Teacher and students are at class at the Chiềng Sinh Junior Secondary School in Sơn La City, the northern mountainous province of Sơn La. — VNA/VNS Photo Hữu Quyết
HÀ NỘI — Minister of Education and Training Nguyễn Kim Sơn has asked schools to find ways to stop students from copying essay examples.
He spoke at a conference summing up the 2020-21 school year, and setting tasks for the next one.
Đặng Thu Hương, a mother of a fourth grader in Hoàng Mai District in Hà Nội, said her son started writing short essays of about six or eight sentences in length since he was in the second grade.
The teachers would give them an example for each topic, which could include describing a relative or a relative’s job.
The students learn the essay examples, and then re-write them in their test papers. As a result, most students achieve high marks.
“At home, I give my son guidance to write his own essay, but he refused, saying he could not get high marks if he didn’t follow his teacher’s example. So, I had to let him copy the examples,” Hương said.
Many other parents are frustrated with the way children learn writing.
Phạm Thị Nga, a mother of a ninth grader in Đống Đa District in Hà Nội, said that her daughter learned how to write essays like learning history, which means she learned all details in the essay then regurgitated the information.
“Such a way of learning weakens students’ ability to perceive literature and they are lazy in reading books, especially good literary works,” said Nga.
Lê Thị Giang, another mother in Quảng Ninh, said that her son’s teacher provided the topic: “Describe your grandfather or grandmother”.
Her son wrote that his grandfather “has a bent back, grey hair and no teeth”, but in fact, his grandfather is very healthy and goes jogging every day.
Giang’s son said he must follow the teacher’s example to have good marks in class. It turns out all 30 students in his class have the same grandfather.
“I really do not want my son to describe his grandfather as a stranger,” she said.
Minister Sơn asked teachers to pay more attention to practice and real experience, bringing an end to the practice of copying essay examples, which can hinder students’ creativity.
Vũ Thu Hương, a teacher in the northern port city of Hải Phòng, said the minister was right. Inspiring more creativity will help the education sector.
Trần Thành, a teacher of literature at the Lương Thế Vinh Junior Secondary and High School in Hà Nội, said teaching and learning based on essay examples was a “prolonged disease” and is difficult cure.
During her years of teaching and marking test papers, Thành saw many essays in which students copied examples. Because of this, students in the same class can have similar essays.
The first reason, Thành said, was that schools want to gain high achievements. They want students to have high marks, thus teachers must find ways to help students write long essays to have excellent marks without caring for their own observations and emotions towards literature.
The second reason, she said, was that students attend extra classes, where teachers often dictate essay examples for students to learn by heart.
Thành added that the reformed high school curriculum started to change learning literature, from the sixth grade.
The new curriculum will focus on developing students’ capacity and creation, while limiting learning essay examples.
However, Thành worried that the changes wouldn’t come easy, because books with essay examples are sold everywhere, and students can easily find extra classes in which teachers give them essays to learn.
“To change, teachers should improve their ability first, changing their methods and giving marks to students. New textbooks should create a good foundation to gradually change students’ way of learning gradually,” she said.
Teacher Hương said that essay examples had both good and bad points. Essay examples, if they have good content, should be considered reference only. Students should not copy them.
“When reading essay examples, students must learn the way to use words and ideas, not copy it all,” she said.
If essay examples are used correctly, they can become a “powerful assistant” for teachers and students. — VNS