11th time a charm: The Vietnamese who refuse to give up on high school dreams

By Vo Thanh - Thao Ly - Nguyen Hai   June 23, 2017 | 09:56 pm PT
Middle-aged test takers share inspiring stories for personal achievements.

Bui Tho Duc Duyen came to an exam venue Ho Chi Minh City visibly weak and pale.

The 45-year-old had just recovered from a heart attack not long ago, but he's still relying on an implantable device to assist his heart.

He was one of the oldest contestants in this year’s national high school graduation exam, one that he missed nearly three decades ago.

“I want to try again, to see how I'll perform and if I can get a high school diploma,” Duyen said.


Bui Tho Duc Duyen, 45, sits the national high school exam in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/M.N.

He had been prepping for three months for this exam with separate tests in math, literature, English and sciences.

Duyen said he did not do well on the literature test on Thursday because he was in pain.

“The test seemed quite easy for the young students but not to me. Hope I did not do too bad,” he said, smiling.

At a venue in the central province of Nghe An, the 52-year-old Nguyen Xuan Hong said he wanted to pursue an unfinished dream now that his children have all grown up.

“It’s not simple,” he said about taking the demanding exam at his age.

“But I’ve got the support from my wife and children. I’ve also studied with some teachers and some extra tutoring from my children.”

For some others, it's not the second chance, but the third or fourth chance to finally earn a high school diploma.

Hoang Thi Dong, 46, from Thua Thien-Hue Province, just took several days off from taking care of her grandchildren for the exam.

This was her 11th attempt.


Hoang Thi Dong hopes the 11th time will be a charm. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Thanh

“I failed every time. I hope I can get the diploma this year,” said Dong, who helps run a local women’s association.

“My grandchildren can look at me and learn to study hard so they do not have to sit the exam again and again.”

Nguyen Van Quy, 46, is another test taker who has refused to give up.

Quy, who went back and finished high school in 2003, was taking the exam for the fourth time. This year, he had a special companion: his daughter, who is hoping to secure high scores for a place in a good college.

For the father, the goal is a high school diploma.

“I hope we’ll both pass,” he said.

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