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Overloaded Vietnam schools remain a concern
Publication Date : 31-08-2012
As Vietnam gears up for the new school year on Wednesday, a shortage of classrooms and the over-collection of tuition and other fees are worrying educators.
In preparation for the school-year 2012-13, Ho Chi Minh City has invested nearly 1.5 trillion Vietnamese dong (US$70.7 million) to upgrade and build roughly more 1,200 classrooms. This has lifted the total number of classrooms in the city to 36,184, enough for 1.5 million students.
"But overloading is still happening," said Le Hong Son, director of the city's Department of Education and Training.
Statistics from Son's department show that the number of students in city this school year is 67,000 more than the previous year.
"In some areas, the number of primary students is 45 to 48 a class," he said, "And in District 12 and in Binh Tan, Thu Duc and Binh Chanh districts, the number is up to 50-55."
A similar situation exists in Hanoi. The capital city has more than 2,400 schools for over 1.5 million students. The education department has also set aside 2.2 trillion dong for the new school year.
However, a report from the department shows that the average number of students per class is above 45, and even 50 in many public schools.
The city's educators have set a long-term target of reducing class levels to 30 at primary schools and 35 at junior and senior high schools.
Head of Tay Ho District's education and training division, Le Hong Vu, admitted that the education system had failed to keep pace with the population increase of four per cent a year.
Vu said that the district had built more than seven new schools for this school year, but overloading was still expected.
"Take the case of Tu Lien area in the district for example. The population has doubled in the last four years, from 75,000 to 150,000, but we haven't kept pace," he said.
Meanwhile, educators in cities and provinces are struggling to avoid a potential over-collection or increase in tuition fees and other, which is a common occurrence.
The Deputy Minister of Education and Training, Nguyen Vinh Hien, recently had to ask his sector to sort out the over collection of fees and illegal extra classes.
"The Ministry has sent an official document to people's committees nationwide to ask for reports of collections from the beginning of the new school-year," said Bui Hong Quang, deputy director of the education ministry's Department of Planning and Finance.
Quang said that the Department of Legislation was also re-checking schools' "voluntary fees", which are said to be used for upgrading school facilities to see where the money was used.
"School principals must take responsibility for such fees," Quang said, "They cannot ignore their responsibilities and let parents collect the money."
The education official added that the money, though voluntarily collected, must be put into the school accounts and covered by detailed planning and transparent reports on spending.
"The ministry is willing to listen to comments and recommendations from parents on the proper use of the money," Quang said.
US$1 = 20,865 Vietnamese dong