Professor Autumn Finnerty
It has been almost seven years since America opened its door for my family, and it has never ceased mesmerizing me. I came here for opportunities. I have been inundated with them. I came here for a better education. I came here for a much better life
I will finish my Bachelor degree in Business at the end of 2015. I went to Sierra College for 4 years. Before that, I was in Ho Chi Minh City, the largest commercial center of Vietnam, finishing my first year of college. In Vietnam, students graduate from middle school in ninth grade. Tenth, 11th and 12th grades are considered part of high school. The Vietnamese education system differs from the U.S. one in several ways.
Based on my experiences in Ho Chi Minh City:
• Children normally start school at 6 years old. But 4- or 5-year-olds sometimes are taught the alphabet and basic math.
• Schools generally start at 7 a.m. Before classes on Monday, there is usually a half hour of a “greeting the flag” session, during which students sing the national anthem and listen to a housekeeping talk by a school official in the courtyard. Elementary and middle school can end at around noon, but some can choose to extend hours. For high school students, noon breaks are allowed, but sometimes students are expected to return to school for classes until 5:30 p.m.
• After class, many take cram school classes in English, math and literature. Corruption happens here, when often the teachers who offer these classes let the students know ahead of time the material on their tests. Others choose to go to evening English centers.
• The uniform is a white T-shirt and navy pants. Students through ninth grade are expected to wear red scarves. In high school, they are expected to join the “Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union,” a Communist organization named after the nation’s ex-leader, and can wear badges instead.
• Tuition fees, paid monthly, are burdens to many low-income families. Textbook fees also are an impediment to education. Books are often printed in low quality and thus cannot be reused after a year or two. The curriculum changes every few years. Scholarships are rarely given.
• Students are expected to take a heavy compulsory course load. The students need to take the following classes starting from middle school: Vietnamese literature, math, biology, physics, chemistry (starting in 8th grade), history, geography, civics, foreign language (the most common is English, but French and Chinese are offered at some specialized schools), information technology, physical education, music and art (these two separate classes are not at the high school level).
• Students sit in one class, waiting for the teacher to arrive each period. Each class can have as many as 50 students.
• In high school, students have the option to choose among standard education, specialized social sciences education (with different textbooks for history, geography and literature), and specialized natural sciences education (with different textbooks for math, physics, chemistry and biology).
• Student-run activities are generally limited. Popular extracurricular activities include martial arts, swimming and Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union related works.