Exams cram students with useless knowledge

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Every year, the high school graduation exam and college entrance exam cost Vietnam a lot of work, stress, anxiety and billions of dong.

This year, the sigh of relief breathed as the high school graduation exam finished and the resulting elation was short lived by students nationwide. They had overcome one hurdle only to face another just as important one in the form of the college entrance exam in early July.

It's time we thought about whether these exams are really necessary. Should we keep the system as it is?

Many countries in the world, including the US, have got rid of the college entrance exam. Others, unlike Vietnam, don't schedule it so close to other exams and the content and style is different.

Schools in the US don't have a high school graduation exam either. Instead, they look at students' end of term results and their grade point average (GPA) to award students with an appropriate high school diploma. They are confident of the quality of their end of term tests.

For several years, the Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training has talked about merging the two exams but, as of yet, no action has been taken.

Why does it take so long to make a decision that will not only save the country in terms of labor and money but rid students and society of the obsession with grades and certificates?

A photo feature by Tuoi Tre newspaper on May 30 hit the nail on the head with its title "Cramming for exams."

Before the high school graduation exam, students at most schools are herded into classes like flocks of sheep and fed more information than geese, in the production of foie gras, are fed corn.

Our students are exactly like the unfortunate geese. They cram bits of knowledge into their brains without a single day off.

And this year was worse than usual. The month of May was characterized by sweltering temperatures which led to angry teachers and grumpy and resentful students.

When they had reached their limit, the students went a little bit crazy: running around without speaking.

The only happiness came when the stuffing stopped.

Now, everyone is anxious about the upcoming three-day college entrance exam. Everyone hopes that the students have the knowledge required to answer the questions.

All the cramming will most probably result in many students passing.

But the question remains as to whether the students will remember anything about the subjects they don't choose to follow but that they were forced to learn.

High-school teacher Giang Huong is the perfect example. "I teach literature so I only know about literature and maybe a little bit of history. I don't remember anything about Math apart from plus, minus, multiply and divide."

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