"Tiger" mom in Hanoi helps daughter win Harvard scholarship

Ngoc is very sparing with her praise. She said that compliments may make her kids conceited and believe they are good enough and don't need to continue to study.

'Tiger' mom in Hanoi helps daughter win Harvard scholarship
Mrs. Ly Thi Bich Ngoc at Harvard University

Ly Thi Bich Ngoc, born in 1964, is director of a tourism company in Hanoi. Graduating from the Hanoi General University and obtaining a bachelor’s degree in French, she has had opportunities to access many cultures all over the world. But she still applies a ‘strict and classic’ educational method to her children.

Ngoc said she has a ‘feudal mindset’, with strict obligations for people which seems to be too ‘conservative’ and not suitable in the context of modern society. She believes that girls have to learn how to do housework and people have to ‘study manners first and then learn to read and write’ before studying the sciences. Morality before science study, she said.

She asked H.T.A, her first daughter, born in 1996, to practice writing when the girl entered the first grade, because Ngoc believes that handwriting shows the character of a person.

When the girl was at Ngoc Ha Primary School in Ba Dinh in Hanoi, she was always the best of the school, but Ngoc said that Ngoc Ha is just a small school and the girl still needs to continue to make every effort to better herself.

When her daughter finished secondary school and passed the exam to the Hanoi-Amsterdam High School for the Gifted, a prestigious school in Hanoi, Ngoc once again told her daughter not to become conceited because there are many other excellent students at schools for the gifted in HCM City, Nam Dinh, Hai Phong, Da Nang and Hue.

When H.T.A won a high prize at the national competition when she was in 12th grade, she told her that this was just a national prize, not international prize.

When her daughter finished secondary school and passed the exam to the Hanoi-Amsterdam High School for the Gifted, a prestigious school in Hanoi, Ngoc once again told her daughter not to become conceited because there are many other excellent students at schools for the gifted in HCM City, Nam Dinh, Hai Phong, Da Nang and Hue.

“I always urged her to study hard and I even used the rod,” she recalled.

From the day her children were small to the day they went to study abroad, their family had no time to watch TV. There were two TV sets at home, but she joked the TVs might have broken down because they rarely watched TV.

When H.T.A went to high school, she touched TV every day when she returned home from her office.

If the TV was warm, she would ask the two daughters if they had watched TV when the mother was away, and then said that there are only 24 hours a day, of which 8-9 hours are spent on meals and sleeping and 5 hours at school. If they spent time watching TV, they would have no more time to learn necessary knowledge.

They also learned how to play musical instruments, dance, and learn to become MC. However, the girls only liked playing instruments, and they gave up dance and MC classes. After learning hours, the girls were also asked to wash dishes, and cook and clean the floor.

If they could not fulfill the tasks, they would be asked to write reports and explain their failure, and they were asked to promise to do better the next time.

 

Asked why she was strict with her children, Ngoc repeated the saying ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’.

When H.T.A was in 11th grade, she was one of five students chosen to attend the Southeast Asia Leadership Program, to experience five weeks in many states in the US. The girl could not find her identity card and asked for Ngoc’s help. Ngoc just told her daughter that if she could not find the card, she would have to stay at home.

After spending five weeks in the US, H.T.A decided that she would study abroad.

However, Ngoc told her that she could only do so if she obtained a scholarship.

The strictness of the mother was what H.T.A wrote about in her essay when applying for scholarship at schools in the US. Tiger mother is the nickname H.T.A gave to her mother.

When realizing that her daughter was going to apply for scholarship, Ngoc thought that she would not get a full scholarship.

In fact, Ngoc did not think of sending the girl abroad at the age of 18, but believed that it would better to study abroad after she finished tertiary education.

However, the girl obtained many scholarships that year, including at SOKA University in Japan, and Amherst, Princeton and Chicago universities in the US. She chose to study at Amherst and began studying there in August 2014.

In August 2018, she obtained $30,000 to study architecture at Harvard University.

Only when the daughter could ‘reach to the world’ and get great achievements, did Ngoc give her the compliment ‘You are excellent!”. But H.T.A replied, ‘I don’t believe you’ (laugh). 

Kieu Oanh

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