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National Assembly says history must be compulsory school subject

The National Assembly’s Committee for Culture and Education has asked the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) to list history as a compulsory learning subject under the 2018 general education program.

According to its deputy chair Nguyen Thi Mai Hoa, the committee has issued a report on the implementation of the general education program and the teaching of history.

After a period of collecting opinions, most people disagreed with the MOET’s intention to list history as an optional learning subject for several reasons.

First, history is an important subject, playing a key role in political and ideological education for the young generation; educating patriotism and national self-respect, cultural and historical traditions; and fostering the capacity to think, act, and behave properly in social life, thereby forming virtues of Vietnamese citizens in the development of the times.

Second, high school students (aged 15-17) have cognitive maturity and better capability of receiving knowledge about the history of the country and history of Vietnam’s revolution. This is also the age that determines their worldview, stands about nature, society, principles and codes of conduct, and human value orientation.

Fostering historical knowledge for high school students is necessary in order to develop comprehensive human beings, and arouse patriotic traditions, national pride, beliefs and aspirations for a prosperous country. 

If history is not a compulsory subject and students don’t choose to study history (up to 50 percent of students), they will not be able to access important knowledge.

Third, in other countries in the world, history is a compulsory subject (the US, France, Australia, Japan and China).

If history is an optional learning subject for high school students, there would be three scenarios.

If students choose to study history as one of five optional subjects, they would have 210 learning periods during three academic years, or 70 periods higher than the 2006 general education program.

If students choose to study history as one of five optional subjects, and at the same time choose history for thematic study, they would have 315 learning periods during three academic years (an increase of 175 periods compared with the 2006 general education program).

If students don’t choose history, they won’t have any period at high school. Their knowledge about history will be knowledge received from primary and secondary schools, and from other integrated subjects.

At high school, history education comprises lessons about local history, about 10 periods for each academic year for each grade. Meanwhile, national defense and security education at high school is a compulsory subject with 35 teaching periods per school year. The subject educates students about the nation's tradition of fighting foreign invaders, the people's armed forces and Vietnamese military art.

Nguyen Thi Viet Nga, a National Assembly Deputy from Hai Duong, agreed that history is a mandatory learning subject for high school graders.

According to Nga, surveys found that students don’t like to study history, which explains why the scores from history exam are very low. Some students, when interviewed, admitted that they don’t want to study history.

Nga said that students have no interest in history not because this is a boring subject, but because the lessons are too academic and the design of lessons is tedious.

She also pointed out that schools still applied old measures in teaching history. At some schools, teachers have tried to change teaching methods and applied technology in giving lessons. However, students are still required to remember events and figures, which is difficult for them.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Thi Kim Thuy, Deputy Chair of the National Assembly’s Committee for Social Affairs, said all basic knowledge about Vietnam’s history and the world is taught at secondary school. If history is considered compulsory at high school, it would be necessary to amend the curriculum.

“Is it reasonable to amend the curriculum if we have only three months before the new academic year begins?” she asked.

Phuong Chi - Tran Thuong

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