VietNamNet Bridge – The Ministry of Education and Training is preparing a set of guidelines for teachers in a bid to end the passive approach to teaching and learning in today’s classrooms.
The guidelines will help teachers disseminate knowledge and skills in line with the ministry’s standards for each grade, Nguyen Hai Chau, deputy director general of the Secondary Education Department, told Tuoi Tre newspaper in an interview.
Teachers will no longer have to stick solely to the textbooks but will be free to use their imagination and employ other materials too.
The brighter students will no longer be held back and the slower students will be taught at their pace, so teachers won’t have to lower their classroom standards to the lowest common denominator.
“However, to make the renovation of teaching methodology effective and improve the quality of education, we still need a specific plan and efforts at many levels, not only by the teachers,” Secondary Education Department Director General Le Quan Tan said in a different interview with Tuoi Tre.
This means teacher training schools will have to change their methodology as well, Tan said.
In addition, teachers will need an open database of reference materials, and conferences for sharing their classroom experiences.
For a long time now, many Vietnamese teachers have merely tried to stuff the contents of their textbooks into their students’ heads within a short period, without being able to identify which standards their students should attain at least, Chau explained.
So what happens in class is that the students just write down what their teachers say or read out to them.
“This gives the impression that the students are stuffed with too much knowledge and are therefore overloaded,” Chau said.
“Many teachers are under pressure to teach every theory mentioned in the textbooks, so they have no time to try other teaching methodologies or help students practice their skills,” Tan said, adding that since the last school year his ministry has increased the number of periods where students do scientific experiments or go on field trips to two weeks in total.
Neither Chau nor Tan would say when the guidelines might be published.
While the education ministry hopes the guidelines will improve the quality of teaching and learning from primary to high school, some teachers reckon it has the wrong end of the stick.
Hong Quynh, a high school teacher in Hai Phong, said that, without a change in the current methods of testing students, any alteration of teaching methodology would mean nothing.
Quynh is referring to the common exam practice whereby students merely regurgitate what they have memorized, instead of demonstrating that they understand a problem or can apply their knowledge.
His colleague Le Van Dung agreed. “Without a synchronous renovation of everything from syllabus to teaching to examinations, teachers and students will remain trapped in a vicious circle.
“Neither the students nor the teachers are in favor of stuffing children’s heads with knowledge,” Dung said.
Asked about the widely criticized examination system, Tan from the ministry said reform was on the way and would accelerate in the upcoming school year.
Other teachers think infrastructure is the most pressing problem, among them Nguyen Hoang Trung of Duong Dong No.1 Secondary School in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang.
Infrastructure is the first thing that must be fixed if teachers are to employ new teaching methodologies, which often feature information technology applications, Trung said.
“The current infrastructure at most schools is inadequate in this regard,” he said.
Literature teacher Nguyen Hoai Anh of Hanoi thinks otherwise.
“Each teaching methodology has its good points. Whether it is effective or not depends on the teachers and how they employ it with different students and subjects,” she said.
Besides teaching guidelines, the education ministry is drawing up regulations for estimating and categorizing the performance of primary school children.
First to fifth graders won’t be tested in several subjects like music and drawing anymore; instead, their report cards will only contain their teachers’ remarks, said Le Tien Thanh, director general of the education ministry’s Primary Education Department.
For the new school year, the ministry is forming a nationwide network of the better high schools to try out new ideas like full day classes, more English periods per week, and teaching mathematics, physics and chemistry in English.