Foreign languages key for development of education hinh anh 1Students at Vietnam USA Society English Centers. (Photo courtesy of VUS)

HCM City (VNS/VNA) - Foreign-language instruction could greatly improve the quality of the educational system, but language-proficiency outcomes in recent years have been disappointing, Minister of Education and Training Phung Xuan Nha has said.

The ministry had made great efforts to improve the quality of foreign-language instruction, but the expected goals had not been met, Nha said at a recent forum held in Ho Chi Minh City.

Nha said that teaching needed to be improved at the primary to high school levels so that less time was needed to study a foreign language at tertiary levels.

To improve teaching, schools should learn more about teaching methodologies and materials used by foreign-language training centres in Vietnam.

Many English teachers in Vietnamese schools were poorly qualified.

Nha said that study materials should be digitalised so that all English teachers could have access to them.

In addition, a system for standardised English tests should be developed to limit the differences in scoring and assessment, Nha said.

Dang Hiep Giang of the Ministry's Department of Secondary Education said teachers' qualifications varied from region to region. Most teachers in disadvantaged areas had lower qualifications, while the better teachers in those areas often left for bigger cities.

Vietnam has two English-training programmes, including one for third to 12th graders in provinces and cities with developed socio-economic conditions and the other for sixth to 12th graders in less developed areas. Giang said the former programme should be used in the entire country.

Nguyen Thi Mai Huu, director of the 2008-20 national project, “Teaching and Learning Foreign Languages in the National Education System”, said the average score on the national high school graduation exam of students who study from the third to 12th grades was two marks higher than those in the sixth to 12th grade programme.

She said the ministry was setting up a pilot English programme for kindergarten children that might be expanded at a later date.

Sai Cong Hong, deputy head of the ministry's Education Quality Management Agency, said the ministry had made changes to the language programme based on an analysis of results of English scores on the national high school graduation examination.

The results in the 2017-2019 period showed that the average score was under 5, with many students getting scores from 3 to 3.4.

Many students in provinces in the mountainous northern and Mekong Delta regions had the lowest scores, while students in large cities such as Hanoi, Da Nang and HCM City had higher scores than the national average.

Ngyen Van Hieu, deputy head of the HCM City Department of Education and Training, said that many students in the city had good English skills because of their study at foreign language training centres.

The city has nearly 700 foreign-language centres, Hieu said, adding that most students in the city study English at these centres.

However, some students, especially those living in outlying city districts, cannot afford the centres' fees.

Hieu said the department would offer incentives to native English-speaking instructors to teach at local schools.

Seventy percent of English teachers in HCM City meet international standards thanks to the city’s budget for programmes to improve teaching qualifications, according to Hieu.

Steven Happel, senior academic manager at the Vietnam USA Society English Centre, said that many expatriate teachers, however, had not received quality training in teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL).

"Some TEFL certificates are fantastic, while others are almost useless," he said, adding that the best TEFL certificates feature a practicum where students receive feedback about their teaching.

The quality of newly hired expatriate teachers varied, he added.

“For teachers to become good at their profession, they need to see what good teaching looks like. Many teachers, both foreign and Vietnamese, suffer from a lack of access to these professional development activities,” Happel said. — VNS/VNA