by Thai Ha
I dropped into my cousin's house the other day only to ob-serve a quarrel that struck me like a violent blow.
"You are not allowed to enrol in the Teachers' Training College," said his mother Nguyen Thi Hoa, disregarding her son's tears. "Teaching is not a well-paying job."
"I simply wanted to become a teacher to help poor children, but my mother would not let me take the chance," Tong Quang Giap said later.
He ended up enrolling in the Architecture University, leaving his dream shattered. He is one of many students who decide - or are forced - to take courses that lead to much higher pay.
At present, high-school students are busy getting ready for university entrance exams that will determine their future professions. Few of those I asked saw Teacher's Training College as a destination.
A 12th-grade student at Lam Son High School for the Gifted in central Thanh Hoa Province confided that he wanted to be a teacher when he was young, but when he grew up he saw there were other options. His parents were teachers, but they recommended he choose another career if he wanted to have a better life and higher income.
Now, he said, his dream was to be an international auditor.
This year, the number of candidates registering for the exam to qualify for teacher training courses was a record low. In Thanh Hoa, less than 700 university entrants out of nearly 8,000 chose to study teaching, according to local statistics.
Many graduates see the profession as poorly paid and little respected.
Nguyen Xuan Phuong, a teacher at Thieu Hoa High School in central Thanh Hoa Province, confided that he and most of his colleagues did not dare to suggest to good students that they become teachers themselves.
The teachers have dedicated themselves to society for many years, but their salary and pensions do not reflect this devotion. New teachers receive a scant VND3 – 4 million (US$144-192).
Meanwhile, the average salary of Foreign Trade University graduates is VND5-10 million ($248-480). A few students even get starting salaries over $1,000.
"Teaching is supposed to be an honourable profession, but our lives feel like a constant battle!" said Cao Gia Nuc, who used to work as an assistant principal at Thai Binh Province's Teachers' Training College.
For several years now, banking, accounting, financing and computer science have been considered the hottest courses of study, even though many educational experts warn that graduates from these courses face lower chances of getting jobs.
Others bemoan the low rate of employment for graduates of teachers' training courses, particularly those who want to stay in big cities.
Last year, 26.2 per cent of Bachelor's degree recipients in the country did not have jobs and 70.8 per cent took jobs different from their major, according to HCM City University of Social Sciences and Humanities. The unemployment rate in the education sector is quite high.
According to the HCM City Department of Education and Training, only 525 people have been recruited as high school teachers, while there are nearly 3,000 people registered. Thus, more than 2,000 teachers could not find jobs in public schools.
Associate Professor Vu Trong Ry from the Institute of Education Sciences said that half of 500 surveyed teachers were not happy in their profession. Teachers have not been respected as role models, he said – making them think negatively about the occupation.
Ry suggested the Ministry of Education and Training improve the quality of schools and continue to exempt teaching students from tuition fees.
Currently, the country has 330 teacher training institutions.
It's frightening to think that teachers' training colleges will be forced to accept poor students to meet quotas. If so, who can ensure the quality of education for our young children? —VNS