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Is there a new battle for textbook market share?

Conversations have heated up on Internet forums about Ho Ngoc Dai, the father of the ‘education technology’ program, who wrote a textbook for first graders.

Vietnam prints hundreds of million of textbook copies each year
Vietnam prints hundreds of million of textbook copies each year

In 1978, Ho Ngoc Dai opened the Hanoi Experiment School. At that moment, Vietnamese linguists reviewed the 300-year research of phonetics and the document was brought to university to serve as the official syllabus for third-year students in linguistics at the Hanoi National University.

Dai then used the research achievements when compiling textbooks in Vietnamese language for first graders.

Three goals were set by Dai when compiling the textbook: students need to read and write, have correct spelling, and remain literate.

In the first eight years, Dai’s textbook was used only at the Hanoi Experiment School. In 1986, it began going beyond the experiment scale.

In 2002, the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) began curricula renovation and stated that only textbooks compiled by the ministry could be the official textbooks used in grammar schools.

In 2006, Lao Cai provincial authorities once again used Dai’s textbook. The number of provinces voluntarily using the textbook increased gradually. By 2008, about 20 provinces had used the textbooks at some schools.

In 2017-2018, as requested by MOET Minister Phung Xuan Nha, the textbook underwent reevaluation two times.

Over the last 40 years of existence, Dai’s textbook and ‘education technology’ have continuously raised controversy. However, it is now facing severe criticism.

Some people have accused Dai of using anti-scientific method to teach students to read and write, thus ‘distorting the Vietnamese language’.

On September 8, Dai once again appeared on mass media, affirming that the method applied in the textbook is correct and it has been proved in reality.

Meanwhile, some observers have doubts that the wave that calls for a boycott as the ‘education technology’ textbook has relations to the battle for textbook market share.

Dai’s textbook, which is popular among parents and students, could be a threat to other textbook compilers.

To date, the ‘education technology’ textbook exists along with the textbook compiled by MOET, though it is not considered official material used in teaching.

And the new ‘education technology’ has become more popular among Vietnamese parents and students.

In the 2015-2016 academic year, it was used at 23,336 schools in 47 cities. The provinces of Lao Cai, Lang Son, Thai Nguyen, Phu Tho, Nam Dinh, Ha Tinh, Quang Tri and Kien Giang used the textbook for first graders in the localities.

In 2016-2017, the textbook was used in 48 cities and provinces by 7,857 schools. In 2018-2019, nearly 800,000 students study with the method.

As such, about 50 percent of Vietnamese first graders are studying with Dai’s textbook.