by Minh Nguyen
Did you know that Vietnam got a rank higher than the U.S in the PISA test? Based on the results of the international test released in 2015, Vietnam had the honor to place 17th with their overall score including math, science, and reading while U.S just placed at 36th with their overall score. As we know, the U.S is one of the most developed countries, having the highest GDP in the world; while Vietnam is just a small developing country. So, the questions this raises for us are: How can they take rank a higher overall score like that? What did they do to improve their score in just a short few years? To answer these questions, let’s take a look into their education.
Vietnam has the same education as the U.S.: Both have elementary school, middle school, and high school. Basically, they separated the education system into five levels. Level 1 is preschool, level 2 is primary school, secondary school, high school, and higher education. Basic formal education is 5 years in primary education (primary school), 4 years in intermediate education (middle school), and 3 years in secondary education (high school). Besides that, if any student wants to go to the next level that student has to do the exam called the entrance exam after the EOC, in order to help determine what school they should be going to.
In middle school you have to take the exam for the next level and that exam is very important, because you can go to high school for gifted. This is a school just for the students who get a score of above 85% overall on the 3 main courses: math, literature, and foreign language.
Even though the education is divided into 5 levels, they just count primary school, middle school, high school, and college. Now let’s analyze their system in each education for students:
Higher education (high school) is quite similar with intermediate education. Students just add one or two courses into their schedule which is at least 15 courses per year and to graduate they have to pass math (consists of algebra, geometry, calculus), literature, biology, chemistry, physics, history, foreign language (English or French), geography, and either one of two advanced courses natural science or social science. They also have the same schedule with middle school, but in some high schools, especially the high schools for gifted students, they make their students attend school, even if it’s Sunday, to review for an important test or exam.
As a student in America, I can say that Vietnamese students are more focused and take their schoolwork more seriously. They are less likely to be late for school, have fewer unexcused absences, and skip fewer classes. I have also observed and concluded that most of American students here are struggling and feel anxious with certain math, while Vietnamese students are less anxious with and have take math as their strongest subject. Besides that, they like to join activities like playing sports and games that can develop their thinking and strategics, such as chess and caro (like tic-tac-toe but much more difficult, involving deep planning).
Despite all of this, Vietnamese students still have a downside: they need to improve in literacy. Students may do very well in math and science but when it comes to literacy their scores are much lower. From the director of Hanoi- based University of Education, he said taking exams is a strength of Vietnamese students because they focus more on natural science and have more math knowledge than other students in any country. This also shows that they’re more hardworking than us and they have a good basic understanding of math and science.
But don’t think that such education standards are totally beneficial for students. “Actually many students, because they study a lot, that might create stress for them especially during the EOC exam which causing suicide in their mind and it’s become a little bit that make them feels desperate and lead them to finish their life.”(Hanoi). Vietnam’s education is really difficult, so we have to be thankful that the U.S doesn’t do the same to us.