By the end of 2018, the Ministry of Education and Training launched another reform in the primary and secondary education program, in accordance with the previous Resolution No. 29/NQ-TW issued by the Central Committee of the Party, Resolution No. 88/2014/QH13 by the National Assembly, and Decision No. 404/QD-TTg by the Prime Minister.
A few key points from the above documents:
(1) The purpose of education is the integral development of a person in which all the qualities and competencies need to be fully fostered. Knowledge acquisition should be in line with personality development.
(2) Educational content must be simplified, basic, modern, and practical. Interdisciplinary approach should be employed in lower levels and differentiated instruction should be emphasized in upper levels. Fewer compulsory subjects. More elective courses, themes and educational activities.
(3) Promote proactive and creative learning styles, encourage critical feedback from students instead of one-way communication from teachers, and enhance self-learning ability.
(4) Educational assessment should be empowered by the latest research and aim at providing input for teaching method and material adjustment.
Now that the education reform program was introduced to fulfill the above requirements, it has become a tenet for all the initiatives and practices in formal schooling.
Compared with the previous education programs, the new program is different in that it mainly answers the question ‘what can students do’ instead of ‘what can students know’.
The qualities and competencies students need to acquire
There are five qualities that students need to develop throughout the K-12 education program; they are (1) patriotism, (2) compassion, (3) diligence, (4) integrity and (5) liability.
As for the competencies, they can be divided into two groups: the core competencies, which are the necessary abilities people need to survive in the modern society, and the special competencies, also known as the aptitudes. All schools are responsible for discovering and nurturing the aptitudes of their students, as well as equipping them with the core competencies.
The core competencies are further divided into two sub-categories: the general core competencies including (1) self-discipline and self-learning, (2) communication and collaboration, (3) problem-solving and creativity, and the specific competencies including (1) linguistic, (2) logical-mathematical, (3) scientific, (4) technological, (5) IT, (6) physical and (7) aesthetic competency.
To attain the aforementioned goals, the interdisciplinary approach and differentiated teaching should be employed. On the one hand, we have to reasonably integrate different disciplines and areas of knowledge in teaching. On the other hand, the teaching conditions should be tailored to meet the certain needs of each student group. There should also be the connection between different levels and grades, and the subjects within one level and grade.
Implications for teachers and students
Previously, the educators predetermined the teaching content, but now, the teachers are allowed to choose their own teaching materials in response to the specific requirements of each grade, each class, and each subject.
Previously, teachers rely heavily on the textbooks. Now, with a complete program, teachers feel free to choose materials for teaching, as long as the teaching goals are attained.
Teachers can vary classroom activities as long as they serve the goals. Apart from traditional lessons and exercises, we can try experiments, games, role-play, research project, seminar, camping, reading clubs, social services, and so on. They can work individually or in groups.
Principles in choosing a teaching method or activity:
- It must be the kind of activity that can engage all students.
- Working on potentials, not constraints: The emphasis should be put on what students CAN do, not what they CANNOT do.*
- Competencies, not grades: it’s the knowledge, skills and attitude that matter, not the score.
- Rely on critical observation, not intuition.
- Assessment can be conducted with different ways other than test papers.
- It’s the students’ personal development that matters, not the test results.
- Student-centered approach: All the teaching activities must suit the students’ needs and level.
Assessment is not only to categorize students, which is probable only in entrance exams, but to evaluate the achievement progress of students and provide the input for the teachers to amend their teaching methods, and sometimes propose changes to the administrators.
Students need to determine their motives in learning. Grades are important, but not everything. They should bear in mind that today’s learning is not only for coping with an upcoming test, but for surviving the future world. And they need to be more proactive in learning.
Above is my own summary of the introductory course to the 2018’s general education program where I focus on the qualities and competencies required, the integration and differentiation. But there are other theoretical parts of the course: the overall structure, the career orientation, and STEM education. Perhaps I will spend time reading them later.