>> Vietnamese-American students win big at ISEF
>> Vietnamese students compete at international science fair
Vietnamese is doing more to encourage students to join the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).
Welcoming ceremony for two winners of international Olympiad 2011
Several leaders of the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET), as well as educators nationwide, have pointed out some shortcomings of international Olympiads, where Vietnam has harvested many prizes during the last decades. The criticism is that students should take part in contests which focus on skills with more practical applications.
Importance of innovation
Despite gaining considerable achievements in international Olympiads for years, Vietnam has somewhat ignored ISEF, which is the world's largest international pre-college science competition. The ISEF has been organised by the Society for Science and the Public, in the U.S., since 1950.
In late July, even while news came in of the good results at this year's Olympiads, MoET sat down with educators at all levels in Hue to come up with ways to attract more Vietnamese students to ISEF, as well as help them to succeed.
MoET Deputy Minister Nguyen Vinh Hien commented, "Students who attend Olympiads are to perform exercises that have already been chosen, while ISEF encourages contestants to develop their own ideas, ask critical questions and come up with answers, all with the help of educators and professionals. This is more likely to give students a skill set that could be useful in the future."
How to achieve with ISEF?
Nguyen Thi Anh Phuong, Director of Lam Dong Provincial Department of Education and Training, the first organisation in Vietnam to send students to ISEF in 2009 and 2010, shared, “Vietnamese need more experience in carrying out scientific research, particularly in the social sciences."
According to Phuong, the lack of cooperation between high schools and research institutes has added to the problem.
Several officials worried that students might be so overwhelmed with their studies that they don't have time to consider entering ISEF.
Ms. Karen Merrill, Director of Intel ISEF said, “Each year over 60 countries and territories around in the world send students to ISEF. Many of them have been providing incentives for those who attend.”
According to Merrill, Taiwanese students who make it to the final round are granted automatic acceptance to the university of their choice within the territory, and winners of the competition are given full scholarships. If a Taiwanese student wins first prize they are granted a full scholarship to any university in the world.
MoET Deputy Minister Nguyen Vinh Hien said that they are now considering incentives for Vietnamese students to attend ISEF.
“The goal of participating in ISEF is not to win, but change the direction and increase the quality of education as a whole in Vietnam," Hien said.
To fulfill that goal ISEF participants are important, but due attention should be paid to the education system at all levels, Merrill noted.
This competition has inspired several countries with students who have won to add practical, experiment-based science courses to the preschool curriculum. At higher levels of education, smaller contests are organised in order to identify promising students who could be eligible for ISEF.
According to Hien, Vietnam's education system has also been gradually switching towards more practical methods of education.
Some officials are concerned about the English skills of Vietnamese ISEF contestants. Even with impressive research, a student could be excluded because of their poor English.
But Merrill emphasised the importance of innovative ideas and quality of research over English skills. She said that students with difficulties in the language would be provided with interpreters.