A passion for learning history should be instilled among school students, Prof. Phan Huy Le, chairman of the Viet Nam History Science Association, tells the VietnamPlus online newspaper.
The association once suggested history should be mandatory at high school graduation exams. However, it's now only an optional subject. What are your thoughts on this?
Obviously we have to reform our exam system. The study of humanities plays a very important role in building the students' logical thinking and personal growth.
Few students choose History for high-school graduation exams. In a few schools, not one student chose the subject. This has made many people worry that we are letting down the humanities. However, it's obvious students have to prioritise their options and focus on subjects that can get them into universities.
I am not surprised that students don't choose history or geography and prefer natural science subjects. I just want to stress that the Ministry of Education and Training's reforms are lowering the role of studying and teaching humanities and treating them as minor subjects.
Just imagine students growing up and having only a vague knowledge about history, especially the country's history. This can affect their national spirit and patriotism.
I am very worried. We once suggested making history a mandatory subject. This is not the only problem. Many countries make history mandatory as well as maths and literature. They consider them the main subjects. For high school graduation exams, this is very necessary.
However, even if we force students to take history, the important thing is how much knowledge they can retain. Why have students lost interest in this subject?
It's been a reality for many years and it's very sad. It's not that history isn't intriguing, but Vietnamese history textbooks are flooded with figures and lack focus. The only way students are taught to absorb knowledge is to memorise it. But young people are full of energy and can't accept this. I would feel the same thing.
In one sense, the fact that students are not interested in history can be seen as positive. It shows that young people are quite proactive and they demand us to change.
The Ministry of Education and Training is working on a national program to revise text books. What do you think the changes we must seek in terms of history? Does the association have any plans about reforms?
We have to clarify the purpose of teaching history and its role in educating younger generations. The direction can be realised in reforming the content. Teachers have to be retrained to meet the new demand. This is important and I really expect to see real changes in the project.
The association and I are willing to contribute ideas to the project and especially in building a national curriculum for teaching history and writing textbooks. Before we talk about these formal changes, we must still make immediate efforts to improve history education.
The association has organised many conferences on teaching history and awards students who perform well in history. We will organise a conference of experts to contribute ideas on reforming history textbook. — VNS