Students check their answers after a national English test in Ho Chi Minh City on July 1, 2015. Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach
More than 428,000 Vietnamese students who sat a national English test early this month to get into university scored below five on a scale of 10, a performance that disappointed educators and almost everyone else in the country.
Their low scores accounted for more than 77 percent of all the test takers, according to statistics released by the education ministry on Sunday.
Of nearly 552,000 students that needed an English test for university enrollment, only 55 got a perfect score. More than 26.6 percent got 2.5-3 out of 10, the statistics showed.
Many educators and parents are not satisfied with the results, especially after the country has for years tried to improve English teaching and learning.
Vietnam's VND9.4-trillion (US$440.3 million) language training program launched in 2008 has been deemed a failure, and the new test seemed to offer even more evidence for that.
Tran Xuan Nhi, former deputy education minister, told news website Zing that the English test's result was "very concerning," and that he checked the test's difficulty level with a Singaporean third-grader, who ended up answering most of the questions correctly.
The test required students to answer 69 questions, mostly in multiple-choice form and about grammar and reading, and write a short paragraph about the benefits of reading books within 90 minutes.
It was part of a national exam which was held on July 1-4 and consisted of tests on other subjects like math, literature, history and geography.
That was the first time the education ministry organized a single exam to decide whether or not a student could graduate from high school and could be qualified to enroll at their desired universities, based on their exam results.
In previous years, Vietnamese students had to took an exam to graduate from high school, after finishing their K-12 education.
After they passed the exam, they would be allowed to take the so-called university entrance exam.
For many years, both the exams were criticized for being costly and creating too much pressure on students and parents.
Around one million students sat the national exam this year, but only some 72 percent of them registered for using their results to apply for universities.
For high school graduation purpose, students needed to take at least four tests. Three of them had to be math, literature and English.
This year was the first time the education ministry brought English back as a compulsory subject.
Last year only 15.6 percent of more than 910,800 students chose to take the English test to graduate from high school.
Here are some of the questions in this year's test.