How history is taught needs to change: educators

May, 04/2022 - 09:37

Many educators have raised concerns about the Ministry of Education and Training’s new general education programme plan in which history will become an optional subject for high school students in the 2022-23 academic year.

 

A history teacher at Trần Đại Nghĩa High School for the Gifted in HCM City instructs a discussion of a group of students. — VNA/VNS Photo Hoàng Hải

HÀ NỘI — Many educators have raised concerns about the Ministry of Education and Training’s new general education programme plan in which history will become an optional subject for high school students in the 2022-23 academic year.

Although the new rules are believed to reduce the workload for students, the educators said it is more important to change the current teaching methods to motivate students.

Hoàng Ngọc Vinh, former director of the ministry’s Department of Professional Education, said the current curriculum’s design, which focused on patriotism, partially achieved the purpose of this subject.

History taught students to think about the past. Based on this, students could deal with present problems and set directions for the future.

This helps improve the self-worth of students, because progress in their life and career was a continuum of experience from the past to the present, he said.

According to Vinh, it was very necessary to form a habit of thinking about history. Failures or successes in the past in the struggle for national liberation and construction and development are valuable lessons for anyone and any country.

Highlighting the role of history in education, Nguyễn Tùng Lâm, a member of the advisory group of the Government's Education Renovation Committee, said the teaching and learning of history need to change in order to comprehensively develop students' abilities and personalities.

“History may not be on the list of compulsory subjects at high schools, but there needs to be a solution to change the way it is assessed, taught, and organised. Under the new programme, the ministry, as well as schools, need to consider how to associate history with experiential and career-oriented activities,” he said.

For example, in vocational guidance, students not only learned about a certain profession, but also the tradition of that profession, he said.

Referring to the design of subjects in the new programme, Lê Anh Vinh, d9irector of the Vietnam Institute of Educational Sciences, said that a fixed programme with too many compulsory subjects was no longer appropriate and can be overwhelming for most high school students. Education must be as diverse and flexible as possible to meet the learning needs of a wide range of students.

In the US, the high school curriculum included core subjects such as English, maths, science, and social studies, and elective subjects such as arts, vocational education, technology, and foreign languages. The form of subject selection is also popular in many countries such as Russia, Israel, or Asian countries such as China, South Korea, Singapore, and Japan.

Expressing an opinion on history, Vinh said under the new programme, most of the common knowledge was fully introduced to 9th graders. Students who graduated from secondary school have completed their basic education.

Students in high schools should be provided with more in-depth knowledge of history under specialised topics such as historical studies, political history, economic history, civilisation history, military history and social history, and the interaction and integration of Việt Nam into the region and the world.

In case history remained a compulsory subject, some students who are interested in further studying and exploring the subject would not have the opportunity to do so.

Vũ Minh Giang, deputy chairman of Vietnam Historical Science Association and Chairman of Science and Training Council under Vietnam National University, said the renovation of history teaching method was to fundamentally change the way students approach the subject, which was not about memorising dates and numbers and events in a linear order.

Based on this change, students would find the subject attractive, stimulating creativity and passion.

According to Giang, high school students should think of their careers in future. Therefore, students would be equipped with minimum basic knowledge in secondary schools, and in-depth knowledge in high schools.

Giang added that the duration of history in the new high school curriculum was longer. However, the problem was how it would be taught, not how long it would be taught.

History must help students understand more deeply about the origins and characteristics of the nation and culture and so develop pride. On that basis, students would want to learn more. Too much irrelevant information would make students bored of the subject.

Lê Như Tiến, former deputy chairman of the National Assembly's Committee for Culture and Education for Youth, Adolescents and Children, also expressed concern that national history was full of interesting stories, but failed to attract students. History remained the subject with the lowest results in the high school graduation exam.

Tiến said the history curriculum and textbooks were in favour of facts and numbers. Therefore, there were students who were very interested in studying history, seeking knowledge about Việt Nam's history as well as the world, but were afraid to take the history exam.

Therefore, it is important to change the content of the subject, the method of teaching, the teaching materials and the way of testing students.

Teachers needed to encourage students to participate in the lesson, guide them to observe, analyse images and data, and raise their own thoughts and perceptions about historical events.

“Innovation must come from teachers. History is a lesson of knowledge, and a chance to explore and evaluate historical events. Instead of giving students a traditional test, let them do projects or give presentations about a historical figure or a favourite historical period to motivate them to study,” he said.

Historian Dương Trung Quốc said the educational sector has not prepared a good foundation for students to be attracted by the subject. That meant students would skip the subject in the future.

He suggested the education sector invest more in teaching methods, good textbooks and thinking to ensure students are interested.

History is a subject to perceive the past and draw rules for the present, not a subject to remember the past, he said. — VNS

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