April, 07 2014 08:51:12

Ha Noi schools struggle to raise education standards

HA NOI (VNS) — Principals say that a plan to establish premier public schools conforming to higher education standards is difficult to implement as they lack funds as well as financial autonomy.

They also say that they are unable to collect fees fixed by the municipal administration for the higher standard schools because these are not commensurate with actual living standards of residents.

Last July, the municipal People's Committee had provisionally fixed the maximum tuition fees that the premier schools can charge at VND2.8 million-3 million (US$130-140) per month.

The higher standards that premier schools are required to meet include having students win regional and national contests, having a high percentage of students with good academic track records and having all students undergo training in life skills.

The administration says it set the maximum tuition limit based on residents' living standards and fees charged by private and international schools.

The attempt to raise education standards in public schools began several years ago with a pilot project implemented in the capital city's inner districts.

The project has had limited success, according to a report on the Government website.

Deputy Chairman of the Hoan Kiem People's Committee, Dinh Hong Phong, said that six schools in the district had carried out the pilot project since the 2009-2010 school year: the 20/10, Quang Trung, Tuoi Tho Ba Trieu and Mam Non A kindergartens and the Trang An Primary School.

However, a recent inspection by the district found only three schools succeeded in meeting the standards that make them eligible to charge higher tuition fees: the 20/10 and Quang Trung kindergartens and the Trang An Primary School.

The remaining three schools had to improve further to reach the norms, Phong said.

He said the municipal People's Committee supported schools participating in the pilot scheme with expenses for infrastructure construction, but it had not issued any regulation allowing schools to manage the fees they collect to balance their income and expenditure.

The Le Loi High School in Ha Dong District is one of the schools in the pilot project. Founded last year, it has been given three years to reach the premier classification. During these three years, it can only collect the normal school fees of VND40,000 ($1.9) per month.

It is being supported by the city in building classrooms, halls for sporting events, computer science rooms and rooms for studying foreign languages.

However, Le Xuan Trung, principal of the school, said that with the present tuition fees, it was very difficult to attract good, well qualified teachers.

To use the modest income and ensure that its students win municipal and national prizes, have 90 per cent scoring high marks in tests; provide life-skills training and career guidance was a very difficult task, he said.

Furthermore, even if the school is recognised as a premier institution, it will not be able to collect the fees regulated by the People's Committee because it is located in a suburban area with lower living standards than the city's inner districts, according to Trung.

The Phan Huy Chu Junior Secondary School which has achieved the premier status, has also found it difficult to collect the higher school fees although it is located in the inner district of Dong Da.

School principal Nguyen Thi Nhiep said that at present only 18 of 29 classes in the school reached the higher-standard norms. For the remaining classes, students were charged the normal fees, creating the situation that within one school, there were different levels of services that are charged differently.

Besides, schools had to spend on many activities other than academic tutoring, and this shaped the way they use their funds, Nhiep said.

Ha Noi targets having 35 premier schools in different sections – kindergarten, primary, junior secondary and high schools – by 2015. — VNS

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