A fourth-grader at a renowned primary school in Hanoi once came home and sadly told his mother "I was told to have a day off tomorrow, mummy."
The mother was surprised as this was an announcement that would usually be accompanied by a lot of excitement that he would never bother to hide.
The mother questioned her child for a while and found out that some inspectors from the Hanoi Department of Education and Training would attend his class the next day.
The school was informed of the visit in advance and had chosen the best class in each grade to be inspected. The selected class then had to make a series of changes, including keeping the room cleaner and neater, getting better-dressed and preparing more carefully for the class. And 15 students with average or bad academic records were asked to stay at home.
When the inspectors come, they would only see good and excellent students, who can raise their hands and give correct answers to all questions posed by the teachers.
The mother understood why her son was sad. And that must have been the case for the other students asked to stay at home as well. But it goes beyond being sad. The students are experiencing discrimination from the very people who have to teach them not to do it to others! What is the lesson they will learn from this?
Is a compliment or a nod of agreement from the inspectors so important that a school is willing to hurt some of its students?
And this situation is not limited to one school. Many parents in the city can gather around a table talking tricks deployed by schools, colleges and universities to deal with inspectors.
Is no one concerned that these tricks will teach the children how to be cunning and how to cheat?
The desire for recognition has become a serious disease. It is growing despite the Ministry of Education and Training trying to say no to it. A campaign by the ministry against the disease has been carried out for three years and is going to end by the end of this school year.
Or is that all they need to do - just say no, and what the schools really do afterwards is of no concern to the authorities?