Prof. Ngo Vinh Long, from Maine University in the US, stresses that history teaching should aim for accuracy and depth, and start with commoners, if Vietnam is to improve its history education and arouse students’ interest in the subject.
According to Prof. Long, a Vietnamese - American lecturer of Southeast Asian and Chinese history, history writers are supposed to make accuracy their top priority.
“In my opinion, two or three experts at most should be assigned with writing history textbooks, and they should do extensive research and base their writings on a wide variety of sources before presenting them to others for comments. If five or six individuals or groups write a textbook together, they tend to compromise and thus lack accuracy and consistency,” Long stressed.
The professor also urged that there should be a variety of textbooks, which schools and teachers can choose to suit their purposes and meet their students’ demands.
Long also stressed the need to adopt the innovative history teaching methodology used worldwide and translate ‘practical history’ books into Vietnamese.
Regarding the rather ineffective teaching of history in Vietnam, Long argued that though the Vietnamese methodology tends to cram students with knowledge, imparting the historical events in depth and explaining their significance and the reasons behind them remains inadequate.
“Some stories, like that of the young hero Tran Quoc Toan (1267–1285), who crushed an orange to express his resolve to fight against the Mongol insvasion, is taught in both elementary school and high school. Such mechanical repetition with no in-depth analysis or evaluation fails to stimulate students,” the professor noted.
Long also stressed the importance of reconciling historical data, facts and perspectives. If a small event goes against one’s hypothesis, he/she must delve into it, without ignoring it.
Long added that over the past 30 years, more attention has been given to Social History, a broad branch of history that studies the experiences of ordinary people in the past. The UK, for instance, has been paying more attention to worker unions, or the roles women played in history.
“People from lower classes were overlooked in the past though their contribution is massive. I think this is also one of the major problems Vietnam faces,” he noted.
Social history stems from resentment regarding unbridgeable gaps between the upper and lower classes, as well as the increasing concern for fellow humans, so Social history is also rich in humanitarianism.