Ministry calls halt to high school admissions using IELTS

By Thanh Hang, Vo Thanh   February 23, 2024 | 10:00 pm PT
The Ministry of Education and Training has called on provinces and cities to stop giving priority to candidates with IELTS certificates for admission to 10th grade.

In a notice it sent Friday it said some localities had included "regulations-violating" content for grade 10 admissions at public schools.

It was a reference to the fact a handful of them offer admissions without exams or bonus points to candidates who have won provincial-level excellent student awards or possess foreign language certificates.

The ministry called on people's committees to correctly implement the admissions regulations for lower and upper secondary education it had issued in 2019.

"[Those] that do not comply with the regulations on direct admissions and priority regimes must make adjustments and publicly announce them."

It would inspect and audit the grade 10 admissions process in those localities, it added.

Candidates can be admitted to grade 10 in public schools without exams only if they belong to one of four groups: those who studied in ethnic boarding schools, are members of very small ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, or winners of national or international awards in culture, arts, physical education, sports, science, and technology.

If they are children of martyrs, wounded or sick soldiers, people affected by chemical toxins, or labor heroes, police or military force members, or hail from economically and socially disadvantaged areas, they receive bonus points as determined by each locality.

The regulations do not include those with provincial- or city-level excellent student awards and international language certificates for any kind of priority.

But for several years now, several cities and provinces have awarded bonus points or waived the need for taking entrance exams for candidates with an IELTS score of 4.0 or higher and those who have won provincial-level excellent student awards.

Students are about to take a high-school admission test in HCMC in 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen

Students are about to take a high-school admission test in HCMC in 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen

According to plans approved early this month by Quang Tri and Tuyen Quang provinces, for a third consecutive year candidates with an IELTS score of 4 or higher are exempt from taking the English exam.

Mai Huy Phuong, deputy director of the Quang Tri Department of Education and Training, listed two reasons for the policy: motivating students to improve their foreign language skills and reducing "unnecessary" exam pressure on candidates who already have a certificate.

The northern Tuyen Quang Province similarly prioritizes candidates with an IELTS certificate.

Since 2022 it has directly admitted candidates with a score of 5 to non-specialized public high schools.

Nguyen Van Hien, deputy director of its Department of Education and Training, said the policy aimed to promote English learning and churn out high-quality human resources.

He said there are still many challenges to learning English, and the average score of English high school graduation exam at the province is below 5 out of 10 every year.

Other provinces such as Vinh Long and Binh Duong in the south and Lao Cai in the north also plan to offer bonus points and exempt candidates with an IELTS score of 4 from taking the entrance exam this year.

Normally localities organize 10-grade admission exams in June.

International language tests, especially IELTS, have become a yardstick for admission to everything from secondary to tertiary education in Vietnam in recent years.

In Hanoi, admission based on IELTS scores is common at many popular non-public schools such as Archimedes Academy, Nguyen Sieu, Le Quy Don, Luong The Vinh, and Doan Thi Diem.

IELTS is a widely recognized standardized English test for non-native English speakers that assesses listening, reading, writing, and speaking on a nine-point scale.

In 2022 the average score in Vietnam was 6.2.

The most common score was 6 followed by 6.5 IELTS at 19%.

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