​Vietnamese teacher suspended for being on ‘silent mode’ in class for three months

Her silence was brought to public attention when a student exposed her during a meeting with city officials

Tran Thi Minh Chau (L) comforts Pham Song Toan, an eleventh grader who exposed her silence in class, during a reconciliatory meeting. Photo: Tuoi Tre

A high school teacher in Ho Chi Minh City who refused to utter a word in class for three months has been admonished and suspended from teaching until the end of the current academic year.

The disciplinary actions were taken following a meeting among the school board on Friday, said Tran Minh Binh, headmaster of Long Thoi High School in the outer district of Nha Be, where Tran Thi Minh Chau teaches maths.

Chau has since January spent all her time in one specific class, 11A1, writing lessons on the board without speaking a word to her students.

Chau’s unusual silence made headlines last months when one of her 11A1 students, Pham Song Toan, burst to tears at a meeting with city officials as she recounted the dreary atmosphere during lessons taught by the female teacher.

According to Toan, she and other classmates had repeatedly informed their homeroom teacher of the phenomenon, but nothing had changed for three months.

“I don’t understand why she has refused to speak to us,” Toan said.

“She would only write on the board whenever she was in our class. That’s not what we go to school for.”

Pham Song Toan speaks during a meeting with city officials in Ho Chi Minh City on March 23, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Pham Song Toan speaks during a meeting with city officials in Ho Chi Minh City on March 23, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Teacher Chau later admitted to remaining silence in class due to rumors that her students were taping her lessons to expose any ‘unexemplary’ exchanges.

The teacher had in 2012 received a warning for violating school regulations in behaving in front of students, when she was still teaching at her old school.

Chau was transferred to Long Thoi High School after the scandal as per her wish.

According to Long Thoi schoolmaster, Chau’s suspension will bar her from any teaching tasks for the rest of this school year.

In the meantime, she will be working at non-teaching positions at the school until a future decision is made, Binh said. At the start of the next school year another meeting will be held to determine whether to allow the teacher to go back to teaching, he added.

Toan, who brought public attention to the teacher’s silence, has fallen victim to bullying and discrimination from classmates and teachers at Long Thoi since the exposé.

The administration of Ho Chi Minh City has requested that the municipal Department of Education and Training provide Toan with all the support she needed to be transferred to another school should she wished to do so.

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