Parents broke the gate at Thuc Nghiem School in Hanoi on May 12 in their rush to obtain application forms for first grade for their children
It happens every year at Hanoi’s Thuc Nghiem School: hundreds of parents stay up all night on the street to be the first ones pushing and shoving each other at the gates for a chance to receive application forms for first grade for their children.
This year, the crowds grabbed headlines and shocked the nation when the parents broke down the school’s gate and then rushed the ticket booth to take their numbers and wait in line again. Only 200 numbers were given out. The elementary and secondary school has one of the best reputations in the country.
The ticket booth was surrounded by the swarm and some parents then began sneaking through a fence to force their way into the head or the middle of the line.
Photos of the chaos published since May 12 have prompted many to express sympathy for the parents who are desperate to get a seat at a famous school for their kids. Some criticized the parents for not understanding the culture of queuing, even though many of them were highly educated.
However, this story tells us a lot about the problems that Vietnamese education faces.
Asked why they had to rush to get a seat for their children at the school, but not at any other school, many parents said Thuc Nghiem was famous for its good teaching methodology. It offers students more extracurricular activities, and doesn’t put kids in extra classes outside of regular school hours.
Also, students do not feel like a burden to their classes, or rather their school, when they get bad marks, because the school, which applies both the common academic program written by the education ministry, and trial innovative programs, does not compete with other schools in terms of test scores.
Some parents said they wanted to send their children to Thuc Nghiem because many successful scholars have studied there, including Professor Ngo Bao Chau, who won the world’s most prestigious mathematics prize – the Fields Medal – last year.
Some even cited the school’s decent playground as a reason for trying so desperately to get their kids in there.
Of course, not all the things parents said about Thuc Nghiem are totally true, many are rumors spread on the Internet and by word of mouth.
However, let’s do not forget that humans basically look for what they need. So, regardless of the culture of queuing, what the parents have done is understandable, given that the Vietnamese education has failed to provide them with what they need over years.
The educational system fails to give them trustworthy tools and support with which to find a good school for their children; they have to do it alone.
In fact, every year in Vietnam, numerous new schools, universities, and even foreign language centers are licensed without meeting any rigorous quality standards.
Parents are feeling anxious and are losing their trust in our unstable education system, yet officials seem to be taking the long lines of parents as a kind of annual convention. They do almost nothing about it.