By: Ngoc Dinh

Legend narrates that a long time ago, Dragons were tasked with pouring water down on earth to create rain, thereby giving life to all things on earth. However, as dragons became more and more rare, the Jade Emperor organized a competition amongst all sea creatures to deem who was worthy enough to become the next Dragon. Of all the animals, only the carp could overcome all of the Jade Emperor’s “Dragon Gate” obstacles, earning his reincarnation as the Dragon.

In Eastern culture, a dragon-carp is the symbol for surpassing difficult obstacles, aptly associated with students sitting for their examinations. Similar to the Jade Emperor’s “Dragon Gates,” a student in Vietnam must pass a series of rigorous examinations in order to continue her studies. The first obstacle is the high school graduation examination, which comprises of 6 subjects of study. The 3 main subjects are: Mathematics, Literature, Foreign Language, while the 3 additional subjects may include Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Geography, and History. This second obstacle of University or College examinations are often considered to be the greatest opportunity for students to realize their “dreams.” According to a survey conducted by Vietnam’s Science and Education Institute, 97.7% of high school students indicated they plan on taking the University entrance exams. (Survey of 1,737 students in 20 schools in 10 provinces in Central Vietnam).

“In my class, everyone wants to take the University exams. I think that’s just customary, what everyone does,” noted Thanh, one of kids at Xuan Phu Shelter.

Despite the high number of students who sit for the exams, the general public feels that an extended examination season, in which high school graduation and University entrance exams are held at multiple locations in the city within a time span of two months, causes excessive spending. In addition, the whole process creates tantamount stress for students and parents alike. If students must sit for both examinations, they have to study 7 different subjects (including 4 subjects for high school graduation and 3 subjects for University or College). With students who want to test for 3-4 different majors, they have to test for 10 – 13 different subjects.

As a response to rising public opinion over the years, the Ministry of Education has announced that from 2015 on, students only have to sit for one complete examination, and results from those exams will be used for both high school graduation and University acceptance. All students would have to test for a four subjects: Mathematics, Literature, Foreign Language, and self-selected. Students have the option of testing for additional subjects to increase their chances of being admitted into University or College. As a result, students only have to test a maximum of 8 subjects at one location, compared to the prior 13-14 subjects at two different locations. Reducing the “obstacle” to one overall examination will decrease the stress and pressure of the long examination season at various testing centers, as well as reducing the finances previously allocated to hosting examinations. Students can also focus on their preferred subjects of study.

The diagram summarizes the examination process for high school graduation and University or College acceptance. 

Our Xuan Phu Children’s Center follows each child’s education closely, especially to this upcoming change in the testing system. At our shelter, we have 3 students in grade 12, Trang, Linh, and Thanh, preparing for their examinations in 2015. To the kids, University exams are of the utmost serious matter. Each student emphasized the personal importance of the examination, and that a University degree will help ensure a good career in their future. All three students know of the changes and are assiduously preparing for their examinations. Of course, even with the slighty lighter load, the pressure of the “Dragon Gates” still hangs heavily on our students. The kids confided failing university examinations is the biggest worry they all have in their final year.

“If I don’t pass the University examinations? At first I’ll be really sad and disappointed. But of course, I will continue to study…Oh but, I’m absolutely positive I’ll pass my University exams,” Thanh said while studying.  The future architect smiled with confidence.