|Illustration by Trịnh Lập|
by Mai Hiên
For Trần Bích Ngọc, a fifth grade student from Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm Primary School, subjects like science are always boring at school. Her prayers may soon be answered, as HCM City’s Department of Education recently launched a programme for primary schools across the city. Accordingly, students will have the chance to take part on four field trips a month.
The programme has received support from students and their parents alike.
Huỳnh Tấn Minh, another fifth grader, said he felt great after attending a lesson at Thảo Cầm Viên (Sai Gon Zoo and Botanical Garden).
“Normally, I see the pictures of the animals and plants in books or on the internet, but now I can see the butterflies with my own eyes, through their life cycle – from caterpillar, chrysalis to butterfly.”
Nguyễn Văn Hiếu, deputy director of the education department, said this form of study didn’t require assessments but motivates students by associating learning with reality. It also helps them develop their observation skills and understand the lesson more clearly.
Lê Hà Thái, a mother of a third grader, said field trips were useful because students could gain experience and learn more about nature.
While applauding the department’s initiative, some school managers still had concerns over its feasibility.
The principal of Phan Văn Trị Primary School, Nguyễn Thị Hồng Yến, said what made her most worried were the preparations for the trip and ensuring students are safe.
“Primary school students have short attention spans. As a matter of fact, they are usually more attentive at the beginning of the class, but their attention gradually decreases,” she was quoted by Sài Gòn Giải Phóng (Liberated Sài Gòn) newspaper as saying.
The cost of field trips was also a matter to consider, Yến said.
For example, in addition to the entrance fee of VNĐ30,000 (US$1.3) to visit the zoo, students had to pay for transportation, food and drinks, she said.
The combination of learning and sightseeing can be exhausting, so it is important for students to have the right clothing and plenty of drinking water.
The principal from Trần Thị Ngọc Hân Primary School, Võ Thị Lài, said the safety of students was a high priority because schools tended to organise field trips for a group of students (of the same grade) at the same time.
It should be noted that field trips are not new to Việt Nam. These kinds of lessons have been organised at secondary schools in HCM City and Hà Nội, on subjects like literature and history, over the past few years. The effectiveness of these lessons was still being questioned.
Nguyễn Khánh Chi, an eighth grader from Thanh Xuân District, said field trips were like going sightseeing, adding that she gained a little knowledge from them.
She said there should be a good combination between theory and practice as well as cultural exchange so that the lessons are more creative.
According to Vũ Thu Hương, an educational expert, field trips are an opportunity for students to experience normal activities while enhancing the learning experience. But most field trips didn’t meet those criteria.
Hương said that students should be involved in the activity, from preparations to assessment. Schools shouldn’t rely on tour companies because their staff don’t have the necessary skills to teach children effectively.
Sharing the opinion, student mother Thái said field trips should be student-oriented activities. Thus, it requires great effort from school management and teachers. Students should visit historical or cultural sites, she said
As a mother of two primary school students, I totally agree with Thái.
Take my son as an example. He is interested in history. Although he has learned about this subject through books and TV programmes, I’m sure that a visit to a museum would encourage him to pursue his hobby.
Western countries, including Finland, have long been renowned for the quality of their education systems, and always score highly on international league tables for reading, maths and science. These are a perfect example for other countries to follow.
Educational experts around the world highlight the country’s ability to produce high academic results in children who do not start formal schooling until the age of seven, have short school days, long holidays, little homework and no exams.
According to Marjanna Mannienen, principal of Kalasatama, an elementary school in Helsinki, it is not necessary for pupils to have their own desks or tables so they could move around.
The core principle is that kids can learn everywhere.
The curriculum in Finland is designed so that pupils themselves have an active role in learning. They are encouraged to learn in groups and teachers collaborate to create great lessons.
Mannienen also said the curriculum encourages schools to get outside their buildings.
“The whole of Helsinki is the classroom. We have the park, the city centre, the zoo – it’s ideal for this kind of approach,” she told siliconrepublic.com.
In my opinion, it’s time for us to change the learning environment. I’m sure that children still need to learn the basic facts. However, instead of keeping students in the classroom for the whole day, let’s bring them outside in the real world in an active way so they can learn to think and understand for themselves.
These are important skills that may help them do better in school and develop their social skills. — VNS