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Hooray, my son's not a phony

Update: June, 03/2014 - 10:01

The aggressive pursuit by Vietnamese parents to produce over-achieving children may become a thing of the past. Many are now beginning to see that the quality of knowledge is better than the forced feeding related to producing a certificate.

The new trend, which would have been laughed at a year or two ago, is becoming popular among many parents of primary school students.

Last week, composer Le Minh Son was quoted in the media as saying that he felt joyful, even clapped his hands, when he found his son, a fifth grader, had come second last in a class of 57.

"The education environment in Viet Nam does not truly reflect students' ability," he said, "A student who repeatedly achieves excellent status year after year is not necessarily excellent. On the other hand, a student who is at the bottom of the class if not necessarily the dumbest."

Son said many students achieve high scores - and praise - mostly because they follow and do whatever teachers tell them. Those who are prepared to argue and make valid points often end up with low grades.

"I know my son is not very good at study, but he is definitely not bad and that is the important thing," Son said.

The public was also curious when earlier Vu Thu Huong, a lecturer at the Ha Noi-based Teachers' Training University's Primary Education Department, sent a letter to the teacher of her 10-year-old son to give him a lower grading, from "excellent" to "fair".

Huong said that she knew the real level achieved by her son and did not want to give him unrealistic hopes.

The pressure of over achievement in study also comes from teachers. Huong said that during her research and consultations, she had witnessed many cases in which students were "over graded" by teachers so that the class and the whole school could earn higher status.

"One mother sent us a letter complaining that the teacher of her 10-year-old kid quarrelled with the school board about an extra 0.75 points for a final exam so that the child would get excellent status," she said.

The over-achieving phenomenon, either deserved or not, is rampant throughout Viet Nam. Last year, 93.97 per cent of primary students in Ha Noi's Cau Giay District were graded excellent.

Huong said that such evaluations should be abandoned or students and parents would end up with delusions about the capability of their children.

History girl becomes star

Twelfth grader Khanh Linh, 15, is a different type of celebrity. At her final examination yesterday at the Ha Noi-based Quang Trung High School she was looked after by 19 people.

Linh was a star because she was the only one brave enough to choose history for an optional test - and history is about as popular as the people next door at the moment.

During her test, Linh had the whole examination board of 19 people, including inspector, supervisor, security and police, organising and protecting her.

Linh then told an online newspaper that she was a bit afraid knowing that she was the only one in her school to select history. After consulting her teachers, she stuck to her guns and went ahead with her decision.

Linh was among the 105,000 students out of a total of more than 900,000 who chose history as an optional test this year.

In March, the Ministry of Education and Training reported a record low in the number of students registering for the history final exam in Ha Noi.

But Linh deserves a medal. At times like these when arguments fly about who owns what, a sensible knowledge of history can be as powerful as a row of sharp stakes.

Good or bad Samaritan?

Drivers passing Binh Bridge in the northern city of Hai Phong can easily see a hand-made warning signal, saying "Dang ban toc do! Di 40km/h" (Radar speed gun is in process. Proceed at only 40 kilometres per hour).

The home-made signal attracts the attention of all drivers, who take more notice of it than other traffic signs.

Some people praise the idea, saying that it shows the kindness of local people in helping drivers avoid being caught for speeding. However, many disagree, saying that the sign reflects the selfishness of drivers who don't care about others on the road.

While arguments rage, no one is doubt that the sign was nailed up by a driver who had been caught - perhaps too many times! — VNS

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