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New textbook variety to improve education

Update: September, 28/2018 - 09:00
Phạm Tất Thắng. — Photo vtv24h.vn

The National Assembly has passed a new decree on the general education curriculum and textbook reform, which approves the circulation of different textbooks for each subject. Phạm Tất Thắng, deputy chairman of the National Assembly Committee for Culture, Education, Youth and Children, talks with local media about how the reform will be implemented.

The Decree No 88, issued by the National Assembly in 2014 on the general education curriculum and textbook reform, states that the process of composing textbooks will involve multiple stakeholders and there can be different textbooks for a single subject. Based on what foundations did the National Assembly pass the decree that makes such an important change?

The disadvantages in public education shown by the monitoring results drove the NA to issue the Decree No 88 on the general education curriculum and textbook reform to address existing drawbacks, including the heaviness of the curriculum and the imbalance between academic knowledge and character development.

For the first time, the decree has allowed the use of different textbooks for each subject. It is important to note that there will be variation in how this plays out, as there may be a lot of textbooks for one subject but another subject might only be served by one textbook.

According to the decree, the Ministry of Education and Training composes a common set of textbooks for first to 12th grades for all students nationwide.

Other organisations and individuals can also write other textbooks for subjects.

On what practical basis did the NA decide to switch from the model of one single textbook set to different sets or textbooks? Is it because we looked to the model of other countries or because the NA realised the drawbacks of having an exclusive textbook set for all grades?

The decision was made for both reasons.

Regarding the existing program, the MoET-owned Việt Nam Education Publishing House is in charge of composing and publishing the only textbook set for all public schools in the country. Meanwhile, other countries, especially which have developed education systems, have allowed teachers and students to choose suitable textbooks on their own for a long time. To avoid any drawbacks that may be caused by exclusiveness, citizens must have a right to choose products that suit their demands. It is essential for us to build up a standard program and how knowledge is delivered is the responsibility of textbook composers.

Does the NA foresee any challenges when many different textbooks may be circulated, and are there any solutions?

As the NA can foresee many challenges, the decree does not use the term of “many different textbook sets” but rather different textbooks. It means that while the decree eliminates the previous requirement of every school using one curriculum and one textbook set as at present, textbooks composed by other organisations and individuals cannot be publicly used if they do not meet the MoET’s demands.

To publish a complete collection of textbooks is complicated, requiring a great deal of human resources, technology and planning. Meanwhile, as we do not have much experience in this field, the decree allows us to have “some textbooks for each subject” in the transition’s first phase. In reality, in the time that only one standard textbook set has been used, some groups have introduced textbooks that they have composed, like the Cánh Buồm (Sail) group.

In the first phase of switching to use different textbooks, the MoET is asked to compose a common standard textbook collection in case there will be not enough textbooks for all subjects and grades.

Some people think that the new curriculum and textbooks should not be widely implemented but only in localities where they can satisfy some specific demands. Do you agree with that opinion?

To me, the recommendation is quite practical as according to our agenda, new textbooks will be piloted before they are commonly used. The pilot’s scale and time will be decided. It will be the best if we can pilot the new program carefully in some localities within a school year. If we only pilot it on a smaller scale and for a short period of time, the program’s impact will hardly be evaluated.

At present, textbooks are considered special goods. Under the decree, they will no longer be exclusive products. Do you think, at that time, textbooks should still be monitored by the Government or should they be regulated by the market?

I think textbooks are special products no matter how many types there are. The appearance of many different textbooks will create competition of quality and price.

However, as special products, textbooks have to be controlled by the Government in imposing a price ceiling and floor. — VNS

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