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Examinations on the right track

Update: June, 25/2014 - 09:25

The 2014 secondary graduation exams can be considered a breakthrough in education, Deputy Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Vinh Hien told the New Ha Noi newspaper.

Just over 99 per cent of senior secondary school students passed their graduation examinations this year and only about one per cent failed. But traditional examinations cost a huge sum of money. Do you think we should stick with them or adopt a new system?

The key purpose of the exams is to see if senior students have achieved set targets or not. School exams, including graduation exams, have two key objectives - to assess the teaching capacity of teachers and the knowledge gained by the students. This reflects the Government's educational policies. In practice, there are always pre- and post-exam evaluations in all our schools to assess not only the knowledge of students, but also of teachers.

Of course, following each examination, we have to review if they reflect a student's true knowledge or they are too easy or too difficult. We should not simply look at the percentage of the students who pass.

What do you think about the 99 per cent pass rate for high school students this year?

Many people, including myself, think the examinations this year were a success. Violations and cheating were reduced considerably compared with previous years. Although there are some shortcomings and weaknesses, the number who passed this year was a victory in term of quality compared to the previous year.

This year students, instead of having six compulsory subjects (Literature, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, History and Foreign Languages) like last year, had to take only four subjects, of which two were compulsory (Literature and Mathematics) and two optional (from Physics, Chemistry, History and Foreign Languages). The reduction in exam subjects, particularly the introduction of optional subjects, was highly appreciated by students and parents.

In addition, the exams this year focused more on the application side not on rote learning. These changes in the examination reflected the Ministry of Education and Training's resolve for reform. I'm confident the quality of next year's senior high school exams will be better than this year.

What does the Ministry think about the results of the exams?

Decision No 29 of the Party Central Committee required us to assess learning achievements taking into account three factors - achievements throughout the year, term results and year-end results. This guideline has helped us to evaluate the general knowledge of students and then divide them into groups according to their learning performance.

In the past, we often thought graduation exams for high-school students (secondary school, years 10-12) had to be the same. But, according to the latest Party document, secondary school students (junior secondary, years 6-9) must complete their basic general knowledge before advancement. For high school students, it is now important for them to focus on enhancing their strengths and aptitudes. We also provide occupational guidance.

We use two factors to rate a high-school student. These are an assessment of their annual performance throughout grade 12 only plus the score they get in the graduation exams. I think this assessment formula truly reflects the educational level of students.

What does the Ministry do to help teachers adapt to the new way of rating students?

First, we have to raise their awareness about the objective of regular tests. As mentioned, giving tests is one way of evaluating a teachers' knowledge and capacity.

I concede that, for many years, our teaching methodology could be described as a "one-way street." The teacher did not instruct students how to learn by themselves, and, on the other hand, the students didn't know how to apply any acquired knowledge into their lives.

This discouraged students from learning and turned them into passive people. The Ministry decided to change all this. — VNS

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