Differences Between American and Vietnamese Education Systems

3. Testing: In Vietnamese classrooms, grades are the only performance evaluation of a student after finishing a class. Grades come from homework, quizzes, monthly exams, and mid-term and final exams. There generally isn’t much teacher feedback providing information to families about student performance in class outside of grades. Teachers generally only give feedback to students through school reports at the end of the school year. Therefore, this has created a perception and pressure from the family and students to earn good grades in school. With new lessons taught each period and the difficulty of exams, as previously discussed, students feel pressured to take extra classes outside of school to better memorize the lessons and gain more practice.

In Vietnam, at the end of secondary school / middle school, 9th-grade students are required to take the “Entrance Exam for 10th grade” or Kỳ thi tuyển sinh vào lớp 10 THPT. The Entrance Exam for 10th grade in Hanoi has four tests: Math, Language, Literature, and one test where the subject is chosen randomly. The subject of the random test will be announced by the Hanoi Ministry of Education and Training during March. For the Language test, students can choose among English, French, German, Japanese, and Korean. This test system differs in regions/cities across Vietnam. In Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh, students are only required to take 3 tests for Math, Language, and Literature.

How to calculate the entrance exam scores: (Math + Literature) x 2 + (Language + 4th test) + Priority Score. The Priority Score is based on the residential region or family/student background. Residential regions are, for example, remote areas or locations high in the mountains, where students don’t have access to education or schools in a nearby area. Family/student background can be students from minority groups, children of veterans, children of Agent Orange parents, and other similar designations.

In 12th grade, students are required to take the National High School Exam or Kỳ thi THPT Quốc gia, which qualifies as both a graduation exam and entrance exam to college. Students have to take at least 4 exams: Math, English, Literature, Natural Science (an integrated exam covering Chemistry, Physics, and Biology) and/or Social Science (an integrated exam covering History, Geography and Civic Education).

Having an excellent score on this National High School Exam / College Entrance Exam allows students to choose their schools and majors. Each different major from each college in Vietnam has a different standard score. The standard score is the minimum score students must earn in order to apply for admission to the school.

This testing system is significantly different from schools in the US. In America, most schools base performance evaluations on various factors such as: class participation, quizzes, homework assignments, and final papers, in addition to the final exam. Students also have the chance to earn extra credit to raise their Grade Point Average. In terms of school and college admission in America, standardized exam scores from the SSAT, SCT, and/or ACT are considered. Recently most schools and colleges have become test-optional. As such, admission officers evaluate students based on their teachers’ recommendation letters, personal statements, extracurricular activities involvement, demonstrated interest, and their “fit” with the school.