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Vietnam demands English language teaching 'miracle' | Education | Guardian Weekly - 0 views

  • More than 80,000 English language teachers in Vietnam's state schools are expected to be confident, intermediate-level users of English, and to pass a test to prove it, as part of an ambitious initiative by the ministry of education to ensure that all young people leaving school by 2020 have a good grasp of the language.
  • But the initiative is worrying many teachers, who are uncertain about their future if they fail to achieve grades in tests such as Ielts and Toefl.

    "All teachers in primary school feel very nervous," said Nguyen Thi La, 29, an English teacher at Kim Dong Primary School in Hanoi.

    "It's difficult for teachers to pass this exam, especially those in rural provinces. B2 is a high score."

    "All we know is that if we pass we are OK. If we don't we can still continue teaching, then take another test, then if we fail that, we don't know."

  • "No teachers will be sacked if they are not qualified because we already know most of them are not qualified. No teachers will be left behind and the government will take care of them. But if the teachers don't want to improve, then parents will reject them because only qualified teachers will be able to run new training programmes."
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  • The state media recently reported that in the Mekong Delta's Ben Tre province, of 700 teachers who had been tested, only 61 reached the required score. In Hue, in central Vietnam, one in five scored B2 or higher when 500 primary and secondary teachers were screened with tests tailored by the British Council.
  • "B2 is achievable enough. The teachers I know want to improve their English but want their salaries to be higher so that they can have an incentive to try harder to meet the standard," said Tran Thi Qua, a teacher trainer from the education department in Hue.
  • "The government needs to fund courses to help improve the quality of the teachers, and pay them more money, but I think if teachers don't want to improve, then they should change jobs," she said.
  • A new languages-focused curriculum delivered by retrained teachers should be in place in 70% of grade-three classes by 2015, according to ministry plans, and available nationwide by 2019. English teaching hours are set to double and maths will be taught in a foreign language in 30% of high schools in major cities by 2015.
  • Rebecca Hales, a former senior ELT development manager at British Council Vietnam, said: "The ministry is taking a phased approach, which is commendable, but there are issues with supply and demand. They don't have the trained primary English teachers. The targets are completely unachievable at the moment."
  • "The teacher trainers we trained up are now at the mercy of the individual education departments. There's no evidence at this stage of a large-scale teacher training plan," Hales said.
  • "There are many challenges. We are dealing with everything, from training, salaries and policy, to promotion, how to train [teachers] then keep them in the system. I'm not sure if [Project 2020] will be successful. Other countries have spent billions on English language teaching in the private sector but still governments have been very unhappy with the outcomes."
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