by Hong Minh
More than 15 million students at all levels throughout the country are relieved at a decision by the Ministry of Education and Training to clamp down on boring speeches at ceremonies on the first school day.
Fifteen-year-old Nguyen Khanh Vy in Ha Noi's Cau Giay District is excited at entering tenth grade and hopes that the tedious speeches at her first school day at senior high school will be different to what she experienced at primary and junior high schools.
"I remember quite well my last nine le khai giang – or first school day ceremonies – as they were all the same," Vy said. "All were so crowded and held in the hot sun in school yards in early September."
Vy said the ceremonies were boring and full of cliches. She recalled having to wake up early to go to school, where students were given fake flowers, balloons and small national flags to welcome newcomers or VIP guests.
"Under the bright sunlight, we listened to long speeches from school representatives and officials from local authorities and the education department," she said. "We had to wait for long periods if the officials came late," Vy said, adding that she and her friends thought the speeches by the guests were uninteresting."
Pham Quynh Hoa, Vy's mother, said the ceremonies for her daughter's first school days meant that either she or her family had to take Vy to school and wait somewhere outside for two or three hours. "The children had to even spend a morning prior to the main ceremony for rehearsal," she said.
"It can be heart-breaking to see the children sitting and sweating under the sun and the heat for such nonsense ceremonies," she said.
Hoa said the ceremonies were different from those of 30 years ago and had lost the meaning of "first school day". "In the past, the first school day was the actual day we resumed our study after three months of summer vacation. We felt so cheerful and eager to meet friends and teachers after so long and start a new school year," she said.
"At present, the summer vacation lasts for only two months and the students have to gather for early study from August to finish the Ministry of Education and Training's compulsory 37 learning weeks," she said. "This makes the ceremony of first school day, normally in September, completely meaningless and formalistic," she added.
Hoa also claimed the ceremonies had become less student-oriented, saying that instead of having teachers welcoming students to the new school year as before, now students were those who had to wake up early to go to school to listen to officials and guests' speeches.
Vice principal of the Ha Noi-based Luong The Vinh High School, Van Thuy Duong, agreed that the ceremonies for first school days had become uninteresting and costly, leaving both teachers and students worn out.
"It is important to put students at the centre of the ceremony. There should be no big speeches that the students cannot understand. The students should see the ceremony as their real festival," she added.
The concerns of students, parents and teachers have become so open that at an education meeting last week, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam urged that first school day ceremonies this year should be simple, including saluting the national flag, singing the national anthem, reading the State President's note, and a short speech by the school head.
He asked the education sector to hold the ceremony out of the sun, avoid making students queue up and ban long speeches.
Earlier this week, the Ministry of Education and Training issued a decision that all school will hold the ceremony of first school day on September 5. And the programme should be simple, it said, as requested by the Deputy Prime Minister.
It was a prompt response from the education sector to the concerns of students nationwide. But there is some resentment.
Nguyen Thi Thuy, a primary teacher in Ha Noi, said many schools were still competing and lobbying to have the presence of VIP guests at their opening ceremonies. "I think the situation will stay the same this year as many school have prepared everything already," she said.
The big ‘first school day' ceremony of 2015 is just two and a half weeks away. Many students are waiting to see if they still have to practise welcoming guests and then listen to their speeches.
Let the children decide how their first school day ceremony should be run or the manufactured applause will become a deafening silence. — VNS