Vietnam's education experts on August 28 called for more efforts to better prepare students for their respective career choices and entry into the labour market during their years in secondary education.

They gathered at a meeting organised by the National Assembly’s Committee for Culture, Education, Youth and Children to discuss the national project to reform textbooks and curricula beginning in 2015, which the Ministry of Education and Training is drafting.

A majority of the participants agreed that Vietnamese students were experiencing extreme pressure whenever they were preparing for examinations and remained vague about their career choices and the idea of life-long learning.

Tran Thi Tam Dan, former Chairperson of the NA Committee for Culture, Education, Youth and Children, said the system should be divided into 10 years for basic education and two years for career orientation.

But Professor Dao Trong Thi, Chairman of the NA Committee for Culture, Education, Youth and Children, said students should only spend nine years in basic education and after that, either enroll in vocational schools or spend another three years in preparation for university.

Currently, Vietnamese students enroll in elementary school at the age of six from Grades One to Five, then move on to Secondary School from Grades Six to Nine and High School, from Grades 10 to 12.

The participants noted that a majority of students devoted all these years to studying, with the sole purpose of entering university, and have no idea about what to do if they failed to pass the national university entrance examination.

Dan also urged the Ministry of Education and Training to encourage individuals, organisations and the private sector to take part in writing textbooks, a prevalent practice in a number of Western countries.

Professor Nguyen Minh Hac, who was Education Minister from 1987 to 1990, said that if changes were not carefully and immediately done on the current educational system, Vietnam would continue to have thousands of unemployed university graduates, a major concern for a country in desperate need of young talent.

Hac said the pressure for students to enter university was so great that 1.2 million students would compete in entrance examinations every year, with some private universities even trying to lure more students by lowering the required entrance scores to a level deemed as "unacceptable."

He also agreed that the last two years should be used for classifying students who either want to go to universities and colleges or want to immediately enter the labour market.

The system should make sure that after entering the labour market, students could return to school to pursue higher education at any time, Hac added.

"Any reform of our textbooks and curricula must go hand-in-hand with the reform of our teaching and learning methods and a change in this entire society's mindset," Hac stressed.

"Learning is not for examinations. It is meant to improve their lives and that of their families, their communities and the entire society."

Professor Ho Ngoc Dai, a renowned educational psychologist, said the project must receive inputs and suggestions from the children themselves.

"The children of the 21st century are so different, and we cannot force them to study in the same way we or previous generations did," Dai remarked. "We want to make sure that studying and going to school can make the children happy, and they must be at the centre of all the reforms we are seeking."

Dai added that the reform of pedagogical schools was also critical to ensure that teachers would keep pace with and adapt to change.-VNA