VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnam has been following the national strategy on teaching English at general schools. However, the lack of standardized teachers has been hindering the strategy implementation.
In an effort to standardize the English teaching in the new 2011-2012 academic year, the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) has stipulated that only the teachers who get 550 TOEFL marks will be eligible for teaching English at grammar schools. However, very few teachers can meet the requirement, which spells that Vietnam will seriously lack standardized teachers.
TOEFL 550 requirement causes headaches to teachers
506 English teachers in Soc Trang province will have to pass the important test to be held in late September, to be able to continue teaching English at their schools. The test has made the teachers worried stiff.
Nguyen Thu Nga, an English teacher of the Le Loi High School, said that for the last many years, English teachers mainly teach two basic skills of reading and writing. Meanwhile, TOEFL requires good skills in all reading, writing, listening and speaking, which teachers do not have if they do not practice the skills regularly.
“We live in rural areas, therefore, we do not have the opportunities to practice the skills,” Nga said. “If MOET still insists on the high requirements, many of us will not be able to continue teaching, or have to learn more to repeat the tests.”
Meanwhile, educators have predicted that no more than 10 percent of the total teachers would pass the tests, while the other 90 percent would have to attend training courses to improve their skills.
A recent survey conducted by MOET in Ben Tre province has found out that only one teacher out of the 700 current teachers can meet B2 standard, 60 teachers can meet B1 standard, while the others could not meet any requirements.
According to Nguyen Van Huan, Deputy Director of the Ben Tre provincial Education and Training Department, the majority of teachers at primary schools are the ones trained to teach at secondary schools. Therefore, their teaching method proves to be unsuitable to small children, and the English teaching has not brought the desired effects.
Huan went on to say that the education department has decided to change the teacher recruitment method. It is now seeking teachers by considering the education profiles, inviting for interviews and considering the actual ability of candidates.
It is also very difficult to find out qualified English teachers in Hanoi. In 2010, the Hanoi Education and Training Department examined the qualification of 148 teachers, who joined the pilot program on teaching English to third graders, and found out that only 28 teachers could meet TOEFL 550. This means that the majority of teachers could not meet the standards.
Upgrading teachers’ qualification? It’ll take time
The traditional English teaching method which has been applied for the last many years has produced a lot of generations of students, who can only read, but cannot listen or speak English. Therefore, the decision by MOET to standardize teachers and modernize the English teaching has been commented as a necessary thing.
Under the MOET’s plan on teaching and learning foreign languages in the national education system in 2008-2010, in the immediate time, the teaching of English in accordance with new curriculums would be applied to third and higher graders. In 2010-2011, the teaching was provided to 20 percent of third graders, while the figure would be expanded to 70 percent by 2015-2016, and 100 percent by 2018-2019.
The English teachers’ qualification surveys have been carried out in many provinces and cities nationwide. All the secondary school teachers have to pass the tests in all the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing.
Under the current regulations, English teachers must have B2 level, equal to TOEFL 550, to be able to teach at general schools.
However, general schools have voiced the concern that if the MOET’s standards are applied, they will lack English teachers, because very few teachers can meet the requirements. Meanwhile, in the 2011-2012 academic year, 30-40percent of third graders need to learn English.
Nguyen Hoai Chuong, Deputy Director of the HCM City Education and Training Department, also said that it will take time to upgrade the qualification of English teachers, and that the work cannot be done overnight.