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Vietnam’s education minister takes responsibility for problematic college admission process

Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 08:36 GMT+7
Vietnam’s education minister takes responsibility for problematic college admission process
A parent burst into tears as knowing her son coudl hopefully make it to the Ho Chi Minh City University of Economics on August 20.

The college admission in Vietnam this year has ended up in a complicated situation, responsibility for which has been taken by the minister of education.

Vietnam's Minister of Education and Training Pham Vu Luan reported the results of the first phase of the country’s university admission process, which ended on August 2, as well as the national high school exam held earlier, to Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam during a televised meeting on Friday last week.

The minister admitted the complicated situation of the exam and said he would be responsible for that.

Big changes, big trouble

This year marks the first in which Vietnam has applied a number of changes to its high school graduation and university entrance exams.

In previous years, after finishing their 12th year, students would take an examination for graduation, often held at the end of June.

After passing the exam, at the beginning of July, they would take another exam to enter their intended university or college they applied to in April.

After the university entrance exam, the Ministry of Education and Training would announce a score called the “floor score,” which is the lowest score schools could use to recruit students in order to guarantee the quality of students.

Finally, schools would use the floor score to recruit students with scores from high to low.

However, things changed starting this year, when the education ministry decided to merge the two separate exams into one, which is called the national high school exam and takes place in early July.

Students use the results of the exam for graduation first, and then apply it to universities and colleges of their interest later after ensuring their score is higher than the floor score announced later that month.

Each student received four copies of a certificate of the exam results, including one main copy used to apply to university or college from August 1 to 20, which is called the first phase, and three other extra copies to use for later, additional admission phases from September 15 to November 15 in case that they fail in the first phase.

In the first phase, schools, after receiving students’ applications, posted names on an online list with scores ranked from high to low, then finalized the list and announced the scores which students need to reach to pass after August 20.

Successful candidates will be picked based on scores from high to low in accordance with the number of students which schools aim to recruit, which were already announced before the national high school exam.

During the process, students are also allowed to withdraw their application to apply to another school if they want to, or if they think they will fall out of the safe zone within the number of a school’s recruitment target.

The new process has left students and their parents in trouble, since they have suffered more pressure.

They have to check their schools’ list of applicants every day and are terrified of falling out of the safe zone.

In addition, students are required to visit schools which they applied to directly to withdraw their profile if they want to change schools, while schools were stuck with returning profiles due to the large numbers of withdrawals.

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Students wait in line for applying profiles at the Ho Chi Minh City Industrial University on August 20. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Ill-prepared process

According to Minister Luan, there are many reasons behind the situation, including that the education ministry did not consider the complexity and adverse effects of the changes.

“On the behalf of the Ministry of Education and Training, I take responsibility on this,” he said.

The minister considered the policy of using the national high school exam’s results for university recruitment the right step to create more chances for students to enter universities and colleges and possibly increase the amount of students for schools, however, he admitted that the ministry did not prepare well for the university admission process.

“The first phase of the university admission process has revealed several inadequacies,” he said.

“Regulations on application are not really reasonable, causing anxiety and stress among parents and students,” he added. The minister also reported that nearly 570,000 students have applied for universities and colleges in the first phase, and 43,000 among them have applied and withdrawn their profiles, accounting for 8.1% of the total.

Educators dismayed

Kieu Xuan Thuc, head of the Hanoi University of Industry, said the 20 days of the first phase was 20 days of nervously waiting while parents and students kept wondering and worrying if they should change their choice of schools.

He added that students may have a higher chance of getting into universities, but there was also a big number of students who passed but don’t care about the major they are going to study.

“We don’t see the consequence now, but it will be clearer in the next few years when students may not put their hearts into studying or even give up,” he expressed.

Dr. Tran Dinh Ly, head of the training department of the Ho Chi Minh City Nong Lam (Agroforestry) University, also agreed that this year’s admission process could prevent students from reaching their schools of interest.

“Students run around to apply just as long as they pass without any care for whether the major they applied for suits them,” he said. “That could lead to a tough time of studying.”

Meanwhile, Tran Manh Dung, head of the training department of the Banking Academy in Hanoi, suggested that the education ministry should launch online applications to lift the burden on parents and students who have to travel from their hometowns to big cities to apply and withdraw their profiles.

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