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Vietnamese high-schooler redesigns history textbooks for greater luster

Sunday, October 21, 2018, 14:39 GMT+7
Vietnamese high-schooler redesigns history textbooks for greater luster
Doan Nguyen Phuong Danh studies in his classroom at Nguyen Thuong Hien High School in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

A student in Ho Chi Minh City has created his own versions of history textbooks in order to make them more interesting to him at a time when history can easily become boring to many Vietnamese students.

Doan Nguyen Phuong Danh, a twelfth grader at Nguyen Thuong Hien High School in the southern metropolis, redesigned high-school history textbooks during his spare time and just wanted to have materials friendlier to him and give history greater attention as he often focused excessively on major subjects.

That is why few knew his products, which have recently drawn widespread attention after he sent them to a national-scale competition on education improvement solutions partly held by Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training.

History textbooks used in most schools in the country come from the ministry as the sole source and it is easy to see a parade of facts that could very likely pall on even the most enthusiastic student.

Danh believes that history is a dreadful subject to many learners, including him, chiefly because of instructional methods and the unattractive design of the books with too many words and too few pictures.

“I’ve never found history interesting. History teachers often give an inadequate preparation to lessons and their hours don’t create a very friendly atmosphere,” he said.

Two pages of a history book redesigned by Doan Nguyen Phuong Danh. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Two pages of a history book redesigned by Doan Nguyen Phuong Danh. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Doan Nguyen Phuong Danh’s versions of high-school history textbooks. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Doan Nguyen Phuong Danh’s versions of high-school history textbooks. Photo: Tuoi Tre

The boy did not remake the entire history textbooks for the three high-school grades but he selected crucial parts in them and began looking for high-resolution relevant pictures or those with clear citations on the Internet.

He condensed information related to what is presented in the textbooks before writing historical events in his fashion.

He then utilized the graphics editor of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe InDesign, an application for page layout, to turn what he had garnered into ebooks.

“Students may not understand just by reading the lines in my books, but with explanations from teachers I’m sure they can remember things there for a long time and feel instantly interested in learning history,” Danh said.

Doan Nguyen Phuong Danh (red) studies with a peer at Nguyen Thuong Hien High School in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Doan Nguyen Phuong Danh (red) studies with a peer at Nguyen Thuong Hien High School in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Doan Nguyen Phuong Danh’s first sketches for his history textbook redesign. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Doan Nguyen Phuong Danh’s first sketches for his history textbook redesign. Photo: Tuoi Tre

A noteworthy advantage of his set of homespun books, which he named ‘New History,’ lies in its illustration.

Educators said the books’ presentation piques curiosity and is eye-catching and modern, in the sense that it resembles the layout of contemporary books of their type from many other countries.

Studying at one of the prestigious high schools in the city, Danh can easily be assumed to spend all his time studying.

However, one of his greatest interests – drawing – is not even a part of the curriculum.

“I try to observe anything that might catch my attention on the way to school, a class that leaves me with an impression, or interesting images, and I draw it after I finish all my schoolwork at the end of the day,” Danh claimed.

“During the school year I focus on schoolwork, while in the summer I take drawing classes.”

Even his teachers admire his capability to maintain a balance between studying and hobbies, unlike many Vietnamese students who forget to develop their soft skills and only care about grades.

According to his form teacher Pham Ngoc Nguyen Thao, not only does he maintain outstanding results at school, he also participates in various activities, especially the art-related ones such as designing logos, painting competitions, or designing class shirts.

“We are very proud to have a student that tries to be creative so as to inspire his studying,” she added.

“His creativity also inspires us as teachers.”

Prof. Pham Hong Tung, chief editor of Vietnamese history textbooks, praised Danh’s efforts and creativity given that the student had read a number of foreign history textbooks, acquired the idea of including as many pictures as possible and given open review questions.

Danh’s creations have limitations in content but this is quite understandable for a high-schooler, Tung added.

The boy hopes the new appearance of the history textbooks can alter students’ perception of the subject for the better.

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Thai Xuan-Ha My / Tuoi Tre News

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