A number of expats working in the education sector have responded to a request by Tuoi Tre News to give their thoughts on using ‘moral scores’ to evaluate the behavior of students
In addition to academic scores at the end of each semester, K-12 schools in Vietnam also use a 'conduct/moral score' to evaluate student behavior.
Moral regulations introduced by the Minister of Education and Training require schools to evaluate students' moral score based on their attitudes and behavior in relationships with teachers, school staff, family, friends and society.
Students are also evaluated by their learning effort, participation in the activity of their classes, schools and society, as well as their attitude toward obeying their school’s regulations.
The score can be one of four options: good, quite good, average or bad, which affect the student’s final results.
For example, students with an ‘average’ moral score cannot receive a ‘good’ or ‘quite good’ final certificate even if their academic performance is excellent.
In addition, some colleges will not accept students with “quite good” or lower level moral records.
‘Every Child Matters’
British schools don't have the same criteria for judging morals, though as a teacher it is an interesting concept to work into the classroom and curriculum. Would British students respect their teachers more if they were judged on a moral criteria? Not necessarily.
A system that judges people on their behaviour will always present problems on the front line, but it's important to look at the long-term effect that has on the nation as a whole.
The British government policy of ‘Every Child Matters’ was introduced in the UK in 2003 in order to make sure all government services for children (including schools) maintain a duty of care to all children. It works as a reminder that it’s the school's responsibility to improve all students, as much as it is the student’s own responsibility to improve.
In Vietnam, I think there will always be differences between schools, and it is a wise move to allow some freedom in the way that this is implemented. If we compare a school in rural Quang Nam Province to a school in central Ho Chi Minh City, there will be different opportunities for students to demonstrate their strength of character. Also, without some degree of challenge, what’s the point in it?
The process of growing up is the process of making mistakes and learning from them. The school and its administrators have a duty of care to their students to provide them with guidance and enough opportunities to correct youthful errors. To be young is to be foolish, and rash, and impulsive. It is the responsibility of the school and parents to provide model examples of what 'good' moral behaviour looks like. If teachers and staff within the school can provide the examples for how behaviour is judged, the student has a visible goal to strive towards.
Young people’s understanding of right and wrong, moral and immoral is framed by the experience of parents, teachers and their friends. Even at a young age children can be taught polite behavior, compassion, respect, and perhaps most important - the ability to accept that other people have different opinions and priorities. As a teacher I am not there to be a friend, I’m there to give guidance. However, respect has to go both ways, otherwise it is just a tokenistic gesture. I don't expect my students to respect me because I am a teacher.
Stephen Isaacs, British
Ensure the correct method
I think that the concept of monitoring students' social behavior and including it as a factor in determining academic marks is wise. You want students who have both academic knowledge and social skills to compete in the future. Students need to be made aware when their social behavior doesn’t meet community standards. Students need to be made aware of their social mistakes and shown how to avoid them. Just like they learn formulas to solve mathematic problems they need to also have guidelines for social problems.
However, you have to be sure you have the correct method to evaluate students. All schools should have the same criteria for judging a student’s behavior. The policies can’t vary from school to school. It can differ because of age but not location. But what’s most important is that the students should be exposed to the proper environment. This means that teachers and administrators must be an example for the students to follow. They have to consistently behave in the appropriate manner. If students are given mixed messages, at school or at home, they will be confused and doubtful.
It’s been my experience of teaching in Vietnam that many students, especially younger ones, lack self-confidence and also have low self-esteem. This inhibits them from reaching their full potential. If you add a low or bad moral mark on their school record it could be devastating. Being told that you are morally bad would further hinder the student from making progress. Some may choose to give up altogether because they don’t believe in themselves. What these students really need is help develop their social skills. If the program of grading students is run correctly then students that need help will be identified and given appropriate guidance.
Gregory John Kleven, American
Education starts at home
People say schools should help students, vulnerable young people, to correct their mistakes, instead of judging them with such a way as “average or bad morality” on their academic record. I agree, but if bad manners and morality continue, then it should be reflected in their diploma.
Education starts at home, there is only so much a teacher can do, especially if faced with a few hundred different students. Parents tend to blame the school and teachers for anything wrong with their children. Education, especially a moral one, always starts at home in other countries. The problem I can see is the high number of Vietnamese adults with no ethics or morals. How can they educate their children when they themselves do the wrong thing? Children tend to imitate parents and the behaviors they see at home. There should not be conflict between teachers and parents in evaluating students’ conduct. Teachers should be there to teach and educate, not to please parents and students. I don’t think Vietnam’s ‘moral score’ is strict, but I think the criteria to judge the four levels [of moral scores] should be easy to assess.
Labelling students as weak will not solve the issue
The best strategy to manage poor behavior in my view is to keep students busy and entertained. Use engaging activities, as there are times when students behave badly when they are not engaged or not challenged enough during classroom tasks. Schools in the UK have disciplinary procedures such as verbal, written warnings or even suspensions and exclusions based on the seriousness of their behavioral issues.
In some cases, students with poor behavior might have family or personal issues. If the teachers don’t deal with this appropriately then this can affect students' learning in the long run. Sometimes a quiet word or just asking them that if they are ok can help. If the students think that the teacher cares about them then that can solve a lot of behavioral issues. There are also student counsellors in educational institutions in the UK. The students can discuss their emotional issues with these counsellors and they provide really good advice. I believe that labelling students as weak will not solve the issue. I’ve seen very few behavioral issues in Vietnam during my first year teaching here.
Rizwan Khan, Vietnam Australia International School