Vietnam’s gifted schools: The juvenile war

By Pham Van Yesterday, a school for gifted students in Hanoi opened for enrolment and the number of applicants stood at about 10 times ...

By Pham Van
Yesterday, a school for gifted students in Hanoi opened for enrolment and the number of applicants stood at about 10 times the school’s capacity, 480, meaning for each student accepted 10 fail. Though it's not news, these battles have become a standard dinner table discussion. 

In Vietnam, South Korea and China, the most attention sucking competition is the nationwide university entrance exam. The second to best in terms of ferocity is the race for a place in a high school for the gifted. One of them just took place yesterday, when around 5,000 secondary students competed against each other for 480 places in a seemingly superior educational institution.
The ring for the academic battle was a university subsidized gifted school. Although every province and city in Vietnam boasts one to several schools for gifted students, the center of the universe remains in the capital, where they accept applicants from other cities, not to mention the better access to everything from educational materials to high-profile teachers.
Parents from everywhere flock to the capital to support their little angels in the high-octane event they have been preparing for months, even years.
The kids sitting for the exams all aim for a future far better than their peers, or at least that’s what their parents want. Most of them will go to prestigious universities. A large part will study abroad. Some take part in national teams to go up against other countries’ teams in academic competitions. Part of their youth, what some insist should be left to build character only, has been spared for training so they can take part in a competition where the exam papers are designed so even the country’s best prodigies will have to pay attention if they don't want to be left behind.
The scene found at many Vietnam's talented school this summer, and all other summer. The end of academic year marks the beginning of exam season.
The scene found at many of Vietnam's elite schools this summer, and all other summers. The end of an academic year marks the beginning of the exam season. All students have to show up one hour in advance to listen to the exam's regulation.
Already hot by enthusiasm residing in every one at the school, both competitors and non competitors, the exams during this time of year also have the support of sun.
Already burning with the enthusiasm residing in everyone at the school, the exams during this time of year also have the support from the sun.
Inside an exam room.
Inside an exam room.
Exam card checking procedure. A non-academic error that render one ineligible to the exam is always the last thing everyone wants.
Exam check-in procedure. A non-academic error that renders one ineligible for the exam is always the last thing anyone wants.
According to the principal, there is only 454 seats left for the 5000 students, because 26 qualified for the school without having to take the exam.
According to the principal, there are only 454 places left for 5,000 students, because 26 qualified for the school without having to take the exam.
The heat put many down.
The heat put many down.
The students are the most nervous ones. The parents, who can only wait outside with thousands of their counterpart, are.
The students are the most nervous ones, followed by the parents, who can only wait outside with thousands of their counterparts.
Having arrived in Hanoi a few days prior to the exam, a dad from another province shared that he would stay at school  that noon to save money. His family falls under the poverty category but still managed to take the daughter to the exam due to her good performance at school.
Having arrived in Hanoi a few days prior to the exam, a dad said that he would stay at the school that noon to save money. His family falls under the poor category but still managed to take the daughter to the exam due to her good performance at school.
Quick revision with son.
Quick revision with the son.
Sitting inside a university, the exam caused a traffic jam because the inner roads were never meant to take pounding this hard.
Located inside a university, the exam caused a traffic jam because the inner roads were never meant to take a pounding this hard.
Photos by Hoang Phuong - Ngoc Thanh

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