by Ha Nguyen
For the first time, Viet Nam last month merged two national exams into one, thus obviating the need to sit separately for graduating the high-school students and then appear again in an exam to enrol in a university or college.
In the past, students had to sit for an exam to pass high school in May, and later in July appear in a second exam to enrol in a university or college.
This year, more than one million students registered for the combined exam. Of these, 28 per cent registered to be considered for high-school graduation and 72 per cent wanted the exam results to be considered for enrolment in a university or college.
In the past years, more than two million used to register to sit for university and college exam but 20 per cent of them later never appeared in these exams.
"These figures affirmed that the change is along the right track, and the number of virtual documents has reduced significantly," said Tran Van Nghia, deputy head of Department of Education Testing and Accreditation.
However, after the results from the exam were released, many of the students who had graduated and their parents are confused about which university or college they should go in for.
Although winning a rather high score of 23.5/30, Ta Ngoc Anh in the northern province of Cao Bang said she and her parents have to sit in front of a computer for up-to-date news from universities in which she intended to enrol.
Thanks to the change, this year the tertiary candidates are allowed to apply for 16 options from four universities for the first period valid from August 1 to 20.
"I have chosen three universities," said Anh.
These included the Diplomatic Academy of Viet Nam, the National Economics University and the Academy of Journalism & Communication.
"My priority is to become a diplomat and then a financial manager in a big company or a journalist. So we are busy day and night to watch out for updated news from these universities."
Anh said she is very confused about whether she could apply to which university among these three because many candidates have handed in their documents to one university while others were trying to take back their documents because of fear that their marks may not be qualified for enrolment to a university they preferred.
Anh's mother Nguyen Thi Hien said the new system of exam this year has given more opportunities to candidates to enrol in a university but some problems remained. Parents and candidates have to spend a lot of time and effort to browse through the news from universities' websites.
"We are very tired and have a little feeling of hopelessness because my daughter may not be able to enrol in a university that is appropriate for her skill set. I think the aim of any change should be to help university candidates to choose the right institution so that they can also meet the increasing demand for skills in the country," said Hien.
Striking a different note, Hoang Viet Hung in Ha Noi, who scored 26.75/30, said he is interested in Medical University but may lose out this year since the university's general department has 400 targets but now more than 1,200 have handed in application.
Meanwhile, the odonto-stomatology faculty has only 100 targets but there have been more than 750 candidates.
"I have a passion for the medical sector and am interested in researching about diseases causing mass human deaths, such as HIV/AIDS and seek a way to treat them," said Hung.
Meanwhile, on August 12, nearly 1,000 candidates from localities in the country rushed to Ha Noi to appear for a talent test for journalism.
Nguyen Van Bieu from the central province of Thanh Hoa and his mother arrived in Ha Noi two days before the test. They had to rent a shelter to sleep and ate at a pavement food shop.
Bieu had to struggle against 999 candidates, although he had prepared his application documents "very carefully but I have lost my photos (in the envelope) due to the fierce disorder there."
After an hour of standing in a long queue, he could complete his application forms to join the test at 1pm on the same day.
Bieu's mother Le Thi Tinh said she appreciated the change but the Ministry of Education and Training should improve the situation and universities should improve their services and become more professional to serve the candidates.
Deputy Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Vinh Hien said this year's change is a big step in basically renewing the tertiary education sector.
"We welcome the ideas and opinions of people, educationists and experts to contribute towards making improvements," Hien said, adding that the ministry will continue to improve the exam questions for 2016 national exam.
"We aim to create favourable conditions for candidates to have a right tertiary education to serve themselves and the society," he said. — VNS