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Education gets big shake-up

Update: August, 22/2015 - 08:56
Students during an English lesson at Vo Nguyen Giap Secondary School in Muong Phang District in northern Dien Bien Province. Viet Nam aims to initiate the biggest education reform in decades to change the entire national education system. — VNA/VNS Photo Quy Trung
HA NOI  (VNS) — Viet Nam's latest education reforms, the biggest in decades, are expected to change the entire national system, preparing students for their future careers.

Deputy Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Vinh Hien, along with two university and school headmasters, spoke about the plan in an online question-and-answer seminar held by the Government Portal yesterday morning.

The reforms were made public early this month, after being announced for the first time in April.

The Comprehensive Schooling Education Prog-ramme aims to challenge the conventional Vietnamese way of studying, which privileges the amount learned over practical capabilities and interests.

According to the plan, the system's 13 core subjects would be reduced to eight for secondary schools and four for high schools.

The students could then fill the rest of their schedules with optional subjects like natural science, social science, art, music or sports. They would be allowed to select optional subjects based on their talents and interests.

"This will fix the weaknesses in the current system, while focusing more on developing individual capabilities," said Nguyen Thi Thu Anh, headmistress of the Nguyen Tat Thanh Secondary and High School in Ha Noi.

It would also help high school students decide what they wanted to do for their careers.

Research by the Institute of Psychology has shown that nearly 41 per cent of high school students are unsure whether the career they chose was right for them. The deputy minister and headmasters blamed this high rate on schools' lack of focus on job preparation and orientation.

However, some have shown concern that students will disproportionately choose natural science – physics, chemistry and biology – over social science – history and geography.

After all, a dramatically low number of students took part in the annual university entrance exam on history. It isn't uncommon to see less than a handful of history students in an examination room during the national test; in an extreme case this year, 66 officers were present to watch over a single history student in Nghe An Province.

Deputy Minister Hien acknowledged that such disproportion might occur, but said if there weren't enough students to hold a class, "those students can wait to study it the next year or be sent to another school to attend a class they like."

Teacher training

Schools must make big changes to adjust to the new plan, Anh said.

Teachers would have to receive "supplemental training" so they could adapt to the new model of teaching, which would start in 2018, said Hien. Teachers in subjects like physics or history that would be combined with other subjects or made optional would need to be retrained so they could teach the new, integrated subject.

"For example, a physics teacher will now have to teach physics, chemistry and biology," Hien added.

Universities that train teachers will also have to completely restructure their curriculum, said Thai Nguyen University of Education Dean Pham Hong Quang.

"College students will be trained to be able to teach integrated subjects right when they graduate and start work," he said.


Hien said the reforms were very practical – 90 to 95 per cent of schools could meet their demands.

"The national budget will be distributed to the remaining 5 to 10 per cent to help them meet the minimum conditions needed to carry out the changes," he added. "Besides, the level of plan implementation would differ from school to school based on their conditions. Each school will have autonomy in developing the curriculum or methods for educational assessment."

He said the reforms would be carried out and adjusted at the same time, so the Government could work out the best educational model.

The reforms are expected to be put in place in first, sixth and tenth grade throughout the country starting in 2018.

The most recent comprehensive education reforms took place in 1979, increasing the number of grades from 10 to 12. — VNS

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