Pre-first grade class - education level which only exists in Vietnam
  • | Saigon Times | April 02, 2011 10:28 AM

Though primary schools will only begin enrolling first grade students in September, parents have to prepare for the race for prestigious schools right now by sending their children to pre-first grade classes, or the classes which prepare students for first grade.

Tran Tuyet Mai, an officer of a media company in Hanoi, related that she has to spend time calling some of her acquaintances to ask for advice on whether to send her child to a pre-first grade class. Mai said that in fact, she does not want to force the child to begin learning too early, but she fears that if the child cannot learn to read and write before going to the first grade, he will lag behind his classmates.

Mai said after several days of consulting with friends, she still cannot make a decision on whether to force the child to attend school before going to the first grade, because all the contradictory advices seem to be reasonable.

Children driven by necessity to go to pre-first grade classes

Hoang Phuong, who has a son studying at Dich Vong A Primary School in Cau Giay district in Hanoi, said that she regrets not sending her child to an extra class before he went to the first grade. While the other boys and girls all could read and write when they entered the first grade, Phuong’s son could not, because he had not spent any time on learning. As a result, the boy always had to stay late at the school after the school hours as requested by the teacher, to practice writing and solving math questions. “He feels he lags behind the classmates, therefore, he is afraid of learning,” Phuong complained.

Though modern mothers believe that they should not force small children to study before a certain age, they are not confident enough to practice what they think. Hoang Lan in Cau Giay District related that she is teaching her son to spell and write, but as she does not have a good pedagogical method and her son cannot learn well and he panic every time when the mother yells at him. Therefore, after consulting with some other mothers, Lan has decided to send the child to a pre-first grade class run by a primary school teacher.

Lan is not alone. Therefore, the demand to learn to read and write for children who are preparing to enter the first grade is very high. That explains why pre-first grade classes have been full of students, though the new academic year will only begin in six months. An acquaintance of Lan has advised her to send her the child to a pre-first grade class run by a teacher of the school where Lan’s son will go. If Lan still cannot find such a teacher, she will have to bring the child to the centers which specialize in organizing pre-first grade training courses. In Hoan Kiem district in Hanoi, such a course with 40 lessons costs 2.5 million dong.

Where there is demand, there is also supply

Having realized the high demand from parents, a lot of non-state primary schools have opened pre-first grade classes for children who are going to kindergartens. Doan Thi Diem school, private primary school in Tu Liem District in Hanoi, is now organizing a course for children who are preparing to enter the first grade, called “Childhood Club”. Meanwhile, Le Quy Don school, another private school has also enrolled children in the “summer club 2011”. Though it is a “summer club”, the school began receiving applications in January and the club has opened since early March. Here at the club, children get acquainted with Vietnamese language, mathematics, English and some intellectual games.

Meanwhile, state officials have many times advised parents not to send children to pre-first grade classes because the learning proves to be too much to handle for children. Pham Xuan Tien, Head of the Primary Education Division under the Hanoi Education and Training Department, affirmed that those children, who finish kindergarten are capable enough to enter the first grade, because at kindergartens, children are already prepared for the first grade by recognizing letters in the alphabet and learning to do simple operations.

However, despite the official statements, parents still bring their children to pre-first grade classes, because they understand that their children will not catch up with the classmates if they do not learn in advance. At most of the state-owned schools, there are about 50 students and only one teacher in every class. Therefore, the teachers are always overloaded with works, and they will not have enough time to take care of every student.

Even Tien also thinks that if children are not familiar with the student appraisal method applied by some schools by attending pre-first grade classes, they will not pass the school entrance tests. Currently, the demand for studying at some prestigious private primary schools is very high. Therefore, the schools have to organize tests to select the most capable students.

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