Vietnam to need at least $1.6 bln for educational overhaul

By Tue Nguyen, Thanh Nien News

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A boy perusing a history and geography textbook for fourth-graders at a bookstore in Ho Chi Minh City

The education ministry has proposed a VND34.27 trillion (US$1.62 billion) plan to reform Vietnam’s K-12 education over the next 10 years that drew criticism and questions from national lawmakers.
Deputy Education Minister Nguyen Vinh Hien presented the project at a meeting Monday of the  Standing Committee of the National Assembly, Vietnam's legislature.
Under the plan, schools would build their own academic programs in accordance with national criteria established by the ministry.
The ministry would continue writing textbooks while encouraging educators and organizations to write books that comply with the ministry's criteria.
Hien said this would offer schools a choice of approved textbooks; at the moment, schools share a single curriculum.
Under the proposed plan, only a small portion of the investment would be spent on developing infrastructure and human resources, Hien told lawmakers.
Many members of the committee raised doubts about the plausibility of the project, saying that it was drafted without specifics or clear direction.
House speaker Nguyen Sinh Hung said the ministry failed to lay out how it will implement the plan, let alone ensure its effectiveness.
Phan Xuan Dung, chairman of the parliamentary Science, Technology and Environment Committee, also said the proposed investment is “not small,” but the plan focuses mainly on “philosophy.”
Ksor Phuoc, chairman of the house's Group Ethnics Council, said the education ministry should anticipate the project’s overall impact, including the ways in which teaching staff will be trained to meet new job requirements.
“The National Assembly first issued a resolution on reforming education in 2000, but we have yet to agree on how to do it. So, what will we do over the next 10 years?” Phuoc said.
Phan Trung Ly, chairman of the National Assembly’s Law Committee, agreed, noting that Vietnam has been lost in its educational reform efforts over the past 14 years.
To justify an investment of over $1.62 billion, the ministry must plan it “carefully” and “completely,” consulting scientists, educators and even normal people, Ly said.
In the meantime, speaking to Thanh Nien newspaper, Associate Professor Van Nhu Cuong, president of Hanoi’s Luong The Vinh High School, said that such an investment would make no sense if it didn't chiefly focus on infrastructure.
He said it would only take around VND30 billion ($1.4 million) to draft a complete curriculum for grades 1-12.
The education ministry needs to explain how it plans to spend the money in greater detail, Cuong said.
Ho Thieu Hung, former director of Ho Chi Minh City Department of Education and Training, was also concerned about cost.
He said it would cost much less for Vietnam to buy the rights and translate foreign textbooks for certain subjects and organize a textbook writing contest for the rest.

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