The Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) on Saturday issued a statement expressly banning any instructions than the ones that it has issued for marking the recently held high school graduation exams.
The statement came after 11 provincial departments of Education and Training in the Mekong Delta relied on the ministry's instructions to issue modifications that would make it easier to score marks.
For example, in Literature, the ministry's marking instructions require each answer to provide two or three details from a literary text in order to get full marks for the answer, but the modified conditions gave full marks on mentioning just one detail.
In Math, the modified instructions gave full marks to answers presented without showing how they were arrived at, as well as solutions to geometrical problems that were accompanied by imprecise drawings or no drawings.
The modified instructions are followed with a note that says if a paper gets 9.5 out of 10, the teacher should go over the parts that have been "marked generously".
Nguyen Hoang Nhi, director of Dong Thap Department of Education and Training, said Saturday the exclusive instructions presented early this month were prepared by his department, but they had been approved by MoET.
In its statement, however, the ministry said it had only approved one petition sent by the provincial department in May, asking for permission to hold a meeting between the delta provinces' education officials to discuss the ministry's marking instructions.
The ministry said in the statement that it has asked provincial Departments of Education and Training in the Mekong Delta to report on the case and would punish any violations of its original marking instructions.
Nguyen Vinh Hien, deputy minister, said the ministry would have the problem investigated and then decide whether papers from the delta should be marked all over again.
A teacher of Literature from Kien Giang Province said the high school graduation rates of provinces in the region had increased from last year and the students got pretty high marks on Literature.
The national high school graduation exam with six subjects ended on June 4 and papers from each province were marked by teachers from another province in the same region, as is done every year.
Nhi from Dong Thap department said the idea of exclusive instructions came from an experience in 2009 when teachers from Ben Tre Province were assigned to mark papers from Dong Thap and inspectors from the ministry found that they were "stricter" than teachers from other provinces.
He wanted each region to have common marking instructions of its own, Nhi said, adding that he has proposed the idea at a national conference on educational administration in April.
A teacher from Ca Mau said he was "very surprised" by the instructions presented by the delta education officials, which he and other teachers were only allowed to see, not to keep.
"We could never assess students' competence (based on such instructions)," said the teacher, who didn't want to be named.
As of Saturday, many cities and provinces had published the results of the exams, showing high graduation rates in many places, such as 97.74 percent in Can Tho Province, 99.23 percent in the northern province of Thanh Hoa, 97.2 percent in Da Nang, 97 percent in the south-central province of Binh Dinh, and 100 percent at several schools in Ho Chi Minh City.