VietNamNet Bridge – The national science and technology contest for high school students has come under fire from experts, who doubt the scheme's ability to improve the quality of curricular subjects as the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) expected.
So far, schools in 30 provinces and cities have responded to the annual competition, but many still consider the contest an extracurricular activity.
Critics are concerned that the contest would face a number of hurdles including poor teaching and learning conditions.
Nguyen Thiet Son, principal of the Ha Noi-based Kim Lien High School, said: "Schools' infrastructure and laboratories are too sparse and cannot cater for projects requiring experiments and practical tests."
"Moreover, funds to attract support from scientists and participation from teachers and students are limited. At some schools they are non-existent."
Meanwhile, director of the Thua Thien-Hue Department of Education and Training Pham Van Hung said: "To conduct scientific projects in high schools, we need co-operation from universities, scientists and lecturers."
A teacher from the Ha Noi-Amsterdam High School for the Gifted was quoted by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper as saying that only a small amount of students had joined the contest but still met a number of obstacles. He added, what would happen if even more students signed up?
Many other teachers were afraid that the contest would descend into a race for achievements like the national exam for gifted students.
Director of the MoET's High School Education Department Vu Dinh Chuan said the contest aimed to improve and renew teaching methods, while developing student capacity.
"By participating in the contest, students gain opportunities to work in groups and learn from each other. Teachers themselves will also become more active in self-researching to offer guidance to their students," he said.
Chuan confirmed the contest would be fair, as any form of cheating will be met with a strict punishment.
However, the department currently did not have any plans to give financial support to schools implementing their projects, he said.
Five years ago, Vietnamese high school students were sent to the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in the US for the first time through funding from an information technology company. The company continued the practice for the next two years.
Since last year, MoET officially selected students from five cities and provinces including Ha Noi, HCM City, Hue, Lam Dong and Da Nang and took them to the fair.
The project to obtain freshwater from seawater conducted by a group of three students from the Ha Noi-Amsterdam High School for the Gifted won first prize in the electronic and mechanism sector.
The national contest this year is expected to take place in March. The winning project will be brought to the US to join the ISEF in May.
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