Rainbow Bright

For kids to think creatively, parents must help change the education system here

I would like to draw attention to an excerpt in a recent article in Vietnam News that caught my eye: “Prime Minister Dung calls for highly creative, brighter teachers. Vietnam should renew its attitude towards education and education management so it could train teachers with intellectual skills and creativity…. with an open education, which has good teaching and learning methods, alongside the growth of a learning society, to ensure the necessary conditions for a better education system.”

This statement reflects a real need in the Vietnamese educational system. The PM said this was necessary to develop the nation so that the best people could actively contribute to the country’s development. Unfortunately, my experience inside one of the teachers colleges here indicates that the teachers are often unwilling to take on the challenge. The current education system does not encourage teachers to be open to creative teaching methods.

The function of education is implied in its Latin root ‘educare,’ meaning “to draw forth; to lead out.” Educare means that the first task of teaching is to call forth children’s potential, to lead them out into creativity through providing information.

Doug Goodkin, author of The ABC’s of Education, says, “Get rid of those desks in rows, make space for circles and bring in round tables that invite group work and discussion.” This thought was in the back of my mind as I taught a class of 4 to 5-year-olds. Using the theme of a rainbow, the children were given the colors of the spectrum cut into separate crescents. While listening to the lyrics, “Colors of the rainbow, red, orange, yellow, green and blue,” they placed the corresponding colors into a rainbow (half-circle) shape.

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Then after, and still listening to the same music, the children were asked to make their own patterns using the crescent shaped colors. Most of the children, with a little prompting, began to make serpentine lines and one child created a smiley face. However, one child could not use the colored pieces to make anything other than the original rainbow. She kept looking over at the others but was unable to think ‘outside the box’ of the original shape.

‘Thinking outside (or beyond) the box,’ sometimes referred to as lateral thinking, means solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional stepby- step logic. The child who was unable to create an original pattern was the only one in the class attending a government school, where the encouragement to improvise doesn’t exist.

What can parents do to support the Prime Minister’s call? By getting involved with the school’s administrators and educators – and that’s the challenge. My experience has shown that parents in Vietnam are all too willing to send their children to government or private schools, pay all the required fees or even extracurricular teaching fees, but rarely get involved.

The parents are the first and most important teachers in a child’s life. Until parents realize that they are the only valid source of feedback to the educational community, the system will not change. Most parents here are products of learning ‘by rote’ and they themselves find it challenging to think outside the box.

Bio: Lauralynn Goetz, B.A., M.M.Ed. US, is the director of an early childhood education center in Vietnam

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