Educators have alerted that Vietnamese students’ achievements at international Olympiads have been decreasing, while calling for urgent actions to improve the downgrading.
Vietnam has long since taken pride about its achievements at international mathematics, physics, informatics, biology, and chemistry Olympiads. However, a downward trend has appeared in the last few years.
All the six students attending the 52nd Mathematics Olympiad got medals, but no one won gold medal. The Vietnamese team ranked the 31st out of the 90 teams of students attending the competition. This is the lowest grade Vietnam has ever gained at mathematics Olympiad.
Vietnam began sending students to the competition in 1974 and the achievements of Vietnamese students have always been high since then. Vietnam usually ranked in the top 10, and it once ranked the third among the countries which sent students to the Olympiads.
However, things are changing. In 2010, Vietnam ranked the 12th, while it ranks the 31st this year. “This is really unimaginable,” said Nguyen Vu Luong, Headmaster of the High School for the Gifted which belongs to the Hanoi National University for Natural Sciences.
The ASEAN countries, which once considered Vietnam a good example to follow, have made great progress. Singapore ranks the third, while Thailand ranks the fifth at the 52nd Mathematics Olympiad.
Meanwhile, at the 22nd International Biology Olympiad, only three Vietnamese students got bronze medals and one got certificate of satisfactory progress. And the chemistry team brought two silver and two bronze medals.
The problem is that the team of students attending the mathematics competition does not include the students from the key schools which regularly sent excellent students to the team in previous years, such as the High School for the Gifted under the Hanoi University for Natural Sciences and the High School for the Gifted under the Hanoi University of Education.
Luong also thinks that Vietnam has not chosen the right students for the team: the students who once won silver medals last year have been excluded from the national team.
According to Dang Dinh Toi, Head of Physics Division of the High School for the Gifted under the Hanoi University for Natural Sciences, students in big cities do not want to join the national team any more. Meanwhile, students from other provinces do not want to come to Hanoi to prepare for the competition. It is because the students, who are the members of national teams, now still have to pass the university entrance exams to be able to study at universities.
In the past, all the members of the national teams could wholeheartedly spent their time to prepare for the international competitions, because they knew that they would be able to enroll in universities without having to sit the university entrance exams. However, the preferential mechanism has been removed recently.
As a result, students nowadays do not want to join the national team any more. They fear that if they spend time on preparing for the international competitions, they would not have time to prepare for the university entrance exams. Meanwhile, continuing studying at universities is always the top priority for students.
Ho Si Dam, a lecturer of the University of Technology under the Hanoi National University, who has been training national teams for international competitions for many years, has resigned from his job because of the disagreement with policy makers about the policies applied to gifted students.
“Six bronze medals and no gold silver for mathematics – the king science subject – should be seen as a serious fall of Vietnam,” Dam said.
2300 billion dong spent on developing gifted schools is really a big investment sum. However, Vietnamese say: “No guide, no realization”. Vietnamese students need good teachers.
Meanwhile, Vietnamese teachers nowadays cannot devote themselves to teaching, because they need to take extra jobs to earn their living. They would rather to conduct scientific research works which can bring 500-700 million dong a year, or write scientific articles for foreign magazines, than focusing on developing Vietnamese talents.
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