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The failure of education

Son Nguyen
Friday,  Aug 4,2017,14:33 (GMT+7)
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The failure of education

Son Nguyen

Failure stories have been heard loudly over the past few days when outstanding students gaining excellent scores at the national high school graduation examinations are denied enrollment in certain top-notch universities. Students are tearful, parents are frustrated, and schools say it is none of their business when gifted students are not admitted and see their future hopes dashed as the academic year is set to begin next month.

The failure stories of numerous students with exceptional exam results have seized the headlines. Never in the local education’s history have talented students been denied opportunities to continue their education after completing high schools with distinction. And it is still no-man’s fault.

A student named VHH in HCMC’s Tan Binh District relates how he achieved high scores at the exam, with 9.6 out of 10 for maths, 9.75 for chemistry, and 10 for biology, or 29.35 for the three subjects in Group B required for those students wanting to study at a medical school. But he fails when applying for the HCMC University of Medicine and Pharmacy.

The reason, as he explains in Nguoi Lao Dong, is that his total score of 29.35 is rounded up to be 29.25, which is also the threshold set by the HCMC University of Medicine and Pharmacy. As the number of applicants with this total score at the school is higher than targeted, the school introduces additional qualification criteria, including an English score of 9, while the student gains only 8.8. If the Ministry of Education had not issued the statute on rounding up scores, the student would have been enrolled.

In a similar case, Nguyen Thi Anh Thu, a student from Dong Nai Province’s Xuan Loc District, with a score of 29.25, also fails an additional qualification criterion when her English score is lower than required, according to Thanh Nien.

Meanwhile, a student named NPH in Hanoi’s Thach That District, with a total rounded score of 29.25, also fails to enroll in Hanoi University of Medicine. This school, different from its peer in HCMC, resorts to an additional qualification criterion that the original score must be at least 29.2. The student fails because he earns only 29.15, according to Lao Dong.

All the three above-mentioned students also complain of what they term as injustice, since many other students from out-of-the-way localities with lower scores are admitted to these two medical schools while they are denied. This is due to a long-established policy introduced by the Ministry of Education to prioritize students from remote localities such as mountainous areas over those in cities by giving them extra marks, which may be up to 5.5, according to Sai Gon Giai Phong. That means a student from such regions with a total original score of 25 or so can still be admitted to these two medical schools.

In fact, universities have no choice but to apply additional qualification criteria because they cannot enroll more students than their capacity. Thanh Nien reports that in the country, there are as many as 1,260 Group B students with a total score of 29.25 upwards in this year’s exam, while the two medical schools in Hanoi and HCMC admit only 800.

But medical schools are not the only ones with exceptionally high thresholds.

The People’s Security Institute sets a threshold of 30.5 marks for female students, while the Fire Fighting College demands a score of 30.25, according to Sai Gon Giai Phong. That is to say those students with exceptional marks of 10 out of 10 for all the three subjects still cannot enter these schools if they are residents in cities without extra marks added to their original scores. “This situation is unprecedented,” says the newspaper.

In numerous other universities, the thresholds this year have also been raised by several marks compared to last year, which is also a reason why many students are not admitted. Days earlier, experts predicted that due to the level of difficulty in this year’s exam is lower than last year, the average threshold can be 1.5 to 2 marks higher. Given the prediction, many students have applied to selective schools.

However, the real threshold is much higher, at up to 6 marks or so at certain universities, and as most schools have enrolled enough students right in the first round, many students with excellent scores no longer have any opportunities to enter a university, and have to wait until next year’s exams.

Nguyen Hai Truong An, a lecturer at the HCMC-based University of Economics and Law, says that many parents and students have come to the school to lodge complaints. “No one including lecturers (at the school) ever think that students with a total score of 26.5 or 27 marks can still fail. Frustrated parents and students cry, but we can only sympathize with them,” he is quoted in Phu Nu.

It has been three years since the Ministry of Education organized a common high school graduation exam, whose results universities can use to enroll their students. However, the level of difficulty in these three exams has never been stable. Two years earlier, the exams were seen as fairly easy, so the scores required by universities were high. Last year, the exams were said to be fairly difficult, so the threshold scores were lowered. And this year’s exams were said to be very easy, which give way to the chaos at universities now.

Nguyen Dinh Do, principal of Thanh Nhan High School, says in Tien Phong that it is illogical when students with incredibly high scores of 29 or 30 still cannot enter university. He suggests that the ministry should introduce exams with difficult and extremely difficult tests so that there are not so many students with maximum scores, making it easier for high-education institutes to enroll students.

The head of the training faculty at a public university says in Phu Nu that the threshold can be raised or lowered, but it is a big problem when students passing exams with distinction are still denied university entry.

Many excellent students must have now been taking the bitter pill when they cannot enter university. In a sense, it is not only their failure. If outstanding students cannot be admitted no matter how high their achievements are, it is also the failure of the country’s education, an education that fails to secure a seat for young talent.

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