Schools need to learn why it’s good to talk

April 11, 2018 - 09:00

For long, psychological consultation in schools in Việt Nam was disregarded.

Viet Nam News

By Bích Hường

There are more and more ways to communicate with each other nowadays, which help narrow or even blur geographical distances, but sometimes closer to home, people are finding it difficult to communicate.

None more so than a story that moved me about the plight of a young student.

Phạm Song Toàn — an eleventh grader in HCM City— revealed at a meeting with education officials late last month that her Math teacher did not deliver vocal lectures for about three months.

The teacher even did not talk to students at all and only wrote instructions on a board, which made students too scared to say anything.

The reason the teacher didn’t speak is not known, although some suggested it was because a pupil had threatened to record the teacher behaving badly in class, then post the video on social media sites to expose her.

Students had reported the silence of the maths teacher to the head teacher but the problem was not resolved.

Vice chairwoman of HCM City People’s Committee Nguyễn Thị Thu, as soon as she informed about the case in Long Thới High School in Nhà Bè District, said the teacher’s silence was a kind of mental abuse against students.

Early this week, school principal announced the teacher Trần Thị Minh Châu was suspended while waiting for further action to be decided.

This week, the student who spoke out was moved to another school in the city to avoid possible pressures and “isolation” from her classmates even though she was right to speak out.

After local media reports, Châu “retalked” to her students including Toàn, and admitted she was wrong.

In addition, Châu asked Toàn why she did not tell her instead of speaking at a public meeting.

Optimistic thinkers may believe an earlier dialogue between the teacher and the students could have ended the silence sooner as it not only affected the students’ psychology but their studying.

However, pessimistic thinkers say that nothing could ensure the success of such dialogue and in fact, communication between the head and the maths teacher failed, the communication between the head teacher and school principal failed too.

It wasn’t until the student spoke out that the problem was solved, but there’s no denying the mental abuse pupils must have suffered for months.

Thu Hà, a teacher in Hà Nội told Việt Nam News she was astonished to know about month-long silence of the teacher in class, especially a maths teacher.

Hà said that like any other job, teaching brought happiness, stress and hardship that challenged teachers but there was no excuse for Châu’s silence.

“Solving problems between students teachers and the school is part of their job,” Hà said, adding that expertise, enthusiasm, tolerance were all needed to solve the problems.

Hà said when she was unable to solve the problems that students shared, she asked for assistance from students’ family, colleagues or school board.

Dr Nguyễn Tùng Lâm, president of Hà Nội Association of Educational Psychology said that Châu was wrong to choose silence to “communicate” to her students even if it was the way she responded to the students’ naughtiness or non-cooperation.

“In this case, the principal is also responsible,” Lâm said.

"Teachers and students not getting along with each other can be seen in any school, so the matter is how the managers/principal addressed it, for example, change to another maths teacher," Lâm said.

In the long-term, this case also awoke schools in Việt Nam to improve their psychological consultation which offered both students and teachers proper advice in addressing school problems.

For long, psychological consultation in schools in Việt Nam was disregarded. Students are not encouraged to speak about their problems or at least there are no mechanisms or channels in place to encourage them to do so. Students can only talk about their problems to each other.

Many parents have total faith in teachers and trust the education system so often are unaware of issues their child may have.

Late last year, the Education and Training Ministry passed a circular on psychological consultation for high school students that took effect in February.

Accordingly, every high school must establish a psychological consultation group to assist students in major issues relating to gender, reproductive health, anti-abusing, career orientation or problems arising in social relationships.

The group includes a member of principal board, teachers, a health worker, parents’ representative and students.

Lâm said that school psychological consultation was important and must be regular. And counselors must be trained.

“Without proper training and expertise, the group could not befriend students,” Lâm said. 

“Once the counselors become friends of students, the students would trust, and then share their problems, seek advice whenever they need,” Lâm said.

There is a saying that “The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives”. I do hope we can choose the right way to communicate with each other so that we can together solve problems and have better lives.

It’s great if such school psychological consultation could help improve communication between students and teachers so that such a sad case in Long Thới High School will not happen again. — VNS