really shows that many students are not sure what they want to study. A survey by the Department of Education and Training in HCM City last year on 2,000 high school and undergraduate students showed that 75 per cent lacked knowledge in the fields of study they wanted to pursue. This might have something to do with the 178,000 university and master degrees holders in Viet Nam who were unable to find a job last year.
Many enterprises complain that new graduates often lack skills and training - and I think I understand why. While education officials acknowledge that the Vietnamese education system lacks practical training, it must be said that there is also a lack of passion and orientation among students.
If a student doesn't know what to study, and when others study subjects they don't like, it seems unlikely they will perform to the fullest. Nguyen Minh Duong, member of the National Council on Education and Human Resource Development, said the country's education system clearly lacked orientation for students after high school.
"Most parents think going to university is the only way their children can get a job. That explains the race to get into colleges," he said.
This recalls my childhood dream job. When I was in primary school, I adored people wearing suits and ties and shaking hands with one another on TV. I asked my father who they were and he replied they were diplomats.
I did sit for exams to get into the Diplomacy Academy of Viet Nam and was accepted, then graduated. But I never fulfilled my childhood dream. I became a journalist in stead. But I was among the lucky ones to change direction and still love what I do.
Duong from the National Council on Education and Human resource Development said students at all levels need information on the importance of choosing the right career. "Only by knowing what they want, can they work well later in their life. If they don't, they are going to study what their parents want, and then become either unemployed, or work with no devotion," he said.
I totally agree. I wish Vietnamese parents would relax a bit, instead of pushing their children to study for university exams, they might just let them follow their dreams. Again, a university degree is not the only way to success. — VNS