Local educators have expressed their disapproval of the practice of suspending students for their behavior, saying it is “an education failure,” in the wake of a middle school’s one-year suspension of an eighth-grader early this month.
Nguyen Thanh V. was dismissed from school for one year after she posted a Facebook status that her principal said insulted educators and distorted Vietnamese history.
Her school, Ly Tu Trong Middle School, located in the central province of Quang Nam, then spared her the punishment following a guarantee from her family and a local chapter of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union.
Such suspension is not uncommon in Vietnamese schools, which are sometimes willing to banish their students even for minor mistakes in order to maintain discipline.
Hanoi’s Van Tao High School, for instance, has suspended students every year from 2007, and many of these suspended students have either switched or dropped out of school.
Bui Van N., one such student, was forced to stop going to school for one year, starting on December 24 last year, simply because he had used a cellphone in the classroom and was rude to his teacher.
“I have almost lost my way now, and I don’t know what to do or where to go in the next year,” N. said.
Many of his schoolmates have been dismissed for time periods ranging from one week to one year for such trivial reasons as “bringing cameras to school during the new school year opening ceremony,” “skipping classes,” “applying gel on hair,” “turning off the circuit breaker,” or “putting feet on chairs.”
A female student at another Hanoi school, Le Quy Don High School, was suspended last academic year for “demeaning her friends,” which sparked a debate with many demanding a pardon for her.
Nguyen Tung Lam, principal of Dinh Tien Hoang High School, which is located in the capital, revealed that he receives many students who have been “suspended by other schools” each year.
“Suspending students is rough treatment,” Phan Trong Ngo, of the Hanoi National University of Education, said, “except when they take drugs or commit criminal offenses.
“Where will they go? Who’s going to educate them? Who’s going to be responsible for the wrongdoings they may be involved in after being suspended?”
Dismissing students is a way to completely deny responsibility, principal Lam said.
Ha Huu Thach, principal of Giong Ong To High School in Ho Chi Minh City, remarked that it is an “education failure” when a school resorts to dismissal.
Another educator, Nguyen Dinh Thinh, who is the principal of another Ho Chi Minh City high school, said that education requires patience, so it is inadvisable to expel students immediately after they make a mistake.
“It is not a good idea to slap suspensions on students even when they make serious mistakes,” said Nguyen Minh Triet, principal of HCMC’s Nguyen Van Cu High School.
A few educators have also offered alternative penalties that they believe can help improve a bad student’s behavior.
Ha Thanh, vice principal of Truong Dinh High School in Hanoi, said that her school has disciplined disobedient students by asking them to sweep the schoolyard, take care of the school garden, scrape used chewing gum from the floors, or participate in voluntary summer labor.
“Such punishments will help them understand that they have to pay a price for their disobedience, but never hurt or push the students to a dead end.”
Dang Ngoc Tram, vice principal of Dinh Tien Hoang High School in the capital, recalled that an ill-disciplined student behaved much better after he was assigned to a supervisory team that was formed to make sure his classmates did not violate the classroom rules.
“He changed a lot then, both in behavior and learning attitudes,” Tram said.
Thanh added that educators should take flexible measures to help misbehaving students improve their manners immediately after they start making small mistakes.
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