In Vietnam, as of April 8, 2020, all provinces and cities in Vietnam, 63 in total, allowed students to stay home. On April 1, 2020, Vietnam started to practice social distancing across the entire country to contain the spread of coronavirus; people are encouraged to stay at home. Education, however, cannot and will not be stopped. Along with many other countries in the world, it is not easy for Vietnam to build a fix scenario for education, because the situation of COVID-19 pandemic is still unpredictable.
Coronavirus presents different challenges for the Vietnamese education system. In the wake of the school shutdowns following the coronavirus pandemic, it has been a huge challenge for educational institutes and teachers to reach out to students and ensure the continuity of education through online training. For students in big cities, online training is the best way to educate students in the context of “stay at home” isolation. However, many students in mountainous remote areas do not have stable access to the internet, so ensuring good continuity of education through remote learning has become a challenge.
The school closures not only affect the schools, but also the parents, teachers, and educational institutions. Many parents in Vietnam must take time off work to care for their children. Also, working from home while at the same time taking care of children may reduce productivity. In addition, the complicated evolution of the epidemic has been causing many private schools and private educational institutions to face the risk of permanent closure and bankruptcy. This will cause the loss of jobs of thousands of workers, and millions of students may have their education disrupted. For public educational institutions, the uncertainty will cause the delay in fee payments of the students, which will affect the salary flow of teachers and staff.
To overcome these difficulties, the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) has twice informed the adjustment of the study and exam schedule. The latest adjustment was made on March 13, 2020. Accordingly, the school year 2019-2020 will end before July 15, 2020. The National High School Exam are now to take place from August 8-11, 2020, delayed by 1.5 months compared to previous years and half a month behind the first adjustment. In addition, schools and universities have been encouraged to utilize different forms of online teaching to ensure the continuity of education for their students.
Supporting the ideas of MOET, on March 26, the big internet operators in Vietnam, including Viettel, VNPT, MobiFone and Vietnamobile pledged to support the education sector in the prevention and control of COVID-19 by offering free mobile data charges for students, teachers and parents when using the online training solutions announced by MOET. This has also been an effort to accelerate the process of digitalization in Vietnam.
MOET has also allowed provinces to conduct mass teaching via television and online teaching. Broadcast schedule of lectures for students to engage with learning is widely announced, especially for students in Year 9 and Year 12. Universities and schools conducting online training are also simultaneously reducing tuition fees for students or offering scholarships for students in difficult circumstances.
It is time for Vietnam as well as other countries worldwide to focus attention on measures to help students, especially schoolchildren in overcoming emotional difficulties when being away from teachers and friends. It is also essential to further strengthen the connection between the school and parents, even to the point of offering psychological support for students and parents who may need help. Students are used to a robust social life at school, playing and studying with friends and the monotony of social distancing or social isolation could tend to make them more aggressive, depressive or lethargic in the long run. For parents, balancing their work and addressing the mounting needs of their children is a daunting task. It is, therefore, important to strengthen the connection between the family and the school, and between parents and teachers, to help address students’ problems.
Home schooling is a remedy in this given situation of COVID-19, and we must also aim to turn challenges into opportunities. For that, we desperately need the cooperation of the family, school, and society, and learn from the experiences of other countries.