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Online physical education lessons inadequate for Vietnamese students



Since the beginning of coronavirus-induced online learning, Vietnamese schools have seen an overwhelming number of complaints about physical education (PE), which is arguably the worst subject to be taught online given its physical nature.

Yet, it does not have to be that way, according to some experts.

In most K-12 schools in Ho Chi Minh City, online PE lessons are currently 45 minutes long, similar to how they are done in person.

In reality, they are usually cut short to save time and help alleviate the stress of getting ready to study the next subject.

Khai Nhien, a high school student in District 5, said the PE class she is attending spends 20 minutes on the warm-up part alone.

Then, it is followed by a five-minute break and a 15-minute session with new exercises, which sometimes end up with the class letting out five minutes earlier.

Students do not need to uphold strict dress codes — sometimes they do not even need to wear shoes — as they used to in on-campus classes, Nhien added.

“I feel like teachers do not want to put more pressure on us, rather wanting us to have a break,” he said.

“However, I’m not so sure about the effectiveness of the exercise I was taught.”

Most online PE classes revolve around exercise routines, for most students are cooped up in small apartments and do not have access to large open spaces to do other forms of training.

Having to do the same exercises in enclosed spaces has quite a few students feeling fed up with online PE classes.

Q.T., a parent of a middle school from Tan Phu District, said her daughter cannot help yawning when it comes to the weekly PE classes at her school.

Her daughter used to go swimming and playing badminton every weekend, not to mention joining her on daily bicycle trips.

“In the past few months, she has relied on PE classes to get her fix of exercising,” she said about the online classes that have been running in Ho Chi Minh City since May, when local schools and training facilities closed down over fears of COVID-19.

“However, the routines are just too boring – just the same moves that I was taught 20 years ago.

“My daughters have already given up on them, and choose to stay active by jogging around with me instead.”

Huyen Vi, a mother in Ho Chi Minh City, also found her child having a hard time with online PE classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She recalled hearing weird noises at midnight, which she thought to be from a thief, only to find out that it was her son doing aerobic routines for his PE classes because it was too embarrassing for him to practice during the daytime.

“These routines were seen as awkward by his fellow classmates as well,” Vi said.

Most of these exercises focus on flexibility over strength, which Vi and her husband deemed unnecessary for her teenage boy.

“I’m thinking of reporting this issue to the school and asking them to change the exercises for online PE classes,” she stated.

To do or not to do

The teaching of theories has increased in PE classes of K-12 schools in Ho Chi Minh City once they went online during the pandemic, according to a survey by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

In several cases, theoretical content for physical education is being taught over a few successive lessons and may be repeated during preparations for tests.

Seeing the pressures that online PE exacts on their students, a school in Binh Tan District has mulled over removing PE from its curriculum this year.

The plan was met with overwhelming support from parents, who feel that exercising in front of digital screens is ineffective and time-consuming.

However, the school’s management had to bring back the subject after a one-month pause, as they still have to complete an unchanged amount of PE coursework by the end of the school year.

“Students would be even more stressed if we cram the whole syllabus into the latter half of the school year, so we have to resume PE classes to keep up with the coursework,” a school official said.

Bringing in new energy

PE classes are currently dull and uninspired, but they do not have to be that way, according to Hoang Tung, a lecturer at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Physical Education and Sports.

Instead of sticking to the curriculum, teachers can spice up the lessons with new game formats.

“PE students in elementary schools should act as game facilitators, doing ‘Simon says’ or similar games to pull the class together,” Tung said.

“They also have the freedom to create new routines and use the latest music tracks to draw in the kids’ attention.”

Nguyen Thi Ngoc Tam, ex-athlete and director of a gymnasium for kids, said audio and verbal interactions are important to keep the children’s morale up during online PE classes.

“Kids aged 5-10 can only hold their attention for 5-10 minutes, a number that significantly decreases during online classes as they face more distractions at home,” Tam said.

“Our online PE classes are designed in intervals of five minutes to keep the kids engaged.

“Teachers can change up the atmosphere by requesting kids to pick up something, or play music, then asking them questions about the tracks.”

For her classes, Tam incorporates many everyday items, including umbrellas as bars in arm exercises, or plastic wares as obstacles in high jump.

“Teaching teenage students aged 14 or higher would be much easier, as they are already aware of the need for a healthy lifestyl,” she remarked.

According to Tam, there should be fewer theoretical elements in PE teaching, as kids have been struggling with them in math and chemistry classes.

PE teachers should also be more empathetic, noticing their students’ distress and providing them with health recommendations, Tam added.

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Vietnam minister proposes making middle school free next year



Vietnamese Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Kim Son has proposed that education fees be waived for all public middle schools across the country.

The education minister put forward the proposal during an online conference with central- and local-level leaders on Monday morning.

Son expects that his proposal will benefit students from grade sixth to ninth starting the 2022-23 school year, which is set to begin in less than two months.

He requested the education ministry’s sub-units to work with the Ministry of Finance on evaluating the impacts of the proposed tuition exemption and calculating the state budget needed for this plan. 

Such tuition exemption is not a new proposition of the Ministry of Education and Training. 

In 2016, the government assigned the ministry to coordinate with the finance ministry in drawing up a similar scheme with a specific timeline while prioritizing investments for kindergarten and elementary education.

Vietnam has made elementary school compulsory and tuition-free for all children aged six to 11.

Hai Phong City is the first locality in the country to have provided free education for children from kindergarten to middle school levels from the 2020-21 school year and those in high school starting the 2021-22 school year.

At Monday’s meeting, Son also reported on the education ministry’s preparations for the national high school graduation examination, to be organized for 12th graders and independent candidates on July 7 and 8.

Considered as one of the most important events in the life of every school student, the exam results are used for both high school graduation and enrollment in universities and junior colleges.

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A summer of fun and learning for Ho Chi Minh City children



Children from across Ho Chi Minh City have spent their first few weeks of summer visiting the children’s section of the General Sciences Library, located in downtown District 1, to read in a comfortable environment and participate in a variety of clubs and activities.

Nguyen Ngoc Lan, a fifth grader from District 3, has spent nearly the entire week at the library eagerly reading books and participating in the dozens of activities hosted by staff and guests there, including storytelling sessions and advice on choosing new books to read.

New books, new activities

Lan did not have much love for reading when her mother first brought her to the library, but the time the young girl has spent making new friends and enjoying the library’s activities has turned her into a true bookworm with a particular interest in outer space and comics.

Fourth grader Viet Quan and his sister, first grader Huong Thanh, have also been spending their mornings at the library.

The siblings are particularly fond of the art activities and English lessons there.

The library does not just offer opportunities to learn from books, but also chances to learn from peers.

Tran Minh Hang, a sixth grader, found this out when she met an American international school student at the library.

The two shared information about their countries and Hang was happy to show her new friend pictures of the different fruits and scenery in his hometown, Tien Giang Province in the Mekong Delta region.

The woman making sure there are plenty of activities to keep the children at the library busy is Lam Thi Ngoc Thu.

The library’s summer programs began on June 13 and run every day from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm, except Fridays, Thu said.

Each day offers a different theme: Mondays are for storytelling, Tuesdays for science, Wednesdays for arts and crafts, and Thursdays for life skills.

Saturdays and Sundays typically feature cultural lessons, movie showings, and even chess tournaments.

Homemaking skill classes for everyone

After a two-year pause due to COVID-19, the Children’s House of Ho Chi Minh City, situated in District 3, has re-launched its soft skill classes.

This year, the classes are being held for over 200 children from June 27 to July 29.

They are meant for seven- to 12-year-olds and cover all sorts of activities, from basketball to dancing.

Right now, 80 children are participating in the house’s first summer session, which features outdoor games and camping trips.

Other activities focus on how to show love to family members and self-care, including lessons on how to be independent by doing various chores around the house.

Pham Thi Ngoc Yen, vice-director of the Children’s House of District 7, shared that these classes have been offered at her venue for the last five summers, except during the pandemic

The programs have been a big hit amongst parents due to their low-cost and variety of activities.

The house’s second summer session will begin on July 4 and last until July 15.

So far, 80 students have signed up and there is still space for 40 more.

Thanks to the success of its past events, the Children’s House of District 7 has been able to share its experience with other organizations across the city.

The Children’s House of District 4, for example, will launch a semi-boarding summer program for the first time this year from July 18 to 29 for children seven to 13 years old.

According to Ngoc Nga, the mother of eight-year-old Minh Khang, finding programs that offer full care for children is important because many parents are busy with their work and their children cannot stay home alone during the day while schools are closed for summer.

Since May, Nga registered Khang for both summer sessions at the Children’s House of District 7, hoping her child will enjoy himself and be well-cared for.

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Teachers go six months without paychecks in north-central Vietnam



A group of elementary school teachers in Vietnam are going on their sixth month straight of no paychecks even though the academic year has already concluded.

The eight affected teachers were employed as contract workers during the 2021-22 school year, which ended last month, at Dong Linh Elementary School in north-central Thanh Hoa Province.

They completed the assignments given by the school administration and their duties as per the conditions of their contracts, which specified that they would receive a monthly wage of VND2.78 million (US$120) each, as well as payment for teaching extra classes and monitoring semi-boarding students.

The school fully paid the eight teachers from September to December last year, according to a contract teacher.

“However, we’ve been paid nothing since January of this year,” one of the eight teachers said.

“The school’s explanation was that they didn’t have it in their budget.”

In response to a request by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper regarding the issue on Wednesday, Le Thanh Dong, a senior education official, admitted that the school had not yet paid the eight teachers and pledged to settle their salaries in the coming days.

More than 200 teachers were hired as contract employees in the 2021-22 school year across Thanh Hoa City, which is the provincial capital, according to Dong.

Most of them were fully paid with funds from the city and local school budgets, the education official affirmed.

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