Schools resort to online tuition amid coronavirus fears

By Dang Khoa, Thanh Hang, Manh TungFebruary 6, 2020 | 01:28 am PT
Schools resort to online tuition amid coronavirus fears
A student from Wellspring Elementary School takes an online class at home. Photo courtesy of Wellspring.
Schools in Saigon and Hanoi are turning to online classes to mitigate the risk posed by the coronavirus outbreak.

Nguyen Minh Tuan did not leave for school on Monday morning as he normally does. Instead, the Hanoi junior high student stayed at home and turned on one of his family members' laptops to attend classes and do homework.

"This is the first time I am attending online classes and find it quite interesting," he says.

Tuan spent Monday night doing homework like he normally does, and his homeroom teacher sent out homework assigned by other teachers by mail.

Tuan is one of many students in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City getting online lectures amid the rising fear of the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). The outbreak has prompted authorities to close schools for a week in Hanoi and Saigon.

Besides, 15 cities and provinces around the country have announced plans to extend the Lunar New Year (Tet) break for students by at least two days, including Vinh Phuc, Thanh Hoa and Khanh Hoa, which have confirmed infection cases.

Dozens of universities and colleges have also postponed and rescheduled their classes.

Hanoi’s Newton, which has from elementary to high school, sent out online lectures and homework to its students after informing parents it would be closed from February 3 to 9. This would ensure students do not fall behind after the extended break and are rushed to catch up.

Parents of elementary school students have to send teachers pictures of their children completing homework.

For junior and high school students, the school posts new lessons online in subjects like literature, math, English, physics, and chemistry. The teachers also send out reference materials and assignments for each subject. Once homework is completed, students have to upload their work on the school’s portal. Teachers are also required to hold daily discussion sessions to answer students' questions.

Tran Thi My Dieu, principal of Van Lang University, says the school has set up lectures for all subjects on its online system, and students need to log in using their own accounts to download them.

Ho Thanh Phong, principal of Hong Bang International University, says the school requires each department to produce distance learning materials and keep in close contact with their students.

Meanwhile, some teachers have turned to social media apps like Facebook and Zalo to assign lessons to students.

Pham Pham Tung, a physics teacher at Ernst Thälmann High School in Saigon's District 1, says: "I am preparing an exam study guide for my students. I will record videos and upload them on YouTube. Teachers and students communicate with each other using Facebook groups just like we normally do."

Nguyen Ly Thuy, a math teacher at the Vietnam - Australia International School, says: "I assigned homework to students through the Office 365 software. Some students also replied with questions. In some cases, I called students to be able to answer them directly."

But online courses appear to be more effective for high school and college students since they are able to learn new materials themselves.

Nguyen Thi Dan Thanh says her seventh grader daughter, Nguyen Phuong Linh, studies in the Vietnam - Australia International School and her homeroom teacher uses Zalo to communicate and encourage her to prevent her from falling behind.

"I understand and support online tuitions. But I hope the outbreak will soon end, so that children can go back to school to actually learn and be able to fully understand the materials."

Su Viet Cuong, father of twin girls attending ninth grade in Le Quy Don High School in Saigon's District 3, says offering online courses amid the outbreak is the right decision.

"Though my kids have to learn the materials themselves, it is better for them to at least have something to do during the extended break. I would rather they absorb 50-60 percent of their lessons than playing with smartphones and ipads all day."

If the outbreak continues, he is fine with the school continuing online, he says. "For my children's safety, I am okay if the school extends the break to one month or offers summer classes."

As of Thursday afternoon Vietnam had 10 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection. The government  declared the novel coronavirus outbreak an epidemic last Saturday.

The global death toll from the epidemic has reached 565, with 563 dying in mainland China, one in the Philippines and one in Hong Kong.

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