CITY DIARY

Vietnamese education capable of rivaling Singapore’s in 2035

TUOI TRE NEWS

Updated : 08/06/2015 10:47 GMT + 7

Editor’s note: Luu Vinh Trinh, an 18-year-old contestant from Ho Chi Minh City, outlines her vision for Vietnamese education to emulate that of Singapore’s and share the top spots in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the next two decades in this entry sent to the “Ky Vong Viet Nam 20 Nam Toi” (“My Expectations for Vietnam in 20 Years”) writing contest.

>> An audio version of the story is available here

Vietnamese education will emulate that of Singapore’s and share the top spots in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – such a promising prospect has always been students’ source of inspiration so that we will strive harder in our studies.

Our greatest aspiration is learning in a truly wholesome environment where teachers and students teach and learn and are assessed on the basis of their real abilities. Leaders of the education sector would create auspicious conditions to turn schools into homes where students really exercise their mastery.

There we would fully harness our independence, creativity and self-control in our studies, and become dynamic, enterprising youths who decide our own lives and are bursting with energy and ambitions to express ourselves and carve out a fruitful career.

Creating a wholesome educational environment

As a 12th grader who has experienced numerous reforms conducted by the Ministry of Education and Training, I’ve realized that the lack of a wholesome educational environment is behind inadequate renovations and a hindrance to our learning capacity and inventiveness.

Vietnam’s education sector lags behind its regional counterparts due to its failure to implement reforms in the teaching and learning of English at school.

With this entry, I really hope the education ministry, school management and teachers will make more effective, focused adjustments.

In order to create and cherish a healthy, nourishing educational environment and a liberal academic space which allows both teachers and students to take their own initiative, investment should be made in infrastructure and equipment, while curricula should be redesigned. Changes to teaching and learning methodology are necessary, and equity between teachers and learners should also be promoted.

Such changes include the construction of classrooms to trim the number of students in each class down to 20 so as to maximize interaction between teachers and students. More laboratories, visual aids and restrooms should be added to better cater to demands. Three-fourths of the construction costs should be taken from the state coffers, while the remaining one-fourth is culled from society.

If the government considers education a national priority, it’s advisable that all efforts and resources be spent on the education sector, which is a really wise choice. Regarding social campaigning, I believe that everyone is willing to make a concerted effort, as the cause is supposed to do everyone good. I also hope that the education ministry, departments and school management boards will be dedicated administrators who wisely and transparently spend the funding without acting in their self-interest.

It’s crucial that the curricula be redesigned to boost practicality and reduce academic features.

For instance, regarding the high school Vietnamese Literature curricula, literature discourse should make up 40 percent of the program length.

Among this, half would be dedicated to wartime prose and verse, while the other half would focus on modern literature, with highlights on young authors who delve into the contemporary world.

The Medieval section, which is appropriate only for university literature majors, should be disposed of. Meanwhile, 40 percent of the curricula should focus on social discourse, which helps hone our argumentation and language skills.

The remaining 20 percent of the program length should cover administrative documentation, which guides us in how to write common administrative documents – a task that is of practical significance to our everyday life.

Specialized knowledge which is applicable only to higher education should also be reduced, such as solution standard (12th-grade Chemistry), the velocity of a single pendulum on a train (12th-grade Physics), complex numbers and integrals (12th-grade Math). Instead, laboratory sessions should be maximized for natural sciences, which boosts our precision and ability to perform lab procedures with ease, adds to lessons’ visual appeal and thus improves our mental retention.

In terms of teaching methodology, the education ministry should enact reforms that allow students to take their own initiative and avoid imposing their will on students. For instance, literature teachers are advised to encourage students to share how they really feel about literary works and authors, as the writing style tends to be affected by the authors’ personalities and outlooks.  

It’s vital that history is comprehensible, authentic and truthful. Teachers should only introduce and explain historical events and allow students to present their own opinions. It’s also necessary that history not be politicized to avoid undermining objectivity.

Reforms in how English is taught and learned

Vietnamese students enjoy three major advantages to excel in English: a neutral, expressive Vietnamese accent; the use of the Latin alphabet, which the English language also adopts; and their own aptitude and eagerness for a brilliant command of English. So let’s just make the most of these strengths to allow the country’s education sector to rival that of Singapore’s.

Regarding textbook content: the Ministry of Education and Training should select and put into use appropriate textbooks compiled by native speakers. Equal attention should be given to four skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing, and ample practice of the skills should be made a top priority. The teaching staff are thus supposed to be qualified and excel in these skills to undertake their critical guiding role.

It’s recommended that the ministry and schools assess expertise in the four skills among English students across the country. Qualified teachers are retained, while those failing to meet the criteria should be suspended from work or be required to take complementary courses.

To offset the loss of unqualified teachers, schools should publicly recruit teaching staff through local media. Candidates are supposed to have pedagogy certificates and meet requirements set by the Department of Testing and Auditing Education Quality. Each school can employ four or five Filipino teachers who boast a satisfactory English command and demand acceptable salaries. I think students’ parents would be willing to spend around VND300,000-400,000 a month to pay foreign teachers. Only then would such problems in teaching and learning English be radically resolved.

Designing lessons in the form of workshops

Teachers reciting for students to jot down remains a weakness of a 45-minute period. The ministry should run more workshops, which would do more good for students and teachers, as the knowledge flow is not disrupted and the teachers are no longer under time pressure. Workshops also allow students to actively contribute to the lessons and engage in teamwork, thus boosting their comprehension and retention of the presented knowledge.

Flexible timing would also help teachers properly arrange students’ presentations, in which they are welcome to express themselves and be as innovative as they can.

“Ky Vong Viet Nam 20 Nam Toi” is a competition organized by the World Bank in Vietnam and Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that encourages local youths to write down their wildest, yet feasible, dreams about how Vietnam will change in 20 years’ time.