Vietnamese kids study longer, but learn less than Western peers

By Le Pham   October 17, 2023 | 04:00 pm PT
Vietnamese kids study longer, but learn less than Western peers
A girl writes on her notebook at a primary school in HCMC, September 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Today, Vietnamese children study for 45 minutes a period, eight periods a day. Are we prescribing too much stud for our youth?

Recently, several schools in HCMC were reported for overloading students' study programs with nine periods a day. The HCMC Department of Education instructed the schools to limit the education program to only eight periods a day, according to regulations. However, if the schools follow these regulations, they will organize classes on Saturday to make sure that their students can keep up with the heavy teaching program.

Readers are concerned that the thick schedule may backfire.

"Let's stop and consider, adults work for eight hours a day, five days a week, and they all are pressured. Students study for eight periods (six hours) a day, six days a week, plus extra classes. The extra classes are in theory voluntary, but in reality compulsory as teachers do not have enough time in classes to teach the whole program. Then after classes, the students would have to go home to do homework as well. The pressure that students face is high. Common advice that middle-class families usually follow is to let children participate in extra-curricular activities and learn some non-academic skills. Nevertheless, students now do not have time anymore. Students, like all humans, need time for relaxation and recovery, but the current education program does not allow them such luxuries. We need to seriously consider whether the current education program designed by the Ministry of Education is suitable or not. We should not blame the children for the potential shortcomings in designing their education program."
Hoang Quang Lam

"Students now have eight periods of study a day, sometimes taking up to six different subjects. When they return home, they don’t have the energy to do homework or review knowledge or prepare for the following day. Students now study more and more, but how much do they retain? Studying more doesn’t mean that students will automatically get better. At their age, students should also have time to hang out with each other and enjoy their childhood. The students’ allocated time in class should be divided into learning new knowledge and revision, not just for new information. We are forcing the students to cram too much, which will backfire. Education programs should motivate the students to continue learning by themselves, rather than making them sick of learning altogether."

"Students in previous generations only learned half a day. The whole class had only a few sets of textbooks, so the teachers had to write everything on the blackboard so that the students could copy knowledge down in their notebooks. Despite the manual work, the program was not as heavy as it is now, and the previous generation of students grew up becoming the current adults who found success in life. Nowadays, everyone is tired and unhappy, students, teachers, and families alike. We need to ask if our education direction is right or not."

"As a teacher, I found the eight-period day of study quite heavy for students, not to mention a few extra classes the students need to take in the evening. We often compare education to a marathon, the students could try hard in the short run, but over the long term, the students will feel drained."
Nguyen Anh Dan, a teacher

"In Vietnam, the education system still focuses on cramming. I live in a developed world with one of the highest-ranked education systems. My children only need to take 2.5 hours of class a day, 4 days a week, and over 4 weeks, to complete the math program of the whole academic year. The study load is much more manageable. Middle school and high school students only study from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with a 45-minute lunch break. They never have to go to school on Saturday. Vietnam should soon learn the good points from the systems of other countries to adapt to the new globalized age, rather than keeping our old and potentially ineffective way."

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