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The Vietnam News

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School dropout rate on the increase in Vietnam

About 114,000 students in Vietnam dropped out of school from September to December last year, and the disturbing trend shows no sign of abating, the Ministry of Education and Training has revealed. In some provinces many students quit school simultaneously.

Over 6,000 students dropped out in the central highlands province of Gia Lai in the first term of the academic year 2007 –2008 and more than 2,000 students left school in Lam Dong, another central highlands province. In the south, more than 1,400 students left the education system in Binh Phuoc Province while 3,300 quit in Dong Nai. Ho Chi Minh City also experienced a sharp increase of dropouts, on top of the usual high numbers.

Various reasons

Most HCMC school principals say young people leave school for a variety of reasons. Some have economically disadvantaged families or divorced or neglectful parents. The learning capacity of others is poor, so they fall behind their classmates. Others don’t like studying, cut class and fall behind. “Most of them quit school because their families are needy. We have already opened extra-classes for poor students, so the number of students leaving schools due to their poor learning capacity is not large,” the principal of HCMC’s Nguyen An Ninh High School, Le Minh Duc said. Thirty of his students dropped out in the first term of this academic year.

In disadvantaged areas like An Giang, most of the students who drop out have parents who are not fully aware of the importance of studying and want them to stay home to earn money to support their families. A local educational official said this year students quit mainly because of bad results in the first term. Nearly 50 percent of Binh Phuoc’s dropouts and over 50 percent in Gia Lai left because of poor first term results. Deputy Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Vinh Hien, said the ministry’s overarching campaign had caused a great number of the dropouts. He said the assessment of their results had become stricter and more objective. Part of the campaign against “achievement focus” was aimed at better learning rather than just achieving good examination results. Another part, “Say no to students in wrong grades,” involved a raft of measures including extra tutoring to bypass the need for students to repeat years. “This has discouraged students with bad results who would normally repeat a grade,” Hien added.

Several solutions

Hien said they had directed local educational departments to cooperate with local administrations to check each student’s circumstances, including his or her family’s finances and learning capacity. He also suggested supportive policies like tuition remission for students from needy families and ways to convince parents to encourage their children to return to school. Local schools needed to upgrade their facilities and supply more government funded tutoring to needy students during summer holidays and weekends, he said. According to Hien, the ministry would also custom fit primary, secondary and high school durations to suit different provinces and areas. In ethnic minorities for instance, the primary level could be lengthened to six years instead of five, because first grade students still don’t know how to speak fluent Vietnamese. The ministry has also given primary and high school authorities the right to design their own curriculum suitable for their students. Also the “Open academic year” policy, allows different areas to set holidays in accordance with local weather conditions, but no localities lengthened their academic year to after June 30, he added.

This is part of the ministry’s efforts to ease study programs for disadvantaged areas. Hien said, however, “schools are not allowed to accept students’ bad results.” While the new campaign was supposed to be the main reason for this year’s soaring number of dropouts, the educational authorities in many areas were confused about implementing the “Say No to Students in Wrong Grades” policy, the local Saigon Giai Phong newspaper reported. “They are trying to convince students to resume studying, but this is a critical problem which needs to be directed by the ministry in a more positive and effective way,” the paper reported. According to educational experts, the campaign fails to address current problems like the shortage of teachers. The campaign asked teachers to be more active and invest more in teaching, but they were already in charge of too much work, the head of the central province of Ha Tinh Department of Education and Training, Le Duc Tuy, said. The head of the southern Tay Ninh Province’s the Department of Education and Training, Vu Hien Phuong, said the campaign had no solutions for students who received tutoring but still failed.

Thanh Nien - March 9, 2008.

Old-timers refuse to leave education posts, inspection found

The Ministry of Education and Training allowed more than 700 employees to work after they reached the state-imposed retirement age, according to Ministry of Interior inspectors. Some of the employees were left to work, several up to a decade past their retirement age, which means that younger employees have missed out on promotions.

In Vietnam, public sector employees must retire at the ages of 55 and 60 for men and women respectively. According to the recent inspection figures, 41 percent of over 1,700 applicants for retirement at the ministry were over the permitted age between 2002 and 2007. Government regulations state that only senior experts involved in research activities and professors and assistant professors in research or teaching jobs are allowed to extend their retirement age.

But over the last five years, the Ministry of Education and Training has let many managerial-level staff who are not involved in research or teaching extend their retirement ages. During the reign of former Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Minh Hien, nearly 130 staff who did not meet extension requirements were allowed to continue working.

The problem was particularly bad at the Hanoi University of Polytechnics. The inspection officials said that many officials and managers simply wanted to stay in positions of power. But the inspection also revealed that smaller factors also contributed to the problem. At times, Ministry of Education and Training officials hesitated to request that their employees retire because they were formerly the officials’ teachers, according to inspectors. Another problem was that many retirement applications were held up at the ministry and not processed for several years. But investigators stressed that the main problem was that old-timers wanted to maintain their high positions past their retirement due dates.

By Kap Thanh Long - Thanh Nien - March 7, 2008.