|In it together: Students gather in group to learn a lesson.
by Minh Thu
Lau Thi Hoa could not hide her joy. Even her eyes smiled as she told us she was one of the students selected to sing at an important event for the district.
The little ethnic Mong girl is also proud that she's the monitor of her class. In fact, she does more than take care of the class's activities when needed. Along with her teachers, she also encourages other children to attend classes regularly.
Hoa is a fifth-grade student of the Nam Can 1 Primary School in Nghe An Province's Ky Son District. The school is located in the mountainous Nam Can Commune, 300km from Vinh City, near the border with Laos.
Since 2012, Nam Can 1 is one of 73 primary schools in the province that have applied new teaching and studying methods that aim at helping students gain soft skills alongside academic learning.
The impact of the new method is evident. Now, all children love to go to school here. Residents are pleasantly surprised that children who were very shy before can now speak bravely to visitors and sing in front of many people.
When we visited class 5A, Hoa immediately called on her classmates to stand up in greeting.
The students were divided randomly into four groups of five, and their teacher, Nguyen Thi Kieu, gave them their first assignment - read a lesson. The students were active as they read and exchanged notes with their partners in their group. When the time was up, Kieu asked some students to stand up and answer her questions about the lesson. Then she explained the lesson's finer points clearly before moving on to other assignments.
Kieu and her students are following an international model of learning named Escuela Nueva. The Viet Nam's Escuela Nueva (VNEN) model has opened a new path for education, a new mechanism to help solve problems like lack of consistency and practical use.
Deputy Minister of Education Nguyen Vinh Hien told the Vietnam News Agency that under the model, students would be more engaged in class, teachers serve as facilitators, and parents and other community members would be more involved in making learning relevant to their children's lives.
Each lesson is divided into three steps: self-reading, using their understanding to answer given questions, and applying acquired knowledge to a practical situation either in the school, community or their families.
Lessons designed in such a way balanced theory and practice, Kieu said.
"Before, the teacher talked nearly all the time and students listened passively," she said.
"Now we act as facilitators and only intervene when needed.
"Our students have a chance to study on their own, speak and express themselves more. They also exchange more information with their classmates. It's a very good way for students to develop individual and collective work."
"This way of learning and teaching will help train the students to become dynamic and creative, which is important for developing their personality and skill."
Of the 73 primary schools selected to experiment with the VNEN method, Nam Can 1 is the most remote one. Its students from the Thai, Mong and Dao ethnic minorities are typically very shy in front of strangers. They are also diffident and not good at speaking in Vietnamese even after finishing primary school.
Nguyen Hong Hoa, head of the Education and Training Office of Ky Son District, said he used to feel sad because he did not know how to shorten the gap between students from the lowland and highland areas.
The VNEN model helped, he said.
"Before, when I visited the students in Nam Can Commune, they were shy, and answered me in very small voices. Some even hid when I visited their homes."
After three years of implementing the new model, there has been a clear difference. The students are more confident and more fluent in speaking Vietnamese. Exam results also show marked improvement.
Nguyen Thi Phuong, headmistress of the Nam Can 1 School, said the teachers were very happy with the new method.
Last year, the fifth grade students organised a farewell party. They decorated the class, cooked and invited the teachers to join them.
"We are amazed. This had never happened before," said Phuong. — VNS