VietNamNet Bridge – Different opinions have been cited to explain the downgrading of the Vietnamese students’ achievements at International Olympiads. However, mathematicians have agreed that the most important thing in teaching mathematics is not giving tricks to solve mathematics questions, but to arouse the love for mathematics.
Prof. Ngo Bao Chau.
The modest achievements gained by the Vietnamese students at the latest Mathematics Olympiad have shocks to many people, who always believe that Vietnam has been listed among the most mathematics powerful countries.
All the six students attending the 52nd Mathematics Olympiad got medals, but no one won a gold medal. The Vietnamese team ranked the 31st out of the 90 teams of students attending the competition. This is the lowest grade Vietnam has ever gained at mathematics Olympiad.
Professor Ngo Bao Chau, who has won the Fields Medal, the most honorable award in mathematics, thinks that it is because Vietnam has not made appropriate investments to train primary and secondary school students, while primary and secondary education is the most important period, when students’ talents need to be found and developed.
Besides, parents also have big influences on students’ choices. They believe that it is not good to follow mathematics studies nowadays, when the studies cannot bring much money. Parents want their children to follow economics majors which can ensure good lives for them in the future.
Meanwhile, the pay to mathematics teachers is so low that the teachers are not interested in the job of teaching. They spend more time not on scientific research, but on teaching at tutoring classes to earn their living. As a result, the love for mathematics of the youth has downgraded.
“We need more time to fix the problems. The government has set up the key mathematics development program, while the Advanced Mathematics Institute is a part of the program,” Chau said.
Meanwhile, Professor Duong Minh Duc from the HCM City University for Natural Sciences, said that he still can see a lot of people who love mathematics and are very good at mathematics. He believes that it would be unfair just to look at the modest achievements of the mathematics Olympiad and the decreasing number of mathematicians to conclude that Vietnam’s mathematics are degrading.
“Vietnam’s mathematics is developing, which has been reflected in the establishment of the Advanced Mathematics Institute, which gathers leading mathematicians from all over the world,” Duc said.
However, Duc has pointed out that to date, teachers simply show students the tricks and the solutions to mathematics problems, while they do not try to arouse the love for mathematics among students. He believes that the love for mathematics will help make mathematics develop more strongly.
Professor Nguyen Huu Viet Hung from the Hanoi University for Natural Sciences also said, that one should keep cautious when commenting that Vietnam’s mathematics is degrading. The achievements from international Olympiads alone are not enough to make conclusion about the situation of Vietnam’s mathematics.
Hung believes that it is now the time when the advanced mathematics reaches the highest peak. “We need to put confidence on the youth. They do not follow mathematics studies, but they are making their great contribution to the society with their mathematical thinking,” he said.
Professor Phan Quoc Khanh from the HCM City National University said, that Vietnam was once a mathematics power, when people believed that mathematics is the leading basic science. However, the number of people following mathematics studies has been decreasing, while the passion for mathematics has only been aroused recently, when Professor Ngo Bao Chau won the Fields Medal.
Vu Dinh Chuan, Director of the Secondary Education Department under the Ministry of Education and Training, has reassured mathematicians that more people now want to study mathematics, after they can see real good examples of mathematicians.
“We are considering the enrolment measures in order to select and develop mathematics talents and arouse the love for mathematics among young people,” he said.