Last week, Việt Nam News asked our readers how they expect their children to study at school, following a much-discussed letter a father sent to the Ministry of Education and Training responding to the immense pressure placed on his son to thrive. Here are some responses:
Mai Quế Nguyễn, Vietnamese, Hà Nội
I totally agree with this father. Actually, the majority of parents in Việt Nam still pay too much attention to their children’s marks and performance at schools, which certainly put great pressure on the kids.
I do not expect too much from my son’s study results at school. I want him to study depending on his capacity, not my expectation, and at the same time find time to play and develop soft skills. Knowledge only plays a part in the success of my son in the future. What makes me really happy now is to see my son feel happy to go to school each day without bearing any pressure from his parents.
Therefore, I chose a school that does not force my son to study too much. Normarly, it takes only 20-30 minutes for him to do homework after school, and he spends the rest of the time at home entertaining himself or studying what he is really interested in.
I will not force my son to follow what I expect him to be. Of course, my wish for my son would be for him to become a superman in study, or become a top businessman or study at top schools. But those are not his dreams. I just try to find his strength and guide and help him to develop that strength. If he is not good at study, I will instruct him to enter a vocational school. Now I found that my son loves cooking, so I let him cook anytime he likes. Maybe in the future, he will become a good cook, not a businessman as I expected.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Hà Nội
As an English teacher of many years, I have seen a lot. I try to do a good job each day, but there are many challenges. There is no expat union or association to protect me and promote my rights.
I am exposed to low quality teachers and learning environments. I am almost embarrassed to tell people back home what I do.
In Hà Nội, I was asked by my Vietnamese boss to stop another teacher from driving home drunk. That means he was teaching while drunk! In Sài Gòn, I watched a teacher get into an argument at night with a fellow teacher: it seems he wanted to be left alone to take his heroin! In Taiwan, I complained that teachers were hitting students with sticks and rolled up magazines—I got fired.
I taught colours to public school primary students using a black & white photocopied book. Don’t get me started on nutrition and the cost of lunches. Let me say, students are not getting value. Why are recess and lunch breaks subjected to ear-splitting loudspeaker announcements?
Now I know why kids ignore me. They are both deaf & dumb. Dumb in the sense that they only study for exams and are not encouraged to think for themselves. That being said, I love my students, teaching and Việt Nam.
To paraphrase Shakespeare, “who will help me with this problem?”
Phạm Nga, Vietnamese, HCM City
Personally speaking, I’m on the father’s side. I did read the letter. It touched me; I feel the invisible pressures we are putting on our 10-year-old too.
Sometimes we argue with each other. My husband demands our son to study more, even do extra homework besides the school’s to make sure that he is good at certain subjects and doing well like some top classmates.
It’s not a wise move, I think. I always encourage my child to spend one hour on studying and three hours playing instead of “one- hour play and three-hour study”. For me, first and foremost, he must stay physically healthy. Whenever I pick my son at school, I ask him how much fun he had at school. I care more about his joy going to school, not his marks. Of course, I spend some time in the evening to check over the knowledge he learns at school, ensuring that he grasps it.
It is undeniable that practice makes perfect but will one make perfect without a health and strong body? Additionally, whenever possible, I facilitate my child to receive social knowledge through community activities such as giving used books or clothes to underprivileged children.
Children are the future owners of our country and our world, so let’s let them shape it in their own way and let them do what they are up for.
Bùi Minh Thủy, Vietnamese, Hà Nội
We ourselves had to study too much when we were students, and that made us so exhausted. I still remembered when I was in the10th grade how there were many afternoons I spent crying after coming back from extra after-school classes, finding myself too tired and afraid to study. I joined extra classes four days per week in order to prepare for the university entrance exam two years later. If I failed the exam, my parents would be very disappointed.
Honestly, I still want my son to study well at school but it is not the most important thing. The most important thing is that he could manage to study within his capacity. If he meets any difficulty during the study, I will never scold or create pressure on him. Instead, I will work together with him to address the problem and figure out what should be done and should not be done. — VNS