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Experts argue about history requirement, teachers and students wait for decision

History teachers and headmasters of high schools said they are impatient to know the results of the arguments about the teaching of history as the new academic year nears.

The Central Committee of the Vietnam’s Fatherland Front, the National Assembly’s Committee for Culture and Education and other organizations have shown their disagreement with the Ministry of Education and Training’s (MOET) intention to list history as an optional learning subject.

Therefore, the preparation for teaching history has been postponed. 

Duy Khanh, a teacher in Phu Yen, said he agrees with the view that history should be a compulsory subject, but he believes that young people’s lack of knowledge about history doesn’t heavily depend on whether this is a compulsory or optional subject.

According to Khanh, though history is a compulsory subject, history exam scores are always very low. Khanh, who marks exam papers, is worried about students’ lack of understanding about history. 

If history is listed as a compulsory learning subject for high education, the curriculum and textbooks will have to be changed. Meanwhile, the new academic year will begin in just several months.

Currently, the curriculum is designed in themes, with a career-oriented nature. If history becomes a compulsory subject, it would be necessary to change the curriculum to fit the majority, while the amount of time for history would be reduced.

Khanh warned that if the word ‘compulsory’ replaces the word ‘optional’, the system will have to change, from the curricula for secondary and high schools, and the textbooks for other subjects would also have to change. This would be a time consuming and costly process.

Khanh said as a teacher of history, he has prepared well for teaching in accordance with new textbooks, and if textbooks have to change, this will affect the preparation. However, this is not important and he would be happy if history is a respected school subject.

Khanh noted that when the new curriculum was designed, no one came forward and voiced disagreement with the intention to consider history as an optional subject. He believes that if he had shown his disagreement, the opinion would have been ignored.

“But all of a sudden, many people from professors, doctors to teachers are loudly protesting the intention to list history as an optional subject. If they had done this before, we would not be in such a dilemma now,” Khanh commented.

Asked why teachers did not show their disagreement before, when the curriculum was designed, a teacher in Nghe An said there were reasons behind this.

“At the time when the new general education program was launched, there were too many new things for all the three general education levels and teachers did not have information about everything,” he said.

While agreeing that history should not be an optional subject, he admitted that it is not easy to change history into a compulsory subject.

“If history becomes a compulsory subject, the curriculum will need to be re-designed. However, it would require changes in the amount of time and curricula of other subjects as well,” he said.

“MOET has fallen into a dilemma and I am curious about what the ministry would do,” he added.

School managers also have their worries. Headmaster of a high school in Hai Phong said schools don’t know what they need to do when the new academic year nears. 

“In fact, under the new general education program, the total number of history periods students have is even higher than the current program. The difference is that the new program shows clearer career orientation when allowing students to focus on subjects useful for higher education levels,” he said.

“I am worried as people are still arguing inconclusively while the new academic year is very near,” he said. 

“What if other subjects would also struggle to become compulsory subjects?” he asked.

N.T.N, headmaster of another high school, also said she is impatiently awaiting final decision about the ‘fate’ of history.

The teacher warned that if history is a compulsory learning subject, the structure of the new general education program will be broken.

“In principle, there are 12 periods a week for compulsory subjects and 10 periods for optional subject. If counting in learning topics and local education activities, the number would be 29 periods a week,” she explained.

“If raising the number of history periods, schools would have to reduce the number of periods of other subjects, but which subjects, then?” she asked, adding that because of the arguments in the last minute, her school cannot take the initiative in designing lesson plans.

Phuong Chi - Thanh Hung

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