Jan 15, 2013

Vietnam - City schools hesitant about Cambridge program

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Ho Chi Minh City K-12 schools are worried over high fees and schoolwork overload following the local education department’s request that they should pilot a Cambridge University program this school year.

The municipal Department of Education and Training said in a document last week that the ten schools which are piloting the use of English to teach math and other natural science subjects as part of a national English improvement project should implement a curriculum developed by Cambridge University in the 2012-13 academic year.

The targeted schools include top-tier trainers like Le Hong Phong Specialized High School, Tran Dai Nghia Specialized High School, Le Qui Don High School, and Bui Thi Xuan High School.

The department has requested those schools to work with Hanoi-based EMG Education, which it said has been authorized by Cambridge University to run this program in Vietnam.

But the schools do not seem so eager with this request.

Pham Van Nam, principal of Bui Thi Xuan High School, complained that high school students are currently studying too much so it is hard to introduce the Cambridge University program this academic year.

“We can only start implementing it next school year,” Nam said.

Many students have withdrawn from Bui Thi Xuan’s optional physics and math courses, in which English is the medium of instruction, Nam pointed out.

Similarly, the management board of Gia Dinh High School fears that their students will be unable to catch up with the new curriculum after they have had enough experience from using English to teach elective math, physics, and chemistry courses for a few years.

“We’re afraid that our students will be overloaded,” the school said.

Mac Dinh Chi High School has another reason.

“We are worried that parents will keep away from it when we use the Cambridge University program, due to exorbitant fees,” Tran Trung Kien, Mac Dinh Chi’s principal, said.

Cambridge demands an annual membership fee before they transfer teaching materials, Kien further explained, adding their textbooks are many times more expensive than normal, and that the expense could be unbearable for many families.

In Vietnam, a school year usually starts in August or September and ends in May or June, depending on each school.


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