The model of school dialogue carried out at Hai Ba Trung High School (Hue city) has become a typical activity of a “happy school”. At school, students are encouraged to express their opinions and aspirations on issues relating to school facilities, teaching and learning quality, and extra-curricular activities. Their voices are heard, recognized and reflected by the school administrators.
Ms. Nguyen Thi Hoa Phuong, the Deputy Principal of Hai Ba Trung High school took me along the school hallways, where the two mailboxes “Students’ Voice” stand out against the burnt red walls of the over one hundred years old school. “The two mailboxes were installed basing on the students’ recommendations in the school dialogue 2019. Students’ opinions, questions and aspirations were sent to the school administrators via the mailboxes on a regular basis and have been categorized by the Counselling Board. Letters sent to the Principal are forwarded right to him.”, said Ms. Phuong.
The two mailboxes installed basing on the students’ recommendations in the school dialogue in 2019
In 2019, with suggestion, guidance and technical support from the Centre for Rural Development in Central Vietnam (CRD) within the framework of the project “Strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations on Child Rights Governance” funded by Save the Children International, the School Administrators of Hai Ba Trung high school carried out the very first school dialogue themed “Creating a happy school environment”.
In the dialogue, numerous opinions and recommendations relating to the school’s infrastructure and facilities, the quality of teaching and learning, and the promotion of extra-curricular activities have been raised by the students in a confident, straight forward and constructive manner.
In order to reflect the students’ suggestions, the school administrators did take a number of actions right in the school period 0f 2019-2020. The actions included upgrading facilities, repairing damaged equipment in classrooms, reminding the garage staff to have proper behavior and attitudes towards students, no longer using plastic book covers, launching the “Green Classroom” movement to give students an opportunity to make the classroom green in their own ways, and installing two “Students’ Voice” mailboxes along the school hallways. On the other hand, acknowledging the significance of the dialogue in promoting democracy and meaningful participation and contribution of students in the development of the school environment, the Principal decided to integrate teacher-student dialogue into the school’s plan as an annual school activity that is hosted by the school’s Youth Union.
Student speaking in the school dialogue “Creating a happy school environment” in 2019
Student speaking in the school dialogue “Creating a happy school environment” in 2020
Mr. Ngo Duc Thuc, the principal of Hai Ba Trung high school said to the students, “I really love this activity as I can listen to students’ opinions in person and understand exactly what they want to say”. Mr. Thuc also had a desire to implement this kind of dialogue regularly. “For urgent matters, don’t wait until next the school dialogue. You are invited to go right to my office for quick response. I am here willing to listen no matter how busy I could be.”, added he.
It is obvious that when being given the chance to speak up and have their voices listened and recognized by teachers, the students become more confident in expressing their points of view, ideas and suggestions. The school also figured out the way to ensure that opportunities to participate are equal to all students, and that the recommendations put forward by student’s representatives have already been discussed and agreed among others. It is worth mentioning that the Principal, members of the School Board and representatives of related departments were present from the beginning to the end in any dialogue to answer all the questions and make clear what could be solved immediately and what took time to be changed.
According to Nguyen Thi Lan Phuong, 11 grade: “This is the second time I have been in the school dialogue. In the event last year, I reflected on the damage of some classroom facilities. Right after that, the principle had the department of school facilities fix them shortly. It was the first time I had a chance to speak directly to the principal about our problems on my friends’ behalf. I hope that the activity will be scaled up in the future with more issues to discuss and more students invited to participate.”
Ms. Nguyen Thi Hoa Phuong, Vice Principal of Hai Ba Trung High school
“A happy school environment is not about great things but practical and enabling spaces where students are loved, protected, respected and enabled to exercise their rights; thereby increasing mutual and better understandings among school administrators, teachers, parents and students. In order to do so, it requires practical and meaningful school activities which provide opportunities for students to have their voice heard and responded. School dialogue is such an activity. Significantly, the activity has been planned right at the beginning of the 2020 – 2021 school year and is expected to be held annually.”
(Ms. Nguyen Thi Hoa Phuong, Vice Principal)