Making rules sitting in la la land

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New rule on university entrance exams another reminder of bureaucratic silliness

 Students sit a university entrance exam on July 9. 

When the education ministry announced last week that "Heroic Mothers" will be granted two extra grades of preference when attending the university entrance exam, it attracted widespread criticism and was even mocked on the Internet.

The public response to the new regulation is understandable, because Heroic Mothers the official title given to women whose children died in the fight for national independence will be too old for the exams taken mostly by those who have just completed high school. 

The negative responses did not slacken even after Ta Van Thieu of the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs later quoted laws as saying that the title is not restricted to women whose children were martyred during Vietnam's fight against French and American domination.

It also applies to women whose children have been martyred during peace time. Thus, there is a chance that "Heroic Mothers" are as young as 30 years old, he said.

Deputy Education Minister Bui Van Ga, meanwhile, said the new rule not only supports people who are keen on studying despite their age, but also reflects the Vietnamese tradition of being grateful to people who do them a favor.

However, Ga also admitted the ministry is aware there is a very slight chance or none at all that any "Heroic Mothers" would sit for the exam to enjoy preferential grades.

He said despite this awareness, they had to introduce the rule because they had to apply recent government decrees on preferential treatment for people with merits.

It is true that the government has recently issued an ordinance stipulating that people with merits must be supported in studying and working. 

But, it does not mean that all the targeted people must be given the same help in every field, regardless of differences in their age, gender and circumstances.

If we give the people support that they do not need, the act can't be called preferential treatment.

The education ministry's rule on extra grades for "Heroic Mothers" if they sit the university entrance exams is an example that shows how rigid and impractical Vietnamese officials are when they make laws.

It is a bureaucratic disease that is likely to see the introduction of more impractical laws.

It is matter of concern that the disease seems to have spread to many fields, reflected in a ban on public smoking that has never really been enforced since it took effect in 2010, and a ban on selling meat more than eight hours after slaughter, which was scrapped later. 

Compared to the above-mentioned laws that have triggered public outcries and resulted in a waste of resources, the education ministry's new rule is just a strange one that raised people's eyebrows and made them laugh.

However, Vietnamese officials should think about what it says about their bureaucratic mindset.

If they want to avoid becoming a laughing stock or prevent public criticism in the future, they must look bravely at reality and decide to issue laws that are useful. They should do this with their feet on the ground instead of "sitting in the sky," as one lawmaker put it.

Will they start to do so anytime soon?
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Editor's note: The Ministry of Education and Training on Tuesday, July 16h, announced it annulled the regulation on Heroic Mothers, saying it did not "match reality." 

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