Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — The national high school entrance exam is still two months away, but Vũ Minh Hiển, a senior secondary school student in Hà Nội, has started feeling the pressure.
A 9th grader at the Vân Hồ secondary school, Hiển has classes every morning and four extra classes on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and Friday and Sunday evenings. Each class lasts from two to 2.5 hours, and the evening classes often finish at 8.30 pm.
“I already feel pressured as my school has started organised lots of mock tests,” Hiển told Việt Nam News. “At the moment I have no time for extra-curricular activities.”
Thousands of students and parents in Hà Nội are worried about the high school entrance exam as there is a surge in the number of exam sitters this year. The pressure is immense as 100,000 students are expected to sit the exam – up 24,000 from last year – while the public high schools in Hà Nội can only accommodate 60 per cent of them, the Hải Quan (Customs) newspaper reported.
The other 40 per cent will have to settle for private schools, vocational schools and continuing education facilities, which are often considered “unofficial” and low-quality by Vietnamese parents.
The annual high school entrance exam in Việt Nam consists of one standardised math and one standardised literature test. Each student gets to apply to two public high schools, and they often choose one requiring a high passing score as the first option and another which requires a much lower passing score as the second option to ensure they do not fail both.
This year’s exam sitters are more numerous because they were all born in 2003, the year of the Golden Goat according to the Chinese zodiac, and a good year to have children.
Not only are the students feeling pressured, but their parents are, too. Hà Thị Thủy, Hiển’s mother, said that she and her colleagues are worried sick about their children’s exam.
“The university entrance exam will probably not be this nerve-wracking, because if they fail to enter one university, they will get into another,” she said.
“I don’t know what we are going to do if [Hiển] fails his first-option school,” she said, adding that she doesn’t want to let him settle for the second option as the teaching quality there would probably be “disappointing”.
Apart from the 108 public high schools, Hà Nội has some other specialised magnet schools that plan their own exams. Considered the top schools in the city, these specialised schools often receive many more applications than their recruitment quotas.
For the 2016-17 school year, for example, 10 students competed for each slot in specialised math classes at the Hanoi-Amsterdam High School. The rate was the same to enter the High School for Gifted Students of the National University of Education, and 1:9 for the Foreign Language Specialised School.
With such a high number of exam sitters this year, an official from the Hà Nội Department of Education said the department is considering whether the public high schools should increase their recruitment quotas, Người Lao Động (The Labourer) newspaper reported. One scenario is to ensure 62-65 per cent of the students will get to public high schools instead of 60 per cent as usual, he said.
The department is also planning to allow private and non-public high schools to increase their recruitment quotas by 10 to 20 per cent compared to previous years, he added.
Lê Thị Thúy Nga, principal of the Dịch Vọng secondary school in Hà Nội, said that the preference for public schools is one of the factors creating pressure for students.
“Only when the vocational schools are able to improve their teaching quality and give students practical training that meet society’s demands will they receive more students,” she told Zing online newspaper. “Then the parents will stop trying to stuff their children into the public high schools."
Ngô Mỹ Lệ, principal of the Khương Thượng secondary school in Hà Nội, told Hải Quan that her school is trying to provide consultation for students with different capability levels.
“We help the top students choose public schools within their reach, and advise parents of students with weak learning capacity to let them pursue vocational training,” she said. — VNS