VietNamNet Bridge – Nguyen Hong Quyen, a graduate of the accountancy faculty at the HCM City University of Economics, says she has lost many opportunities to get a good job because of her low English proficiency.
Quyen applied to many companies for a job but failed because she could not pass the interview round in English.
Information technology students at the HCM City University of Science and Technology during an English class. A national English language programme aims to have most graduates from colleges and universities speaking English or another foreign language by 2020. (Photo: VNS)
"I could not communicate in English with the interviewer although he was asking me simple things like introducing myself and my faculty," she said.
"It is difficult to seek a job these days without knowing English reasonably well," she said, adding that it had become a condition required by employers.
After her graduation, Quyen was jobless for three months, and is now temporarily working at a store selling cell phones.
Quyen said that she had been learning English for 16 years, but had not been able to improve her skills.
"The lack of English proficiency is not uncommon among new graduates," Dr Nguyen Ngoc Hung, head of National Foreign Language Project's management board, said at a conference on teaching foreign languages at the tertiary level held on Monday in HCM City.
"It is the result of low quality of teaching for several years now," Hung said.
He said English teaching methods in Viet Nam typically did not create an environment for learners to practise their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.
Hung said learning English was like learning singing or playing a musical instrument, requiring a lot of time to practise.
But in a class here, the time for learners to practise speaking with and listening to each other accounts for 10 per cent, according to Hung.
Current curricula and textbooks focus on teaching new vocabulary and grammar, failing to stimulate learners' interest.
Moreover, most students do not know how to learn English effectively although many sources are available on Internet. They are also shy about speaking in a foreign language.
Many English teachers failed to achieve minimum scores on international tests, Hung said, adding this was a challenge facing the teaching of English in the country.
"To make matters worse, the number of students in one English classroom at many universities is very high, sometimes more than a 100 students in a class, making lessons ineffective," Hung said.
In this context, implementation of the national foreign language project at all levels including the tertiary level gained utmost importance, Hung said.
The project aims to have most graduates from colleges and universities speak English or another foreign language by 2020.
The Government will spend VND9.4 trillion (US$447.6 million) on the project, according to Dr Nguyen Thi Le Huong, deputy head of the Tertiary Education Department.
The project will focus on improving professional skills of teaching staff, reviewing and renewing teaching programmes and textbooks as well as introducing teaching software.
The project will modernise training facilities and equipment and exert tighter control over the examination and assessment of teachers.
The project will also introduce many preferential and incentive policies to help universities keep their English teachers.
Moreover, attention will be paid to increasing international co-operation for English teachers to improve their professional skills and knowledge.
According to Huong, the International Co-operation and Training Department will send 60 per cent of foreign language teachers to other countries to attend short-term and long-term training courses by 2015, and the remaining 40 per cent will be sent by 2016.
VietNamNet/Viet Nam News