Ditch in-person classes for online study: Hanoi school managers

By Thanh Hang, Duong Tam   February 27, 2022 | 03:22 am PT
Ditch in-person classes for online study: Hanoi school managers
Students at the Ngo Si Kien Primary School in Hanoi's Thanh Tri District return to class on February 10, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Chieu
Experts say Hanoi schools should let students study online for now if maintaining in-person classes proves to be too troublesome.

On Sunday, the capital recorded over 11,500 new Covid-19 cases in a single day, continuing the rising infection trend over the past two weeks. Teachers and students were also among the infected, forcing schools to change their study schedules between online and offline.

Nguyen Thi Nhiep, headmistress of Yen Hoa High School in Cau Giay District, said nearly 200 students have tested positive for the coronavirus, while 600 more were identified as close contacts. Organizing classes with such high numbers of Covid-19 cases has been "exceedingly tough," she said.

Out of the 40 classes the school has, around 20 have had more students absent than those present. As such, the school has allowed classes with over half the students infected or close contacts to study online.

Maintaining in-person classes with only a few students isn't the best policy, said Nhiep, adding that there aren’t enough teachers available anyway.

"We've tried to convince infected teachers to continue teaching if they're not too tired. Right now, even having enough staff to teach is already a challenge," she said.

Nhiep said while the desire to allow students to return to school is real, the decision needs to be made in line with current circumstances. If too many students cannot attend class, everyone should simply study online instead. By choosing to focus on only one method of teaching and studying, classes could be managed better, she argued.

Another principal of a primary school in Dong Anh District echoed Nhiep's opinion, saying while online studying isn't as effective as in-person classes, it is at least better than in-person classes driving a coronavirus surge.

Schools in Hanoi are still trying to keep classes open despite rising numbers of Covid-19 cases, the principal said.

"We've taught students online for the last two years. They might not be as effective as in-person lessons, but they're still better than having a few students coming to class while the rest study at home," it was added.

Dinh Thi Thu Hong, an education expert and primary school teacher in Gwinnett County District of Georgia, the U.S., said she found it puzzling to see schools in Hanoi having to bend over backwards in response to the Covid-19 surge.

"I don't know why the city keeps trying to keep classes open, while many students still study online. That half-hearted measure is not effective," she said, proposing that Hanoi schools switch entirely to online studying to limit infections.

An approach to both online and offline classes would only be effective with sufficient resources and infrastructure, including machines, Internet connections and support policies. Curricula should also be designed ahead, not changing every week due to classes going online then offline.

There is also a mental burden for students and parents while alternating online and offline classes, Hong said.

"Teachers, parents and students don't feel good [about alternating online and offline classes] and the lack of enough infrastructure and resources just makes things more difficult. Maintaining in-person classes is meaningless," it was added.

Nguyen Tung Lam, head of the education council and co-founder of Dinh Tien Hoang High School, said schools should be given more power to impose their own policies.

While in-person classes are certainly effective, they can only be so under normal circumstances. With nearly 10,000 cases recorded a day in Hanoi, those classes won't be so effective, he said.

A third of Dinh Tien Hoang School's teachers and students have now been infected. Those who cannot attend classes would study online in the evening. But if the percentage of infected teachers reaches 50 percent, in-person classes would be totally unsustainable and online classes would be the only option left.

"If in-person classes are not effective, schools should be more flexible. More power should be given to schools so they could decide on appropriate methods for teaching," Lam said.

A VnExpress survey on over 17,200 readers revealed 73 percent of respondents want schools in Hanoi to switch entirely to online classes, 22 percent want in-person classes to be taught and infected students to stay home and taught later, while 5 percent agree with keeping both online and offline classes.

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