Many little pigs

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A first grade class at the Hong Ha Primary School in Ho Chi Minh City's Binh Thanh District where there are more than 50 students per class despite a legal threshold of 35. Photo by Dao Ngoc Thach

A baby boom in 2007 as a result of it being an auspicious year in the Lunar Calendar has drastically increased the number of first graders and worsened the overloading of Ho Chi Minh City primary schools in the new school year.

The Ministry of Education and Training limits the number of primary school students to 35 per class but the actual number registered this year is more than 50, according to the HCMC Department of Education and Training.

According to the Lunar Calendar, one year in 12 is the Year of the Pig, and just one in 60 is the Year of the Golden Pig, which fell in 2007. Children born that year have now turned six, and are set to enter first grade, when the new school year is officially launched on September 5.

The city education department said preliminary reports from schools show a total of more than 111,000 children having registered for first grade this year, a 10 percent increase over last year.

District 1's Hoa Binh Primary School has enrolled 300 first graders, 100 more than last year.

"It means nearly 50 students per class," said principal Ly Van Hue.

Go Vap District has reported an increase of nearly 2,000 first grade students over last year.

Do Thi Hoa, deputy head of the district's education division, said last year's maximum first grade class strength was 47.

"This year, each class has at least 50 students. Some classes have up to 55," she said.

Dang My Phuong, principal of District 3's Ky Dong Primary School, said the school used to have an "ideal" number of between 36-40 students per class but the number has increased to 47 this year.

Virtually all educators in the city attributed the increase to the baby boom during the Year of the Golden Pig. They said they are concerned that students will not be able to study well in such crowded classes.

Tran Trong Khiem, deputy head of the Tan Phu District's education division, said first grade teachers are trained with skills to focus on students separately when teaching.

"However, now they can only go by their feelings and focus on the ones they feel need more of the teacher's attention," he said.

The situation is the same in major cities nationwide, notably Hanoi and Da Nang.

Vietnamese parents have been giving birth to more children in "auspicious" years with the most recent one being in 2012, the "golden dragon" year, despite warnings that they could face difficulties in accessing public services.

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