I don't need no education

TN News

Email Print

Pham Thanh Ngoc did not drop out of school.

She just refused to go to school, from kindergarten onward.

However, Ngoc's reluctance to attend school was not of the usual variety.

It was not that she was not good at or uninterested in learning, but that she was too good.

The 11-year-old girl from the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong recently grabbed headlines after she applied for enrollment into a public high school despite the fact she had never attended any school earlier.

The daughter of two Di Linh residents, a 52-year-old farmer named Pham Xuan Thanh and his wife, has been home schooled since she turned six.

Early this month, Thanh petitioned the provincial education department that his daughter be admitted to the Nguyen Viet Xuan High School in Gia Hiep District into the 12th grade.

In his letter, Thanh claimed Ngoc had finished learning programs equivalent to those of the 11th grade.

He said Ngoc wanted to be accepted by the Nguyen Viet Xuan High School so that she could sign up for Duong len dinh Olympia (The road to Olympia Peak) a popular quiz show for Vietnamese high school students.

The request was turned down.

Home schooling may be a normal thing in some countries, but it is rather rare in Vietnam where academic records are accorded great importance, sometimes excessively so.

Huynh Van Bay, deputy director of the Lam Dong education department, said an 11-year-old is totally unqualified for high school.

Under current regulations, a person cannot enroll in a high school if she/he has not attended kindergarten, primary school and high school, he said.

If Ngoc went to school like other normal kids in Vietnam, she would now be a 5th grader in the last year of primary school or a 6th grader in the first year of secondary school.

The department cannot allow a high school to accept Ngoc since her only purpose is to make it eligible for her to join the quiz, Bay said.

The department has suggested that Thanh contact the organizers of the contest to see if they would let his daughter in.

Smart kid

Ngoc, for her part, told Thanh Nien she was a big fan of the Duong len dinh Olympia show, and she could answer around 40 percent of the questions correctly when she watched it on TV.

Ngoc is the only child in family. She could read when she turned two, her mother said.

She saw headlines in newspapers and asked her parents about the "big letters." Thanh taught her the alphabet, and Ngoc quickly learned how to write, read and solve simple math problems.

"We brought her to the kindergarten but she did not want to stay. She refused to go to primary school too," the mother said.

So Ngoc's parents bought her textbooks to study at home.

"Each time I brought her to Da Lat [Town], she did not ask for toys like other kids. She just wanted books, especially math books," Thanh recalled.

Thanh claimed Ngoc had finished primary-level learning at the age of six. He bought books and an Internet-connected computer for her to study at home.

When Ngoc told her parents she had finished secondary learning program four years ago, they sent her to extra classes taught by several teachers of the Nguyen Viet Xuan High School at their homes.

She only attended math, physics and chemistry classes. She learned literature, history and geography via books and the Internet, the parents claimed.

Tran Xuan Viet, a math teacher, recalled: "When I saw a little girl who insisted on joining my math class, I was a bit reluctant to accept her."

"Her parents told me she had acquired math knowledge equivalent to that of a 9th grader.

"I gave her some tests; she successfully solved all math problems in the textbooks for 9th graders.

"Currently, her knowledge of math is equivalent to that of a 12th grader. She is joining my extra class with other 12th graders, four times a week."

Nguyen Hoai Nam, a physics teacher, said Ngoc had been attending his extra class for 10th graders.

"I think she is pretty smart. She always understood what I taught the first time.

"She is smart but her behavior is a bit different from other kids in my school. I think her family should bring her to school," Nam said.

Ngoc is particularly interested in subjects like math, physics and chemistry.

Her parents said they do not want to push her to study all the subjects like other kids.

"I just want to attend the 12th grade," Ngoc said when asked what she wanted from school.

According to her parents, Ngoc does not have friends of her own age, and she only hangs out with 12th graders.

She does not play games or go play with children in the neighborhood. She just stays at home to study, or watch TV.

The only child of a family in a rural area, Ngoc seemed to be shy, reserved and quiet. Her eyes only lit up each time she saw new books and math problems.

Caution needed

Vu Dinh Chuan, director of the High School Education Department at the Education Ministry, told Thanh Nien that children in good physical condition and who have outstanding intelligence are allowed to jump grades under the 2005 Education Law.

Under the law, the Education Minister is authorized to decide on such cases, he said.

Chuan noted that people should consider both the physical and mental conditions of a child before letting him/her skip grades. 

"The local education sector should carry out some research to see if the child is both physically and mentally ready to skip grades.

"If necessary, the provincial education authorities should send us the results of their research; if the child is really special, we ourselves will conduct tests on her and decide."

"I think we should be very careful before we can call someone a prodigy or genius. A child who gets ahead of too many grades may be affected mentally."

More Education/Youth News