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Radical and comprehensive renovation of education and training in Viet Nam (*)
25/2/2014 10:40' Send Print
Minister of Education and Training Pham Vu Luan. Picture: vov.vn

1- Paying full attention to education cause is a consistent policy of our Party. After three reforms (1), in recent years Viet Nam’s education and training sector has attained important achievements which significantly contributed to national construction and defence. They are: 1- Rapid development of school system and education scale; applying education to the whole population; responding to increasing needs for education of the people; raising standard of training, skill level and professional competence of working people; 2- Noticeable progress of social equity in access to education, especially for ethnic minority, rural people, needy and eligible people; assurance of gender equity; 3- Improvement of quality of education and training which positively responds to requirements of quality human resources needed for social - economic development, national construction and defence; 4- Positive changes in education management; 5- Noticeable increase in the number of teachers with improved standard of training which step by step respond to demands of education development; 6- Expansion and gradual modernization of material and technical basis of education and training system; 7- Promotion of international cooperation and socialization of education with important results.

In comparison with requirements of the cause of national construction and defence, renewal of growing model, restructure of the economy and sustainable development, the Vietnamese education and training sector still shows weaknesses and constraints. Education has not become the first national priority in reality and not yet given high priority in programs of socio - economic development and thus has not been a decisive factor to the development of the country. A number of weaknesses and constraints of education and training was pointed out since the resolution of the 2nd Plenum of the Central Committee of the Party (8th Tenure), but little correction has been seen while some aspects, however, got worse. Educational science remains backward. Education quality is not compatible to demands of socio – economic development; competitive advantage in our human resources has not yet been created against other countries in the region and the world; and little contribution has been made to the preservation and promotion of valuable and traditional cultural values of our nation. State management of education still shows many mismatch while investment and finance for education remains limited. We lack analysis and forecast of demands of human resources for modernization and industrialization of our country, as well as people’s educational demands which are needed for education programming and plannin.

2- To satisfactorily respond to requirements of industrialization and modernization, international integration, it is necessacy to implement radical and comprehensive renovation of education and training in Viet Nam. The renovation consists of major, core, pressing issues ranging from thinking, viewpoints, goals and objectives, system and programs of education, policy and mechanism and necessary conditions ensuring quality of education. Renovation needs to carry out at all learning levels, academic standard, both at central and local levels, in relationship between families, school and society. Renovation is geared to improving strongly education quality and effectiveness so as to better respond to demands of national construction and defence and the need of learning and study of the people.

Systematic renovation must be accompanied with long-term vision, synchronous, feasible and scientific solutions which strengthen and promote renovation achievements and models. Wrongdoings and deeds which run counter rules should be dealt with. Prolonged weaknesses which cause resentment should be fundamentally overcome. Positive elements, and new models and examples should be multiplied. Renovation should have focus, and roadmap which conform to national and local situation. Constraints and challenges to education should be fully aware of. Effective measures and roadmap should be taken to overcome the challenges and bring education to a new height. Special attention should be given to well preparations to ensure the success of the renovation. The motto is: be proactive and quick but not hasty and scrappy; combining settlement of errors, mistakes and constraints with consolidating results, achievements and development; and multiplying new exemplary elements and models which conform to the socio-economic situation of the country and national identity.

One of the leading point of view in radical and comprehensive renovation of education and training is to shift focus from equipping knowledge to developing comprehensively learners’ capacity and virtue, combining harmoniously teaching knowledge, teaching people and teaching profession, shifting from developing scale to developing educational scale, quality and effectiveness; building an education with real learning and working in which everyone have opportunities for life-long learning in a learning society.

3- For higher education and vocational education, to move from training according to schools’ capacity to social demands and labor market; to implement the mechanism of placing order on the basis of socio-economic criteria and quality standards of some training services. Higher education institutions will be more self-reliant. So do their responsibilities before society. Supervision and control by regulatory agencies will be stepped up. There is a need to classify higher educational institutions into research, application and practice institutions based on their capacities, and results of their educational quality accreditation.

Renovation of higher education and vocational training should basically provide learners necessary knowledge and skills. Learners will also be trained on disciplines, working attitude and social understanding to be able to work and access the most advanced science and technologies, especially in the areas of economy, science and technology and healthcare. The renovation should also meet requirements for human resources while the world socio-economy and science and technology are developing with fast changing employment scale and high competitiveness. Mechanisms should be developed to involve labor users in developing, adjusting and implementing training programs and assessing learner’s capabilities and investing in education. Scientific research and technology transfer in higher education institutions should be strengthened while combining training and research and training institutions with production and business establishments. Priority is given to investment in spearheading sciences, key laboratories, specialized laboratories, high-tech centers and modern pilot production establishments in higher educational institutions. It is necessary to place order and allocate budget for science and technology to higher educational institutions. Policies should be developed and implemented to encourage students conduct scientific research.

4- As far as general education is concerned, there will be changes in curriculum, textbooks and educational process at schools.

First, in principle and ways to design curriculum and textbooks: Previous educational reforms included new points and achieved concrete treasurable results. However, looking back with a comprehensive, strategic and sustainable perspective, it is clear that the leading principle and design of curriculum followed the guidelines: subjects were developed according to separate scientific sectors including: literature, history, geography, mathematics, physics, chemistry and contents of textbooks of each subject and each grade in general education schools were designed in concentric circle.

As knowledge of humankind is developing fast, given that design, the amount of knowledge introduced to schools becomes bigger and has been compressed in higher education levels (Ph.D., university and college) and general education levels. This is one of the deep causes to overload and rampant out-of-school teaching and learning. That design also makes teaching and learning in school too academic and aloof from real life. A portion of knowledge which is difficult, and time and effort consuming to learn at general schools is rarely used in real life. And in another aspect, for excellent and potential students, curricula are not suitable because they are heavy and students have to study so many different contents while the part that promotes students’ talent and strength is too light.

In the renovation this time, there will be great and fundamental changes in curriculum design and textbooks compilation which follow the principle: highly integrated in lower levels and grades and highly selective and specialized in higher levels and grades. This design allows intentional selection in the big and diversified amount of knowledge in scientific areas, and contents suitable to age groups (psychology, skills and perception) of primary and junior secondary school pupils and close to real life and contribution to the process of shaping virtues and capability of new laborers.

With these integrated curricula, by the end of the junior secondary education, pupils have acquired sufficient knowledge, virtue and necessary skills for vocational training and then for working. At the senior secondary education, curricula and textbooks will be highly specialized; students, based on their capacity, will select subjects in the fields of social sciences and humanities or natural science. That way of design will help provide vocational guidance to students while not pressure knowledge of scientific areas to schools and facilitate overcoming overload and rampant out-of-school teaching and learning.

Given experiences from the previous reforms of curriculum and textbooks, in the educational renovation this time, textbooks will be replaced simultaneously from the first grades of primary, junior secondary and senior secondary levels. Though this will help reduce the years of textbook change, the replacement should still go from the first grade to higher grade in each level.

Second, on teaching and learning method: Over the past years, the teaching and learning method in general education schools is: “the teacher speaks and students take notes”. The knowledge imparted by teachers is accepted, learned and remembered by students to take exams and tests. That method meets the task of “imparting knowledge to students” but failed to meet requirements to shape and develop virtues, proactivity, capacities, creativity, and exploration of students.

In the newly designed curriculum, teachers will not only providing knowledge to students but counseling, organizing and facilitating students in their proactive search for and discovery of necessary knowledge. Through this renovation, we will move from current teaching much and self-learning little to teaching little and self-learning much; from teaching large groups and individual self-learning to teaching small groups and group discussion and completion of tasks.

Third, on assessment, test and examination. At present, students’ performance is used to assess educational quality of schools and localities. In the coming period, these will be separated and independent. This will relieve schools from the pressure of running for achievements (which leads to dishonesty) while the State will have reliable data for research and development of appropriate and effective policies on education.

Together with renovating teaching and learning method, we will shift from the current testing and exam approach which is mainly to test students’ knowledge to testing and examining capacities and virtues.

5- In the past three years, along with research, development and finalization of the Program: “Radical and comprehensive renovation of education and training”, the educational sector piloted some new educational models such as “Teaching Vietnamese in the 1st grade” according to educational technology to more than 171,000 pupils at 2,300 primary schools of 34 provinces, the new school model at 1,447 schools (of which 1,143 schools are in difficult areas) of 63 provinces and cities with 325,000 pupils; the methodology “Hands on” at 120 primary schools of 63 provinces and cities and 180 junior secondary schools of 6 districts in 12 provinces; the competition on scientific and technological creation which attracted 94 schools in 34 provinces and cities and the competition on application of inter-subject knowledge to solve real situations with the participation of tens of thousands of students.

The pilots did not only take place in one province or city or a locality with favorable conditions but in extremely difficult provinces like Lao Cai, Kon Tum, Bac Kan, Ca Mau and Kien Giang. The pilots helped reduce out-of-school teaching and learning and overload; initially brought about changes in teaching and learning methods, heightened student’s proactivity and creation and proved that we can overcome some educational constraints such as “focusing more on teaching knowledge and less on vocational and human training, and more on theory and less on practice.” Success of the pilots confirmed the correctness, practicality and feasibility of multiplication of these models in the future.

6- To successfully carry out the radical and comprehensive renovation of education and training, the education sector should overcome the old perception, psychology and practice which has existed in many years. Changes should be made from the thinking, awareness of education objectives, contents of curriculum, methods of teaching, testing and evaluation and examination to methodology of training teachers, and contents and method of education management. Reorganizing and changing machinery, curriculum and teaching method at teachers’ colleges, creating closely interacting relationship between teachers’ colleges and general schools. At the same time, abolishing the practice of relying on State subsidy in education and training, bureaucracy in interacting with education sector by ministries, administration at various levels, and even teachers and education management staff.

Limited resources, especially financing, provided by the State and majority of families, is another major challenge which should be addressed to ensure educational quality. There are constraints and limitation in treatment and rewarding of teachers. Salary income of majority of teachers remains low, not enough for essential needs of daily life. Disheartened psychology and abandonment of teaching job become a phenomenon. These are key reasons for failure to attract best students to study pedagogy which in turn lowers the quality of teaching staff. In addition, the polarization between inhabitant groups, regions and areas also creates gaps in educational quality among learners. On the other hand, international integration is also paving the way for implicit threat such as commercialization of education, unhealthy lifestyle, erosion of national cultural character, the occurrence and increase of low quality education service, the abuse of private tuition, and bribery for enrollment in better school or marks. The above-mentioned difficulties and challenges require the active and innovative role of the Party and entire political system, society and the education sector in order to prevent and overcome these constraints to create a radical and comprehensive renovation.

Fully aware of resolutions of the Party and continuing the campaign of learning and following the moral example of Uncle Ho, in celebrating its traditional day and amid of the honor given by society, the education and training sector has just commemorated the 45th anniversary of the date when Uncle Ho sent his last letter to the education and training sector (October 15, 1968 - October 15, 2013), teachers, educational managers, pupils and students across the country continue to remember Uncle Ho’s teaching “Regardless how difficult it is, we should continue to emulate for good teaching and good learning”, bring into full play the tradition of Vietnamese revolutionary education, actively overcome shortcomings and weaknesses, be determine to fulfil the mission of the key and pioneering soldier in the radical and comprehensive renovation of education and training so as to meet demands of developing quality human resources, building knowledge economy in the process of industrialization and modernization, development of socialist - oriented market economy and international integration./.

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Note:

(1) Since we gained independence in 1945, three education reforms were carried out: the first was in 1950, the second in 1956 and the third in 1981

(*) Published in Communist Review No 853 (November 2013)

Pham Vu LuanPh.D., Dr., Member Central Committee of Communist Party, Minister of Education and Training