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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 to host inaugural NASA Space Week next week



The Vietnam Space Week will be organized in three Vietnamese localities next week, making Vietnam the first Southeast Asian country to hold such a NASA event.

The collaboration for the event involves the People’s Committees of Hau Giang Province, Thu Duc City under Ho Chi Minh City, and Binh Dinh Province, alongside the Ho Chi Minh City Computer Association and the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The Hau Giang Convention Center in the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang will kick off the first two days of the multi-day event on June 5 and 6.

The Student Culture House in Ho Chi Minh City, located at the Vietnam National University-Ho Chi Minh City in Thu Duc City, will host the third day’s activities on June 7.

The final two days of the event, June 8 and 9, will take place at the Binh Dinh Convention Center in the south-central namesake province.

The objective is to motivate the young generation through captivating stories of astronauts and to introduce scientific research aimed at protecting the earth, mitigating environmental pollution, and raising awareness about the potential dangers of asteroid collisions.

The event’s agenda also includes a NASA STEM Day providing students with the opportunity to participate in various STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) activities such as astrophysics, zero gravity experiments, robotics, virtual reality experiences, and other engaging scientific programs.

Former astronaut Mike Baker, who was on four space missions, and former flight surgeon Dr. Josef Schmid will be in attendance at the five-day event, according to The Saigon Times.

“It marks the inaugural implementation of this event in a Southeast Asian country,” The Saigon Times quoted chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Computer Association Lam Nguyen Hai Long as saying at the event’s press conference on May 29. 

“We look forward to its continuity as an annual event and aspire for Vietnam to be a host country preferred by NASA, with the possibility of elevating the event to a regional scale in the future.”

The concept of the Space Week has been prevalent in Scotland since the early 2000s, following the introduction by Hyang Lloyd, a former NASA employee, according to The Saigon Times

The event is also held annually to showcase NASA’s remarkable accomplishments and contributions in the realms of space exploration, scientific investigations, and technological advancements. 

It encompasses a range of activities organized by NASA and its affiliated partners.

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Vietnam bags 4 silvers, 2 bronzes at 2023 Asia-Pacific Informatics Olympiad



All six members of the Vietnamese team competing at the 2023 Asia-Pacific Informatics Olympiad won medals, including four silvers and two bronzes, the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training announced on Tuesday.

The four silver medals went to Nguyen Duc Thang, an 11th grader from Hung Vuong High School for Gifted Students in the northern province of Phu Tho; Nguyen Ngoc Dang Khoa, a 12th grader; Pham Cong Minh, an 11th grader; and Tran Xuan Bach, a 12th grader, all from High School for Gifted Students of the University of Science under the Vietnam National University-Hanoi.

The two bronze medals were secured by Le Ngoc Bao Anh, a 12th grader from Le Quy Don High School for Gifted Students in Da Nang, and Tran Vinh Khanh, a 12th grader from Quang Tri Township High School in Quang Tri Province, north-central Vietnam.

The 2023 Asia-Pacific Informatics Olympiad was held online with 1,471 contestants from 36 countries and territories, including students from Canada, Mexico, and Brazil who were invited to participate in the competition but not considered for prizes. China was the host country.

Fifteen Vietnamese students joined the competition at the University of Engineering and Technology under the Vietnam National University-Hanoi on May 20.

Six contestants with the highest scores were chosen for prize consideration, according to regulations of the competition.

With the six medals, Vietnam ranked ninth among the participating countries and territories.

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Vietnamese students win four bronze medals at Asian Physics Olympiad



A team of eight Vietnamese students competed in this year’s Asian Physics Olympiad, winning four bronze medals, according to the results announced by the contest organizers on Sunday.

The four bronze medals went to 12th graders Phan The Manh and Nguyen Tuan Phong of Bac Ninh High School for the Gifted in northern Bac Ninh Province, 11th grader Vo Hoang Hai of the High School for the Gifted of Natural Sciences under the University of Science, Vietnam National University-Hanoi, 11th grader Than The Cong of Bac Giang High School for the Gifted in northern Bac Giang Province.

Four 12th graders, namely Vu Ngo Hoang Duong, Nguyen Minh Tai Loc, Le Viet Hoang Anh, and Nguyen Tuan Duong, were awarded certificates of merit.

The eight students from the Vietnamese team participating in the 2023 Asian Physics Olympiad in Mongolia. Photo: Ministry of Education and Training

The eight students from the Vietnamese team participating in the 2023 Asian Physics Olympiad in Mongolia. Photo: Ministry of Education and Training

The 2023 Asian Physics Olympiad is being held from May 21 to 29 in Mongolia, where 195 students from 26 teams representing 25 countries and territories sit for both theoretical and practical examinations, each lasting 300 minutes.

Vietnam has taken part in the Asian Physics Olympiad a total of 22 times, according to news site VnExpress.

Last year, the Vietnamese delegation claimed a silver medal, two bronze medals, and five certificates of merit. 

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