Smart school establishment in HCMC encounters various obstacles

Several policies have been introduced lately in Vietnam, especially in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), to renovate the current facilities as well as improve teaching quality in schools. However, they soon bump into difficulties, greatly disappointing the public. The project of forming smart schools in HCMC is such a case.

A teacher and her pupils learning with an interactive board in Mang Non 1 Kindergarten (District 10)

A teacher and her pupils learning with an interactive board in Mang Non 1 Kindergarten (District 10)

To implement the project ‘Generalizing and improving English language skills for high school students in HCMC from 2011-2020’, in the academic year 2013-2014, nearly 1,000 interactive boards were supposed to be delivered to kindergartens and primary schools in the city, 50 percent of which were paid by the national budget and the other by the society.

In reality, right after launching these projects, many schools refused to receive the interactive boards, saying that they could not take care of the other 50 percent of the total cost. Binh Chanh District, for example, only accepted 26 out of the 40 assigned boards.

Seeing this, a manager in the HCMC Department of Education and Training explained that the project failed due to a lack of survey on the real needs of each district. What is more, many teachers when receiving these boards could not fully exploit them as they have not mastered necessary skills yet.

Each school normally has 1 to 3 boards, and classes take turn to learn with them in a special room. This means students can access an interactive board 2 or 3 times a year, with a maximum of 30 minutes per turn. However, their parents need to pay around several hundred  thousand of Vietnamese dong a month during 2 years. All lead to the strong discouragement among the teaching staff as well as students.

A year later, the HCMC Department of Education and Training proposed the project ‘Piloting an innovative model in primary education from grade 1 to grade 3’, costing a massive amount of VND4,000 billion (approx. $172.4 million). This sum was supposed to equip tablets for more than 327,000 primary school pupils and 10,398 teachers in grades 1, 2, and 3 in the whole city. It was also planned for online classroom management and digital textbooks having 3D pictures. Immediately, this project was fiercely opposed by both parents and educational experts and had to halt.

Representative of the HCMC People’s Council Nguyen Van Lam shared that such an amount of money was so huge, and its use needed careful consideration, along with detailed survey on the practical needs of residents in the city.

The two above IT projects encountered disapproval from the society since there still exist many difficulties, mostly from an infrastructure limit and the low level of the teaching staff as well as socialization ability of state units.

While waiting for a firmer step on IT development in education, some schools are brave enough to pilot various breakthrough programs.

Take for example Le Quy Don Junior High in District 3. It introduced the first STEM (Science – Technology – Engineering – Mathematics) lab in HCMC, where advanced technologies like 3D printers and scanners, virtual-reality glasses are used to learn Math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Technology.

Mr. Pham Dang Khoa, Principal of the school, stated that using STEM in teaching natural science subjects is an innovative step to encourage students to apply obtained knowledge into creating new products of their dream.

Similarly, Nguyen Du High School in District 10 implemented IT in career oriented education besides current activities like informal discussions, consultation, or field trips to companies. Accordingly, from this academic year, each student has an account to answer 100 multiple-choice questions in 40 minutes about their preferences and personal goals. From those data, the installed software will deliver a job recommendation for that student.

These examples seem to be encouraging, yet it is still hard for the whole city to imitate them due to a lack of sufficient modern devices.

It is suggested that the urban authorities should update the real needs of schools in the city in order to synchronize necessary educational facilities in a large scale while trying to avoid impractical purchasing of equipment just to follow certain famous trends, which might leave a negative impression among the public.

By THU TAM – Translated by Thanh Tam

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