Wednesday, September 30 2020


Teaching our kids lessons in life, not test prep

Update: July, 08/2018 - 09:00
Illustration by Trịnh Lập
Viet Nam News

By Thu Trang

Almost 20 years ago, I entered the Kim Liên High School with great pride, dreams and aspirations.

Not only was this one of the most famous high schools in Hà Nội, it was highly regarded around the whole country.

With the school’s fame coupled with my hard work and dedication, I truly believed a place at university was a sure thing.

But, to my surprise, my family’s and friends’ surprise, I failed in the entrance exam for the Hà Nội National University of Education.

I cried days and nights until I felt that my tears ran dry. I did not want to eat or drink, and did not want to meet anyone.

But my luck was about to change.

After what could only be described as the worst two months of my life, the university lowered its criteria and dropped the required points total for admissions by one. I was in.

So after my own painful struggles, I can easily relate to the heartache suffered come exam time when students don’t quite meet the grade.

The roller coaster of emotions they are feeling are exactly those I felt all those years ago. Pain, disappointment, failure and high anxiety as to what exactly the future holds.

A recent study by the Mai Hương Daytime Psychiatric Hospital revealed that out of almost 22,000 juveniles interviewed, nearly 20 per cent of children under 16 have psychological problems, almost 16 per cent have a psychological disorder whereas 3.7 per cent of them have behaviour issues.

Ngô Thanh Hồi, former director of the hospital, said in the past, especially before and after exam season, the number of students going to hospitals for health checks and treatment due to emotion disorder tends to rise.

This as a result of pressure not only from parents and teachers, but also pressure from themselves as they desperately compete to secure a place at their favoured school.

They feel tired and worried, and also have the added issues of headaches, stomach aches and depression.

Nguyễn Tùng Lâm, chairman of the Hà Nội Education Psychology Association and principal of the Đinh Tiên Hoàng High School, said that parents’ expectation exceeding their children’s capacity was also a problem in society as a whole.

He said in extreme cases this could leave themselves with suicidal tendencies.

“Many children are forced to study, and study following their parents’ dream, not theirs. They do not receive psychological consultancy to ease their pressure, as a results, many of them fall into depression, and want to die,” he said.

It’s obvious that education reform, including exam reform is necessary, but on the other hand, it turns the colourful and lively times at school into a life full of worry with homework and other pressures. It’s high time for education reform, but that reform must include monitoring and taking care of students’ psychological well-being.

Principal Lâm believes the education sector needs improving to also focus psychological consultancy at schools.

Lâm said that if a teacher wants to be successful, they should understand students’ thoughts, not only give them knowledge. But he feels this is an area many educators are neglecting.

“Students at the juvenile age are stable in physical development, but not psychological development,” he said.

When the students meet difficulties or face pressures, they can easily have negative thoughts.

It needs to have a person to share, guide them and encourage them to search for their best direction and studying methods.

“Parents should also change, not put any pressure on their children,” Lâm added. “So that the students can enjoy their childhood with nice memory, not too obsessed with studying.”

Instead of thinking about what mark the students get today, how good they are at the end of each term, or whether they are recognised as "outstanding" students or not, parents should think about how their children reach adulthood, he added.

Phạm Thị Thúy, a mother in Hà Nội, said that all parents hoped their children would be happy, but many of them thought that the children were happy only when they became successful.

“In fact, the children are happy when they are themselves, they can uphold their latent capacity and can do what they like,” said Thúy.

If parents can see their children’s smile every day, it means that everyone is happy.

“The most important work is that taking care of the children’s feelings, and accept the children as they are themselves, not force them to become anyone else,” she said.

Life is always full of challenges for everyone. Failing in an exam or being unsuccessful in a work is among many challenges we will face on the roller coaster ride called life.

Mistakes could be made in life by every person among us. Nobody is ever perfect. But what helps us all strive to perfection is to learn from those mistakes and do our very best not to make the same ones again.

Fast forward 20 years and I have two children of my own. Nine-year-old twin girls, Thu Vân and Thu Giang. Each Sunday morning we all go to art class together. Why? The answer is simple. Because they like it.

Sure, maths, English, literature and all the other traditional lessons are equally important. But they say the best years of your life are spent at school, so it is my wish now to raise not just successful children but also happy ones.

Childhood lasts the blink of an eye and before they know it, they will face all the pressures that come with adult life.

I just hope they can take on these challenges with the right attitude and a nice smile on their faces. — VNS




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