Students in cities across Vietnam are grappling with learning schedules that span from early morning until late at night, invariably robbing them of their childhoods.
N.T.H., a 42-year-old mother from Go Vap District, Ho Chi Minh City, does not have a moment to sit down with her family until about 9:30 pm, when her children finally make it home from their various classes and after-hours courses.
But even after she briefly meets with her children at 9:30 pm, they go right back to working on school assignments until midnight.
That busy schedule is not confined to weekdays. Even on Saturdays and Sundays, her children spend much of their time attending extra classes.
According to H., despite the fact that these classes are necessary if her children wish to do well on their upcoming university entrance exams, watching her children be robbed of their childhood is heartbreaking.
Comparatively, H. spent her childhood going to school for half the day and spending the other half doing homework, helping her mother with chores, and hanging out with friends.
It was a typical childhood, she said, filled with colorful memories of flying kites, playing folk games, and having fun with other kids in the neighborhood.
But times change.
“In the city, families have little interaction with their neighbors and children are too busy attending extra classes to make friends with other kids in the neighborhood,” H. said.
H. expresses dissatisfaction not only with the perception that children are missing out on a proper childhood but also with the observation that, despite their extensive studies, their formal education has not imparted significant real-world knowledge.
Once, on a trip to the countryside, she realized her children could not tell the difference between a cow and buffalo or a duck and goose.
Her children rarely meet live animals and even fear cats and dogs.
Rather than play games outside with friends, they spend their little free time glued to electronic devices.
Recently, a mother sent a letter to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper confiding, “Like many parents, I am often exhausted due to my child’s heavy academic scheduling. I have a child. I spend almost the entire day shuttling him between classes and preparing meals.
“I am also responsible for showing my child how to study and review his lessons at night. If my child fails to complete homework, his teacher blacklists him. He is losing his childhood."
N.X.D., 45, a resident of District 7 in Ho Chi Minh City, is doing his best to push back against busy academic schedules for his children.
According to D., he and his wife try to keep their kids from suffocating under too much academic pressure.
They encourage their children to study on their own instead of attending extra classes.
They prioritize family dinners every night and collaborate on household chores, fostering the development of essential life skills.
In the summers, they take week-long trips so that their children can explore nature.
They visited the Central Highlands, stayed with locals, and taught English to children there last summer.
These valuable experiences, D. said, can help city children live responsibly, love others, and learn to lend a helping hand to those in need.