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18-year-olds in Vietnam – P1: Are they still kids to parents?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015, 13:50 GMT+7

Whether Vietnamese parents are giving excessive care to their 18-year-old children remains a topic of discussion after the national high school exam ended early this month.

Instead of taking part in the traditionally separated high school graduation and university entrance exams like previous years, from this year on, 12th graders who are 18 years old will only sit for one national exam, also called the national high school exam.

The results of the national exam will be used for both high school graduation and university admission.

Although the exam lasted from July 1 to 4, its sideline stories are still being discussed as of this week through a forum titled “Is 18 Mature Enough?” launched by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

To sit for the exam, which is considered a turning point of student life, contestants from across the country flocked to major towns and cities.

It was easy to see images of parents accompanying their children to those cities, nervously waiting for their children during the exam, driving them from home to school, watching them finish their meals and fanning them as well as giving them other care.

What do parents say?

Le Trung Thang, from the central province of Quang Binh, explained that he would worry if he let his son go to the exam alone.

“I feel so proud accompanying him to the city for the exam,” he said. “I once scolded a parent who let his son take the exam alone and then stayed home and felt nervous. If so, why didn’t he follow him to the exam?”

According to the parent, going to big cities alone for the exam does not prove a student’s bravery or independence; on the contrary, it shows a lack of care from parents.

Le Dinh Tuan, another parent, from the central province of Quang Tri, said he has several years of experience in accompanying his sons to Da Nang City, which is around 160km away, for the exam.

According to him, accompanying children to the exam is a responsibility.

“I think children at 18 are not ‘mature’ due to their limited experience,” he said. “Parents are still responsible for educating and orienting them.”

Le Thi Thanh Thuy, a teacher in the southern province of Dong Nai, resolutely wanted to follow her son to Ho Chi Minh City though he preferred to go alone, as she did not believe that he could handle things by himself.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Thanh Viet, from Quang Tri, explained that he followed his son to the exam venue because he had heard about some students who gave up on the tests to hang out with friends.

“Also, if there’s any problem, I could help him to solve it,” he added.

Some parents took the exam very seriously because they thought it could bring their kids a better life than theirs, and their care is a necessary support for them to pass it.

“Our life has been destitute so we want to give our kids love and care so that their life would not be like ours,” Pham Thi Hue, from the central province of Nghe An, said.

Many parents also said 18 is an age of incomplete physical and psychological development, so being on their own is not good for them, especially young girls, in current society.

“How can 18 be mature?” Nguyen Thi Kim Lien, from Ho Chi Minh City’s District 7, stated. “I will worry all the time when my daughter’s out and wonder where she goes and whom she goes with.”

She also admitted she understood independence is good for her daughter, but she did not dare let her kid face this life alone at such an early age.

On another side, Phung Thi Ngoc Thoa, from the same city’s Tan Binh District, explained that because nowadays parents have fewer kids, they care for them too much.

Other parents expressed their faith that their children will be more mature once they become university students.

Nguyen Thi Viet Anh, from the southern province of Long An, said her daughter could take care of herself at home, but Anh thought she would not be able to handle things when she came to Ho Chi Minh City for the exam.

“I believe that she will be independent and be able to take care of her life alone once she becomes a university student,” Anh said. “Her siblings could also find jobs and live in the city by themselves then.”

Are parents always right?

Le Anh Phong, 22, students from RMIT University in Ho Chi Minh City, said he thought a person at 18 is old enough to get their first job, to make their first decisions and live the life he wants after leaving high school.

“I think parents should care for children like friends to friends, not adults to children,” Anh said. “If over-protected, kids will have limited communication with society and will lack experiences for life.”

Meanwhile, Nguyen Dang Hoang Hai, 22, from the Hue University of Sciences, said that parents taking care of their children too much reflects their huge love for them.

“However, the way they show their love may not be right,” he said. “Excessive care may not lead to good things; for example, children could become dependent and immature in their decisions and behaviors. And parents will orient children in the direction they want, not what the children want.”

Vu Thi Kim Ngan, 19, from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities, also agreed that 18 is mature enough.

“However, depending on the living environment, the ‘maturity level’ of a person will be different from others’,” she said. “Parents considering me a kid, honestly, makes me feel uncomfortable, but I know that’s because they love me.”

“I think parents should express their care through advice, not via too detailed acts, like supervising children while they are eating or fanning them,” she added.

Tam An, 18, from Ho Chi Minh City, wrote to Tuoi Tre to express his wish that his parents would believe in him and his age.

“I may get hurt when I fall, but that’s OK. I would learn from the experience to stand up,” he wrote. 

“If you remain afraid that I would get hurt and did not teach me how to walk, I would never know how to walk for my whole life,” he added. “If you remain afraid that I would fall and did not teach me how to stand up, I may never mature.”

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