Hanoi (VNA) – The new academic year 2020-2021 started on September 5 as usual, but it is a special year for the education and training sector due to difficulties and challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Ministry of Education and Training, this year, schools see higher number of students compared to the previous school year by 900,000 students.

This is also the first school year that a fundamental and comprehensive reform is implemented in schools nationwide, starting with the first grade.

A new page turned

From this year, the old textbooks for the first grade, which are called the 2000 programme, will no longer be published.

The first graders will use new ones with a new curriculum that is applied for the first time in schools under a new general education programme. It took the ministry five years to prepare the programme as part of efforts to realise the Party Central Committee’s Resolution 29 on fundamental and comprehensive education reform.

Accordingly, the general education programme will neither focus too much on academic knowledge and theory nor follow the old way of merely imparting knowledge to students. Instead, attention will be paid to fostering students’ capacity and personality.

For the first time, the education sector set specific targets for its “products” – i.e students, which are five qualities and 10 skills to be developed at different levels in different grades. The five qualities are patriotism, responsibility, honesty, hardworking, and kindness, while the 10 skills are in the areas of physical fitness, aesthetic sense, information technology, science, mathematics, language, communication and cooperation, problem solving and creativeness, self-reliance, and self-studying.

This is also the first time that students, parents and teachers can choose one among five sets of textbooks instead of having one single set as previously. And for the first time, teachers have full authority to evaluate and choose the textbooks that fit the capacity of themselves and their students as well as the conditions of the locality.

In order to prepare for the scheme, prior to the start of the new school year, Minister of Education and Training Phung Xuan Nha sent a document to provincial Departments of Education and Training and the People’s Committees of provinces and cities nationwide, asking them to create the best conditions for first graders, including classrooms and teaching and learning tools.

Minister Nha asked schools to ensure equipment and skilled teachers for the application of the new curriculum and textbooks for first graders.

Alongside, this year, the sector has to continue preparing for the implementation of the new programme for second graders in the next year.

Special school year opens up new period for education sector hinh anh 1A special school year for first-graders (Photo: VNA)

Dual targets

Amid the complicated development of the COVID-19 pandemic, the implementation of educational activities in the 2020-2021 school year are predicted to face difficulties. According to Minister Nha, the sector will have to fulfill the double targets of effectively preventing the spreading of the pandemic and completing the yearly plan. Many solutions have been designed towards those goals.

In a directive on tasks for the new school year issued on September 1, Minister Nha asked provincial-level Departments of Education and Training to pay attention to measures to ensure education quality amidst the complicated developments of COVID-19 pandemic.

In localities where lockdowns measures are imposed, online teaching will be conducted to make sure studying activities of students are not disrupted.

For online education to be more effective and become part of the regular school activities instead of being just a provisional solution, the ministry is urgently finalizing a circular guiding online teaching.

To Hong Nam, deputy head of the Department of Information Technology under the Ministry of Education and Training, once published, the circular will create a legal corridor for the activities. Currently, a draft document has been put up for public comment.

This year, schools in localities with new outbreaks of COVID-19 had to organise the school year opening ceremony online. For the first time ever, students donned their uniforms, sat down in front of their computer for the ceremony – an unusual way to start a special academic year./.