Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — Shortly into the new academic year, a sixth grader in Sóc Trăng City’s Lê Vĩnh Hòa Secondary School was recently demoted to first grade.
He could not read or write fluently, and was unable to perform the four basic mathematical operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Writing his name was a hard task for him.
His mother, Tô Thị Huỳnh Giao, was shocked. She knew her son did not perform well at school, but could hardly believe that his knowledge was not more than that of a first grader after six years at school.
Strangely, his report records of previous years showed above average grades, meeting the requirements for being promoted to the next grade.
As shocking as this case is, it is only one of many cases of ‘sitting in the wrong class’ that have come to light in the city.
A month ago, eight third graders in the city’s Lê Hồng Phong Primary School were sent back to first grade as they could not write or read.
The provincial People’s Committee has since ordered inspections to ferret out more sitting-in-the-wrong-class cases and directed officials to deploy measures to deal with the issue.
Dr Vũ Thu Hương of the Hà Nội Pedagogical University said she was not surprised that several such cases were found in some localities just days into the new academic year.
The reason, she said, was “achievement disease.” The term is used to describe the phenomenon of schools trying to obtain high overall rankings at all costs in order to gain recognition as a national standard school.
Nguyễn Thu Vân, a teacher in HCM City, said most teachers were burdened with the target of having 70 per cent of good students and keeping the number of weak students to less than five percent.
If they fail to meet these targets, they cannot get salary increments. Thus, some of them give students high marks and let them go on to the next grade irrespective of their actual learning capabilities, Van said.
Another HCM City teacher in Thủ Đức District who wished to remain anonymous said parents unintentionally worsened the “achievement disease” by questioning their children everyday.
She said some students cried in class, telling her that they would be shouted at or punished if they presented bad grades. In some cases, teachers tried to give them average grades because they did not want the students to get hurt.
Several educators have said that it is necessary to revise targets of national standard schools and eliminate improper and unfeasible criteria.
For example, schools for gifted children would have different criteria, and schools in urban areas would have different criteria than those in remote areas.
Nguyễn Kim Dung, deputy head of the Institute of Education Studies, said the pressure to meet standards was necessary to push schools improve their teaching quality.
But experts say what is needed is a new standard that all students are encouraged to achieve, instead of being forced to achieve, as is happing now.
Many of them have repeatedly argued for a change in mindset on education, saying students should be evaluated by their study process instead of exam grades. — VNS