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No to heavy workloads, yes to hard work

Update: March, 24/2015 - 16:44

by My Ha

After a double weekend Lunar New Year break, the mother of a first grader in a well-known primary school in HaF8 NoE4i, was aghast when the teacher told her that the kids had already forgotten what she'd taught them in the first semester.

Poor mid-term test results proved her right. Half of the class, which has 40 pupils, failed it.

"Please, can you send out a note in the class chat group, telling the parents to supervise the kids more closely at home?" the teacher requested.

It was also my kid's class, so I began receiving text messages everyday, reminding me to make sure that my daughter learnt to recite a poem, wrote a few lines in her notebook or memorised a passage.

Since the Ministry of Education and Training decided to ban primary school teachers from assigning homework, there has been an upsurge in complaints from the teachers who are concerned about the progress of their pupils.

"Please help us steer your children in the right direction," I remember my kid's teacher saying at the parents-teacher meeting earlier in the year.

"Your children have started their first grade, which is when they establish routines to build good habits for the future. They need to be able to focus on reading and writing for half an hour," she said.

I couldn't agree more.

In recent years, heavy workloads in public schools, stressful high school and college exams, as well as the silent but highly competitive race for the best schools in every district have pushed parents to the limit.

In every public forum and countless media reports, conversations invariably lead to problems with our educational system. For every fault or failure of the system, or society in general, people tend to point fingers at education, and no month goes by without someone or other calling for reforms in the sector.

The Government in general, and the education ministry in particular have been under great pressure to reduce school workloads.

Part of the response has been to ban all homework for primary school students, remove the primary school passing out exam, and, most recently, the junior high school entrance exam.

These measures might or might not prove to be successful, but as a parent, I am concerned that they should not resort to a relaxing of the discipline that the children have to learn and practise, no matter what their age.

I feel that even first graders need to take responsibility for their homework. They need to sit down and focus, whether it is to write a letter or read a poem.

I also feel very lucky to have a dedicated and disciplined teacher for my daughter in her first grade. The children adore their teacher and they remember and are willing to do what she tells them to do. They even listen to her more than they do to their parents.

Education experts should work out appropriate time frames as well as strategies for children to do their homework in primary schools and these need to be developed progressively for succeeding years and levels.

VieE4t Nam is well known for parents obsessing over their children's education, sacrificing everything for this cause so as to give the children the foundation for a better future.

Recently, a new attitude has emerged, with many parents believing that children can get other opportunities in life, that excelling in studies at school is not an imperative.

This argument is quite valid, but even for the "other opportunities", the children need to be able to read and write correctly. They need to have good habits and good behavior. They need to know that they have to sow good seeds today in order to reap a good harvest in the future.

It might sound somewhat harsh that children have to learn the "No pain, No gain" lesson, but this stresses the need to make an effort, and it is our job as parents to see that putting this lesson into practice happens smoothly.

If we look out at the wider world, we'll see children everywhere working hard. In the west, children in developed countries go to school, work hard, play games and learn music, art and dance. In the east, Asian parents, be they Japanese, Chinese or Indian, are even notorious for making their kids work hard from a very small age in order to get them into good schools so that their future prospects are bright.

It is a fact that one cannot just hang out and be successful in terms of earning high incomes and have good living standards.

A recent full-length article in the Thanh NieE2n newspaper detailed a Vietnamese father's first-hand experience of what his daughter had to do in the first grade in a good public school in Texas, the US.

The article was an eye-opener for many Vietnamese parents used to blaming the local education system for all their frustrations.

Even as we fix the problems in our education system, we need to make sure that our children have the reading and writing skills to perform well at higher levels.

My child's first-grade teacher had planned to take her pupils for a picnic later this month, but she has decided to postpone it until all the kids get their reading and writing scores back in shape.

Until then, we'll focus on supervising our children at home, if only for half-an-hour a day.

We should be concerned about very heavy workloads for our children, but we should also make sure they can pull their weight. — VNS

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