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Educators express skepticism over Vietnam’s 12th position in global education rankings

Many local educators first expressed surprise, and then uncertainty, toward Vietnam’s 12th position in rankings published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently.

Educators express skepticism over Vietnam’s 12th position in global education rankings
Educators express skepticism over Vietnam’s 12th position in global education rankings

Singapore topped the rankings in the report titled “Universal Basic Skills – What Countries Stand to Gain,” while the five lowest-ranked countries are Oman in 72nd, Morocco, Honduras, South Africa, and Ghana in the last spot.

Countries famous for their education systems like Australia, the UK, and the U.S. surprisingly ranked 14th, 20th and 28th, respectively.

According to OECD, the analysis was based on test scores of 15 year-old students in mathematics and science in 76 developed and developing countries put in one scale.

“This is the first time we have a truly global scale of the quality of education,” BBC quoted OECD’s education director Andreas Schleicher as saying about the rankings, which aimed to show the link between education and economic growth.

“The idea is to give more countries, rich and poor, access to comparing themselves against the world’s education leaders, to discover their relative strengths and weaknesses, and to see what the long-term economic gains from improved quality in schooling could be for them,” he said.

Associate Professor Tran Xuan Nhi, former Deputy Minister of Education and Training, said the rankings cannot confirm that the quality of education in Vietnam is better than it is in developed countries since the OECD only judged the results of mathematics and science tests, not all aspects of the Southeast Asian country’s education.

“In fact, our education has inadequacies compared with other countries’,” Nhi told newswire VOV. “It cannot be trusted when we say Vietnam is better than Australia, the U.S., and the UK.”

“Parents and the government shouldn’t be satisfied with the results,” he added. “We have to pay attention to our inadequate education.”

Meanwhile, according to instructor Vu Thu Huong, from the Hanoi National University of Education, the rankings are not clear about their participants and methods.

She also agreed that it was only based on the mathematics and science scores, while it is necessary to examine all aspects of a student if people want to comment on educational quality.

“This kind of biased judgment will cause unnecessary misunderstandings, not a panoramic perspective on the issue,” newswire VTC quoted Huong’s as saying.

Moreover, one thing which was not clear in the report is that in Vietnam, science includes many subjects and different grades of study in various fields, she added.

Meanwhile, the Hanoi-based FPT University’s rector, Dam Quang Minh, offered an objective perspective on the numbers.

“Objectively, the OECD’s rankings show that Vietnam’s education has done a good job in teaching mathematics, reading and science,” Minh expressed in VnExpress newswire.

“The reason is those subjects have been considered major subjects and have been taught most of the time in Vietnam,” he said, adding that the OECD’s rankings are scientific and accurate.

However, he confirmed that it is not a durable basic for Vietnam to lean on and develop because it just proves that Vietnam has a good system for mathematics and science education for students under 15.

“OECD countries [18 European countries plus the U.S. and Canada] have developed social science subjects so they have not paid as much attention to mathematics and science,” Minh said.

“This is a weakness that needs to be improved in those countries,” Minh added. “For that reason, Vietnamese policymakers also need to determine the country’s weaknesses when they talk about educational adjustment.”

Other educational experts said the rankings are good news and people should not refuse what Vietnamese education has achieved over time, but it is important to determine what Vietnam should focus on next to make student knowledge more comprehensive so that they can meet the demand of a high quality workforce in modern society.

Sir Anthony Seldon, head of Wellington College in Berkshire, criticized such league tables as “arguably doing more harm than good.”

“They are skewing schools and national education systems away from real learning towards repetitive rote learning,” he said on BBC.