By staff writers – Translated by Uyen Phuong
The Hanoitimes – Unilaterally imposed tuition fees have angered parents to the point that they have organized mass protests in front of some schools in Hanoi.
In the past few weeks, parents of pupils at many international schools in Hanoi have opposed to the fees set by some schools for online classes during their closure to prevent Covid-19 pandemic.
Although classes were suspended in the months of the pandemic, the schools still want parents to pay full tuition, even no expenses for meals, transport and other services were incurred during the school closure.
According to many parents, payment of tuition fees during the epidemic shutdown, either in full or in part, has not been the result of negotiations between schools and parents.
Parents of an international school in Hanoi gather to oppose online course fee during the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: DNQ
Many schools decided online tuition fees unilaterally
Facing the complaints, each school is taking different solutions but none has satisfied the parents.
Singapore International School (SIS) is known to be one of the most expensive schools in Hanoi. Its tuition fees range between VND185 million and VND405 million (US$8,004 – 17,525) per year, depending on level and curriculum.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, SIS’ fees for online courses were set at 80-85% of those of classroom course, regardless of whether online classes were organized or not.
L.N, mother of two pupils at SIS Gamuda Gardens in Hoang Mai district, said that she was notified about online fees during the pandemic. Accordingly, the online fees for grade 1 and grade 2 will be equal to 80% of the regular tuition fee. For grades 4 and 5, the online tuition fee will be 85% of the face-to-face course fee.
“Tuition fees needs to be agreed between the school and parents but SIS’ tuition is not the case. It was decided unilaterally by the school. We don’t ask for fee exemption, but the 80-85% charge of VND22 million (US$952) per month is still too high because the online teaching is not as effective as the face-to-face course,” L.N told Hanoitimes .
|L.N, a parent of two pupils at Singapore International School. Photo: Ngan Nguyen|
“SIS has decided tuition level unilaterally without any agreement with parents in writing,” confirmed another parent in a SIS class.
In the face of the parents’ frustration, Ngo Thi Chi, SIS’ Regional Operation Manager in the North of Vietnam, said that the school has made every effort to ensure that students’ learning is not interrupted.
SIS has carefully applied the tuition fees in accordance with the guidelines of Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training, especially taking into consideration the pandemic as the force majeure.
Dang Quoc Hoang, father of a fifth grader of an international school in the urban complex of Ciputra Hanoi, said they have filed complaints to the municipal education department since the negotiations for tuition fee during the pandemic school break failed.
Hoang added that parents understand the difficulties every one has to face due to Covid-19, including the schools. But tuition fees need to be negotiated and not set by schools unilaterally.
Unilateral school fees have angered parents to the point that they have organized mass protests in front of some schools, besides filing complaints to the municipal department of education.
Viewpoint of Hanoi Department of Education and Training
Le Ngoc Quang, deputy director of the Hanoi Department of Education and Training, said that non-state schools will be allowed to collect online tuition only when an agreement is reached with parents.
Quang added that the municipal department’s view is to promptly handle and thoroughly solve the issues between the schools and parents so that they do not affect students’ learning.
“This is the first time there is a controversy over school fees due to the pandemic. We asked all parties to remain calm and seek a reasonable solution,” the deputy director told Hanoitimes .
Lùng Thị Hoài (second, left) and her electric firework device in 2021 STEM festival in Si Ma Cai District, the northern mountainous province of Lào Cai. Photo khoahocphattrien.vn
STEM is an approach to learning and development that integrates science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Students are expected to develop their skills through STEM education including problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, decision making and acceptance of failure.
Hundreds of students in the district have benefited from STEM education.
This was the first year the STEM festival had been held in the district – one of the poorest districts of the country after the provincial Department of Education and Training Department issued a document to instruct the implementation of STEM education in secondary schools in September 2020.
Nguyễn Thị Kiều Oanh, head of the district’s Education and Training Office, said officials of the department had visited many localities to plan the festival.
The festival was not only a chance for the students to show off the electric firework device but also run toy cars on race tracks using kinetic energy, Khoa học và Phát Triển (Science and Development) online newspaper reported.
Also at the festival, the office invited two students in Lý Tự Trọng Secondary School in the province’s Lào Cai City to operate a robot, programmed by them, Oanh said.
The two students won the first prize in the robotics competition in the north, held by the Central Youth Union in November 2020, she added.
Oanh said the office wanted students in Nàn Sán Secondary School to do more in the next festivals, such as programming robots like the students in Lý Tự Trọng Secondary School in Lào Cai City did.
To do that, the office plans to hold a training course for programming robots for both teachers and students in a total of eight schools in the district this month, she said.
The training course will be organised with the support of teachers in Lào Cai City and the STEM Alliance, she said.
Established in 2015, the STEM Alliance – an organisation dedicated to connecting volunteers participating in STEM promotion activities – has trained some 10,000 general teachers about STEM education and helped establish more than 500 STEM clubs across the country, especially in rural areas.
The alliance also plays an important role in organising six National STEM Festivals and five Open Math Festivals.
STEM universal education
The district administration issued Project No 04- DA/HU on July 31, 2020, on improving the quality of education and training for 2020-25. The project aims to promote STEM education at all schools in the district.
The move came under the goal of STEM universal education of the provincial education sector.
Over the past five years, the provincial education sector has conducted many STEM education training programmes for thousands of teachers.
The education sector has also set up STEM advisory groups for all levels of the education sector to build a formal system of STEM education.
To do that, the provincial education sector has received support from experienced STEM educators such as Đặng Văn Sơn of Hà Nội National University, Hoàng Vân Đông of Electricity University, Dương Tuấn Hưng of Việt Nam Academy of Science and Technology, Lê Chí Ngọc and Hàn Huy Dũng of Hà Nội University of Technology.
The Hanoitimes – The reduction must ensure minimum knowledge of each subject and only advanced and duplicated content are subject to being trimmed.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training on March 31 decided to streamline learning content for the second semester of the 2019-2020 academic year as students are taking a long break due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Tuoitre Online reported.
|The Covid-19 pandemic has affected students’ curricula. Photo: TTO|
The course load reduction targets especially students of each educational stage. The reduction must ensure minimum knowledge of each subject and only advanced and duplicated content are subject to be trimmed off.
The Ministry of Education and Training requested that students not be evaluated on the content removed from teaching plan. The ministry has asked schools to avoid trimming subjects that develop learners’ competencies.
Earlier, on March 13, the ministry decided to reschedule the end of 2019-2020 school year and national high school exam in 2020.
Accordingly, the end of the school year will be deferred to July 15, 2020 and the national high school exam will be held on August 8-11.
The ministry also requested local departments of Education and Training to review, test and recognize teaching results via online and televised lessons as schools remain shut to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
All students in Ho Chi Minh City have been allowed to go back to school in early March as the COVID-19 pandemic has been put under control again in the southern metropolis.
The municipal People’s Committee on Wednesday issued a document stating that students and learners of local schools, universities, and other educational institutions will resume their normal classes on March 1.
The city’s Department of Education and Training and Department of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs will provide local schools with guidance on pandemic prevention and control measures.
Students who have been to virus-hit areas will be required to fill out health declaration forms.
Stern penalties will be imposed upon those failing to declare their health status or violating rules on COVID-19 prevention and control.
All students, teachers, and other staff members will have to complete online health declaration on a daily basis.
Following the Lunar New Year holiday in mid-February, all students were required to switch to remote learning until the end of the month due to the complicated COVID-19 developments.
The city recorded 36 community-based COVID-19 cases between February 6 and 11.
A total of 35 locations in 10 districts and Thu Duc City were sealed off to prevent the disease from spreading further into the community.
As of Tuesday afternoon, lockdown had been lifted from all of these locations.
The municipal Department of Education and Training on the same day proposed that all students be allowed to return to school on March 1.
Problems have arisen in mass application of online teaching in Vietnam during the social distancing time.
Experts believe that the schools which first applied distance training appeared in 1870s in the US and early 1890s in the UK.
In Vietnam, distance training modes were first applied in 1990s and they became more common after 2000s thanks to the internet and education market development.
The appearance and popularity of internet, digitized data and software technology recently have given a strong push to the development of distance education. This mode of learning can be applied within schools, but also at other institutions and many different fields, with no limitation in boundaries, space and time.
The obvious advantages of distance education and training are flexibility, convenience and economy, which satisfies the learning demand of high numbers of students at the same time.
However, a lot of problems arose when Vietnam began organizing online teaching on a large scale during social distancing.
The most obvious problem is the lack of facilities for online teaching and learning. Not all students and teachers have laptops or smartphones, and not all families have members with proficiency in technological skills. The problem is more serious in remote and difficult areas.
Online teaching requires learners to look intently at a screen. It becomes a boring one-way interaction between teachers and learners.
Experts have recently mentioned a problem in Vietnam which has existed for a long time that during lessons: teachers just talk and students just write down. And the problem may become even more serious with online teaching if teachers cannot design their lessons well.
Because of age characteristics, primary school children find it difficult to concentrate on lessons and they are easily distracted.
The common problems of Vietnamese students, including critical thinking skills, team discussion and opinion presentation have also been exposed more clearly during online teaching.
During online lessons, students tend to keep silent and they only raise their voice when they are asked to do this. This may affect the outcome of the lessons.
Online teaching could be a hurdle when teachers want to apply psychological therapies to inspire students and raise excitement, because the application of psychological skills need direct interactions.
So, it is necessary to make some adjustments when organizing online teaching.
First, online learning must not be a solution applied on a large scale for all sizes of classes.
Second, online teaching requires the active participation of both teachers and students, which poses requirements including high level of self-discipline.
Online teaching is unavoidable in the context of Covid-19. But this must not be seen as the only solution.
Nguyen Van Dang
Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics