Struggling students fast-tracked through Vietnamese schools

By VnExpress   September 29, 2016 | 10:45 am PT
Struggling students fast-tracked through Vietnamese schools
The practice of passing struggling students onto the next grade is not uncommon in the country. Photo courtesy of VGP
Children who can't read or write and being pushed through the education system.

When To Thi Quynh Giao’s son was sent back to first grade after having just graduated from fifth grade, she was caught by surprise to find out that her 12-year-old son was not able to read and write.

“The sixth-grade teacher asked me to visit the school to explain to me that my son was unable to read or write, so he couldn't move on to sixth grade," Giao said. "They decided to send Vu back to his old elementary school where he could repeat first grade.” 

She added that she was very happy to see her son moving onto middle school, however, her “happiness didn’t last long”.

Vu later took a test, and much to everyone’s surprise, he couldn’t even write his mother’s name despite the fact that he had been given extra help.

The family said that they already knew Vu did not meet the grades and had asked the elementary school to hold him back, but the school refused to do so.

“The teachers said my son was not making the grades, but after-school tutoring would sort things out. This is the way things have turned out, so now I don’t know what I should do next,” said Giao.

Vu was kicked out of his middle school and sent back to the elementary school, where administrators had no choice but to put him in a first-grade class. However, after a couple of months in the first grade, he dropped out.

Vu’s experience of being sent from grade to grade based on his age rather than academic ability is indicative of the confusion that reigns in schools across the country about how to deal with struggling students.

Nguyen Huynh Ngoc Hanh, the headmistress at the elementary school Vu was sent to, said the school had provided him with additional help and support every morning.

“We are trying to convince the family to let him come back to school,” said Hanh, who admitted it was his teachers’ fault for letting him move up to the next grade when he was unable to read or write.

Vu is hardly the only struggling student in Soc Trang.

Le Hong Phong Elementary School currently has eight third-grade students who are unable to read and over 10 students who are struggling with spelling.

Most people would say that allowing students to move on to the next grade is wrong if they do not have the necessary skills, but teachers are reluctant to hold kids back because they are under pressure from what is called a “nationally standardized school”.

“At the end of the academic year, we are not allowed to hold back more than one student per class,” a teacher said on condition of anonymity.

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