Vietnam students overloaded with outdated text books

Many teachers and educators are concerned that the Education Publishing House has sole rights to publish all school textbooks nationwide.

Teachers and educators have criticized school text books and curriculum, for expecting students to learn too much broad and diverse information.

As a result of cramming for exams, students did not retain valuable lessons, teachers said.

For instance, some students forgot important national events because they were being forced to learn huge amounts of out-dated facts and theories from text books.

The Ministry of Education and Training started to revise textbooks for students from grade 1 to grade 11 in 2002.

But according to some teachers the revised editions were still impractical.

“It’s like we’re asking our children to become experts in everything,” said Professor Pham Phu, who is frequently consulted on the textbook debate.

“Our students aren’t [all] going to become literary experts or mathematicians. It’s ironic that a twelfth grader doesn’t know how to calculate the area of a house. They can’t bring the theories they learn in the classroom into the real world.”

For example, fourth graders had to study a thousand years of Vietnam history, from the early society of Van Lang, to the period of Chinese domination, to the early independence of Dai Viet (the former name of Vietnam).

Many teachers and educators were also concerned that the Education Publishing House had the sole rights to publish all school textbooks nationwide.

From 2002 to June 30, 2006, the government publisher printed more than 821 million copies, with an average revenue of nearly VND900 billion (US$56 million) a year.

Due to the monopoly and lack of competition there was little incentive to improve textbook quality.

“Nearly 80 percent of textbook writers no longer work as teachers,” the Minister of Education and Training, Nguyen Thien Nhan, told the National Assembly at its recent meeting in Hanoi.

The principal of Duc Tri Secondary School Nguyen Thi Phi said students in middle and high schools should be taught real-life lessons about moral values instead of being asked to memorize philosophical ideas.

The Ministry had tried to reduce course loads by providing study and teaching guidelines to schools, to omit sections of textbooks but the reduction was not adequate, teachers said.


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