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Vietnam seeks massive curriculum overhaul for K-12 education, after years of trials and errors
By Thanh Nien News -
An undated photo of a class at Ho Chi Minh City-based Au Co Elementary School
When it comes to education, Vietnamese policymakers love shaking things up regularly. 
Faced with strong criticism from the public and educators for failing to create a practical curriculum for the K-12 education system, the Ministry of Education now wants to have another try, with a complete overhaul that it describes as "fundamental and comprehensive." 
Under a plan announced Wednesday, students can choose which subjects they want and the number of compulsory subjects is reduced significantly. 
For instance, high school students from grade 10 to 12, a stage considered as the stepping-stone for entry to universities, will only be required to study four core subjects, instead of 13 mandatory subjects. 
Literature, mathematics, and foreign languages will continue to be compulsory. The fourth one is "Citizens and the Nation," a new subject that supposedly consists of education about national defense, civic duties and some knowledge regarding history and geography.
Students then choose three or four from around 10 optional subjects, including physics, chemistry, biology and computer science. 
Instead of sharing a national curriculum like now, schools will be allowed to build their own academic programs in accordance with criteria set by the ministry, Deputy Education Minister Nguyen Vinh Hien said in Tuoi Tre newspaper.
Speaking to the newspaper about the draft, educators were divided.
Ha Huu Thach, president of Ho Chi Minh City's Giong Ong To High School, praised it as "a strong transition" and "an advanced step," especially considering the reduction of study loads for students during the last years of high school. 
Meanwhile, Nguyen Quang Minh, a high school teacher also in HCMC, did not think that less compulsory subjects will mean less loads for students, as the problem of Vietnam's education lies in the fact that it is overloaded with academic theories, while seriously lacking practicability.
He also worried that the ministry's plan to make many subjects optional will leave students with a huge gap of knowledge important for their daily life.
The new plan came more than a year after the ministry drew criticisms from educators and the public when presenting a VND34.27 trillion (US$1.62 billion) plan to reform K-12 education over the next 10 years.
The project, which focused on reforming textbooks and academic programs, was dismissed as implausible and vague.
In response to the criticisms, the education ministry then denied the costs, saying it was mistakenly reported, and delayed submitting the plan to the legislature for approval.
Since 1980, Vietnam's K-12 education has gone through at least four overhauls with the last effort taking place in 2000.