For kids in Vietnam, school is a lot like school for kids in the United States. It starts early, between 7:00 and 7:30 in the morning, and classes last until around 4:00 in the afternoon.
Vietnamese students learn a lot of the same stuff kids in the US learn, too, except the languages are different. In Vietnam, children study the Vietnamese language in depth, just like American students study English. Students in Vietnam often study English, too, although as a second language.
Kids in both countries must start school at the age of six. This is a law in both countries. In the United States, children must stay in school until they are 16 but Vietnamese education laws only require a student to attend school until they are 11. Even though kids can leave school after only five years of study, most of them don’t quit school because Vietnamese students and their families understand how learning more means they’ll probably earn more money when they finish school and get a job. Better jobs mean life is easier and a lot more fun than being poor.
Many kids in Vietnam choose to stay in school even after they turn 11 but the students’ families must pay the cost of their education after that. In the United States, public schools are free for grades one through 12.
Vietnamese children as young as 18 months old can go to kindergarten, where they learn the Vietnamese alphabet and simple math skills. Most of the kindergarten students in Vietnam live in the cities because there aren’t as many schools in the country and not every small town or village has a kindergarten.
Kids in both countries can go to college after they graduate from high school, called secondary school in Vietnam. In both countries, every student must pass an important exam before they get accepted into college. When a Vietnamese student passes the test, college is free. Each student can take the test four times to qualify for a free college education.
One thing that makes a public education in Vietnam very different from a public education in the United States is that Vietnamese children stay together, as a group, all through their public school years but American children often have different classmates each year.
Another difference is that teachers in Vietnam change classrooms each year so they can teach the children who stay together in the same classroom year after year. In the US, teachers have just one classroom and they stay in it year after year, with a different group of children coming to the teacher’s classroom every year as they progress through the education system.
Education experts believe this difference in classroom progression influences children in different ways. The Vietnamese system is thought to make students comfortable and happy with their classmates, who don’t change throughout their education, but shy with strangers. The American system focuses more on the child as an individual, a concept that contrasts from the Vietnamese way of placing more value on the group than the individual student.
Students in Vietnam are encouraged to listen carefully and take lots of notes but they cannot talk freely or ask too many questions in class. In the US educational system, children are, in many classes, encouraged to participate and offer their opinions, ideas, and questions.