* What changes are being made to the 2016 high school graduation and college entrance exams?
The main principle used to adjust the national high school graduation and college entrance exams this year is to maintain good aspects from the previous year and adjust shortcomings to ensure candidates have the psychological stability needed to prepare for the exams.
The parts we will not change for the 2016 exams are the exam dates, times, duration, structure and types of questions. In the near future, the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) will release practice tests to help students get an idea of what the tests will look like.
One other aspect that will remain the same is the two types of competition clusters. One type of competition cluster is for students who wish to get results for both high school graduation and college admission. The other cluster is for students who only wish to have a high school graduation evaluation.
Implementing the guidance of Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, the MOET organised the contest clusters for high school students who want to use the exam results for high school graduation and college admission in all provinces and centrally run cities across the country. Each of the provinces and centrally run cities will host the exams in collaboration with local education and training departments. Hanoi and HCM City, the two cities with the most students, will have multiple clusters students can select from.
The number of competition clusters also increased. All of the provinces and centrally run cities have clusters hosted by universities in co-ordination with local departments of education and training for exam candidates with the added college entrance exam. Last year, some localities had experience organising the tests. For example HCM City University of Agriculture and Forestry hosted competition clusters in Pleiku and Gia Lai. Some provinces like An Giang also have support from central universities. The ministry assigned the Law University to organise an exam and everything was done very well. This year, the ministry will replicate this model, so there should be no trouble.
* Last year, congestion at time of score publication stopped some of the millions of students and parents from being able to access test results. This year, does the MOET have any plans to make the score announcement process better for candidates?
As I have discussed, this year's exam will tackle the inadequacies of the 2015 exams, including the exam result announcement process. Last year, there were eight web addresses students could go to, but the network congestion still occurred, making it very difficult for them to access their results.
This year the Ministry has launched the latest cluster policy implementation – that host universities and educational institutions will announce the exam results in clusters. This should fix the congestion from last year.
In addition, there is a change in the regulations for admission. Last year, the MOET allowed candidates to submit unlimited applications to increase the chance of being admitted to colleges; however the policy created inadequacies for the students and their families. Highly competitive universities saw mass withdrawals of applications in the last hours of the result announcements. This won't happen again, as the Ministry has issued new regulations.
This year, in the first phase, each contestant is allowed to register for a maximum of two institutions. In each school up to two majors can be selected. Last year it was one school and four majors. The change gives applicants the opportunity to select their favourite field of study in two different schools. Such candidates can choose their favourite profession, not just place.
This year students can also stay at home and register online or by mail in order to reduce travel time and money spent. The MOET will manage common databases for schools to access and manage the registration of candidates as prescribed, to avoid repeating the shortcomings of 2015.
* This year the use of information technology has been more frequent, but are local schools' information technology systems capable of handling this?
The ministry used the software used last year to prepare for this year. However, schools are required to update necessary information, databases and infrastructure to adapt to the general software for admission. The schools can write their own software, but it must be compatible with the ministry's software.
The ministry will provide schools guidance on information technology and enrolment software. The ministry does this every year, but this year they will do it earlier so schools can prepare their infrastructure, as well as their recruitment manpower.