AsiaViews, Edition: 46/I/November/2004
A panel of experts and educators spoke with Thoi bao Kinh te Viet Nam (Vietnam Economic Times) about the reasons for poor quality in education as well as ways to improve the situation.
Tran Thi Tam Dan, Director of the National Assembly Committee of Culture, Education, Youth and Children:
Reform of school fees and tuition has been mentioned in Government reports and the National Assembly has been petitioned to release a new policy on school fees and tuition applicable to the 2005-06 school-year which allows the inclusion of all educational costs within the school fee.
I hold that this issue should be considered and calculated in a scrupulous and feasible way.
The State should no longer collect fees for the first nine grades of compulsory education to ensure equal access to quality education. Collection of fees should begin from the senior high school level and extend to vocational training and university education.
We have suggested bringing together and incorporating all fees and costs for such things as maintenance, school operations, and transportation into the calculation of the school fee to make it easier to manage.
We have suggested that the budget for education be increased to 18 per cent of the total State budget by 2005, while this figure for 2010 should not be less than 20 per cent of the total budget.
The rate of increase from now until 2010 should be from 0.8 to one per cent per year in order to standardise and modernise education.
Phan Thanh Binh, Vice Rector of HCM City University of Technology:
There are two leading factors affecting education.
The first is that the number of students has increased dramatically as our attention has shifted from quantitative education to qualitative education. Second, education was formerly free and universal, but with the shift to a market economy, it is no longer free but requires the sharing of many costs.
These factors have had a detrimental effect upon the quality of education.
In addition, in my opinion, there are other factors significantly contributing to the lessening of education quality.
We force our children to acquire knowledge quickly. We impose our own aspirations upon our children, requiring them to master a difficult curriculum. We want them to become geniuses quickly rather than give them a chance to acquire knowledge in their own time as children. I think that?s our shortcoming.
High enrolment is also a problem as we must educate students on a large scale, while still maintaining quintessential quality and standards of achievement. The shortcomings here are thinking and mismanagement that have affected education quality.
We are facing challenges in making the transition to mass education standards. A curriculum untested and poorly prepared does not have a good result.
In my opinion, the National Assembly should pass a resolution affirming the priority status of education, confirming commitment to education at all levels, and determining and defining the responsibility of each sector. The National Assembly must also fashion a new public administration policy for education and spell out the standards and goals of the education system.
Bui Trung Chinh, Principal of Nguyen Du Senior High School:
There are contradictions in Viet Nam?s education system that need to be resolved.
These are the contradictions between the scale or quantity of education and quality, between the level of funding and quality, and between the educational system?s administrative structure and the socialist-oriented market economy.
These are ominous contradictions because they result in a system that does not conform to international standards and practices in education.
For instance, many countries consider pre-school as a family responsibility with a high public characteristic, but, in Viet Nam, it?s the opposite. The State budget partly funds pre-schools so that other education levels have less money.
Classroom study time for secondary schools in Viet Nam is half of what it is in other countries, with a curriculum that is both rushed and more difficult.
Vocational training in Viet Nam is now overseen by both the Ministry of Education and Training and the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs. I think we should assign one ministry to take charge or establish one department to do this.
Also, the government should pay greater attention to university and post-graduate education. The government needs to more closely regulate employment and human resources at these institutions.
Nguyen Thi Minh Phuong, deputy chairman of the Education Strategy and Programme Institute :
The new textbook for grades 1, 2, 6 and 7 to be used in two years and the next textbook for grade 10 to be used next year have demonstrable good points for students and teachers, giving them more activity, creativity and independence in both teaching and studying.
As teaching methods begin changing, encouraging greater practice and application in their subjects, the students? learning process is also improved, giving the students greater flexibility and raising their interest in studying.
The new textbooks are generally regarded as suited to the students? level of knowledge and ability. However, some parts of the books are said to be difficult and demanding, especially for students in remote areas, and some teachers find it difficult to teach from the new books.
Additionally some programmes at the secondary level don?t prepare students well for those they will encounter at the university or higher levels, causing a loss of efficiency in learning as well as interfering with students? abilities to self-study.
Coping with the matter, we have carried out such works as: selecting the best teachers with the best teaching methods from the yearly competition, and providing enough teaching facilities. We are also helping teachers access different methods and skills to serve different kinds of education at all levels.
We will maintain the good teaching programme as well as apply international standards to our teaching system.
Dinh Cong Bao, headmaster of the Ha Noi Teacher Training University:
In recent years, the number of teachers at all levels has greatly increased. We have nearly 1 million teachers, lecturers and other staff, including 129,720 people working in the private education sector.
Most of the staff are dedicated to their work, with high levels of responsibility and morality. However, there are some shortcomings.
The target of the Ministry of Education and Training is for 95 per cent of primary teachers and 98 per cent of secondary teachers to be in compliance with the demands of the education law by 2006.
The ministry is also attempting to reach the goal by 2005 that at least 30 per cent of primary teachers have college certificates, and 100 per cent of heads and deputy heads of faculties have university diplomas.
We must continue to foster key teaching staff at all levels, reforming training methods with new programmes and pratices, as well as improving the ideological and political education given teachers.
Meanwhile, we have established a programme for training graduates of other sectors who have the desire to become teachers.
Finally, the management system of the education sector also needs improvement. We must have the ability to manage staff and inspectors who are education specialists. We are striving to have at least 5 per cent of inspectors by 2005 to have graduate degrees and 10 per cent by 2010.
Nguyen Van An, head of the Planning and Finance Department of the Ministry of Education and Training:
Good facilities play an important role in the improvement of education standards.
In fact, only a few schools meet normal regulatory requirements on facility standards. Only 50 per cent of schools meet land area requirements, while only 25 per cent of schools have enough classrooms, laboratories, and libraries.
Most of the schools have no rooms for preserving school equipment, especially those in rural and mountainous areas.
For the universities and vocational schools, the situation is even more serious. State budget funding, as well as other financing generated by the schools and universities, is inadequate.
Even the National University, the two teacher training universities, and some vocational schools with investment from Asia Development Bank are still facing difficulties.
To provide people with good education and to boost the country?s education sector, our target is to turn under-utilised classrooms into three shift classrooms (i e, the classroom will have three shifts per day) by 2005. We must work hard to avoid loss and waste in building schools and classrooms.
VNS November 23, 2004