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The Stress Coping Mechanisms of Vietnamese Students In Gifted Schools

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Truong, Truc Thanh 
Underwood, James 


This article takes the familiar subject of student stress and transports it to an unfamiliar setting – “gifted schools” in Vietnam. Research by Vietnamese academics into stress among Vietnamese adolescents, has so far largely been quantitative and has focused on identifying the nature of this problem within Vietnam’s high outcomes but high-pressure education system. This paper takes an alternative qualitative approach, focusing on accessing student voice and using this to understand the coping strategies that Vietnamese students develop. The focus on ‘gifted schools’, is because these highly selective institutions attain exceptionally high academic outcomes according to international comparisons but also consequently place upon their students very high expectations and an extremely high workload. It is also because these schools and their students were supportive in co-creating this study. Via the innovative use of text-based interview, a method that was co-designed in conversation with the participants, this article explores the coping strategies that these students have developed, and in the findings presents a story of how they have developed sophisticated and individualised strategies to cope with stress. This article therefore approaches this issue from a positive and empowering perspective in partnership with the participants in this study. As revealed in this study - the students emphasised the importance of self-reliance when finding strategies, accompanied by the need for self-definition of whether strategies are positive or negative. As one example: rumination, which in Western research is typically portrayed as negative was seen more positively by these Vietnamese students. However, despite the emphasis on finding their own solutions they also welcomed increases in formal mental health support. The results of this study have the potential to inform practice and also lay the groundwork for future research, particularly within the context of education in Vietnam but also within the area of student voice research more broadly.



Stress, coping mechanisms, Vietnamese gifted schools, mental health, Confucianism, student voice

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CERJ, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

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