by Ha Nguyen
Education in Viet Nam has always been a subject that arouses passionate discussion as it involves small children and almost every family has something to say about it.
The social consensus is that parents are always willing to pay a considerable portion of their income so that their children can receive the best education at the best school, from the best teachers, and study with the students that belong to the best background possible.
Due to the heavy school workload in public schools, some well-off parents, who can afford it, choose to send their children to international schools. Many parents are also of the view that first graders in foreign countries do not have to work as hard as their children in Viet Nam.
This is what Duong Quang Nghi, who resides in Los Angeles, the United States, has to say about his child's experience.
Nghi says his 6-year-old son, who is in first grade, has to wake up early so that he can go to school at 7:30am and stays there until 15:30pm, and is only allowed a short break of 15 minutes at noon for a light dinner.
Apart of studying subjects, such as reading, spelling, and information technology, the child is expected to constantly engage with his teachers on how to better his vocabulary and write poetry, acquires social and scientific knowledge, and complete his math exercises.
Students have to do extra exercises at home, such as maths, practise spelling, read books and plan for the week ahead.
"We have to help them with these subjects and report it to the teacher. In return, we receive the study results of my son via the school's online system," says Nghi.
In addition, students also acquire other skills, such as ballet, cheerleading, playing the piano, violin and chess, as well as swimming and football.
Students are often excited to take part in these activities because if they produce excellent results, they can easily win a scholarship at university in the future.
For these purposes, parents, particularly overseas Vietnamese, often encourage their children to study exhaustively, in turn pressuring them excessively.
"My son often feels very tired and hungry after class. Although, I keep telling him that I love him so much, we also have to push him to try and do his best in the future," says Nghi.
"Like parents in Viet Nam, we carefully planned our son's future before he enrolled in primary school, because he will now be much more independent, compared with kindergarten or when he is at home.
"To be a first grader, my son has to know not only how to eat and sleep, but also how to learn in class and obey school rules," says Nghi.
To deal with such problems, many parents in Viet Nam often encourage their children to learn how to read and write a year earlier, or at the age of 5, before officially enrolling them in school.
Nguyen Thi Thuy from Ha Noi's Hai Ba Trung District, says that by doing so, her daughter feels more confident than the other first graders.
But Thuy admits that this could also result in her child developing a negative psychology, leading her to neglect lessons in class and shorten her childhood.
One should not become like those parents, Tran Le Khiet from Denmark tells Viet Nam News, adding that her first-grade son enjoys learning in class very much.
He often goes to school at 9am and does not have to carry a heavy bag like his friends in Viet Nam, although he has to learn many subjects, such as the Danish and English languages, history, maths, sports and many other outdoor subjects.
"The only thing that he takes to school is a snack and food for dinner," says Khiet, adding that at school, her son is free to develop his capacity and talent for subjects, such as maths and playing the violin.
She adds what she appreciates the most is that teachers never use harsh words or punishment if a student does something wrong or performs poorly in their studies.
"They completely respect students," Khiet says.
"They often call and change their views and try to work out with us an effective method on how to correct a fault and improve study results."
Professor Ho Ngoc Dai, a prominent educationist, agrees with Khiet, saying that to help children develop in a natural way, "we should love and respect them. All of our teaching methods should follow these basic principles."
Dai says that to help first graders enrol in class with confidence and manage themselves well, "We should create a good environment where they can learn and play so that they enjoy their childhood, while getting acquainted with learning and acquire soft living skills, such as communication and integration with their friends and other people, at the same time."
I myself completely agree with Prof. Dai's ideas. I have told Nghi that even as he boasts about the opportunity to live in the US, he should let his children grow up in a natural way as their other friends do.
But the most important thing is that he should know how to help his children promote their ability or talent instead of forcing them to learn too much. — VNS