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Are district education departments essential?

Update: December, 18/2017 - 08:00
Students participate in a sack race at the Văn An Primary School in Hải Dương Province. — VNA/VNS Photo Mạnh Minh
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — The functioning of district­ level education departments has come under public scrutiny after a teacher suggested they are abolished for being ineffective and obstructionist.

The teacher, Bùi Nam, also suggested that dissolving the district education departments would reduce staff and simplify administrative procedures.

Nam’s suggestion, posted on a few days ago, said there were too many administrative managerial staff in public education, and that education departments at the district level are redundant.

District education departments manage and oversee kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools and high schools in their localities. They are said to be the link between the municipal education department and schools, implementing policies set by the former.

The district departments also conduct regular inspections of schools, organsise contests for teachers and students where winners ago on to compete at higher levels – the city and so that winners could be selected to join contests at higher levels – city or national.

Nam also alleged that district departments were unduly intervening in schools’ activities, particularly undermining the role of school principals.

For instance, at the beginning of a new academic year, the municipal/ provincial People’s Committee allocates annual funding to a school account with the district treasury for the principal to manage.

However, instead of the principal making financial decisions on her or his own, regarding staff pay, for instance, everything has to reported to district education departments and approval obtained to get anything done.

Without district education departments, principals would be more active and responsible, Nam said.

He also said that the education sector accounted for 52 per cent of all State employees at about 1.2 million people.

He also claimed that the ratio of administrative managerial staff, including principals, vice principals and officials at district education departments against the number of teachers is quite high.

At preschools, there is 1 managerial staff for every 4 teachers; at primary schools, the ratio was 1:10; 1.2:10 in secondary schools, and 0.7:10 in high schools, Nam said.

Hoàng Biên, a teacher in Nghệ An’s Quỳnh Lưu District  told the Lao động ( Labour) newspaper that inspections and contests organised by district education departments added pressure on both teachers and schools.

Department officials were highly bureaucratic, he said.

Kim Tân, a teacher in Hà Tĩnh, said teachers were very concerned about the poor performance of district education departments, who worked passively. For example, when the province-level education department launched a contest, the district department would just repeat it and announce it to local schools.

Worse still, several district department officials are believed to be corrupt, taking money for assigning teachers to schools.

However, Tân also said that while Nam’s suggestion was very bold, it should just serve as a warning for district departments to review their performance.

Professor Chu Hảo, former Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, said Nam’s suggestion was a good idea. A simplified structure was better as the education sector looked to reform, he added.

Not a good idea

But professor Phạm Minh Hạc, former vice minister of Education and Training said that district education departments were part of Government management in education and should not be removed.

The district departments helped specify policies of the Education Ministry, city/province department as well as instruct schools to implement.

The Lao động newspaper also reported that without district education departments, the workload of city/province departments would increase significantly, and they would not be able to deal with it. — VNS

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