The English teaching curriculum, with a focus on grammar lessons, and the lack of speaking practice, are behind the failure of the national English teaching program, experts say.
Tran Phuong Hoa, founder and CEO of Summit, a Hanoi-based education organization, who was a student at the Hanoi-Amsterdam High School for the Gifted and higher education in the US, said many teachers of English cannot speak and write well.
In many provinces and cities, school management boards change textbooks regularly to improve students’ capability. However, thus cannot resolve the problem if teachers’ quality does not improve.
Outstanding graduates of pedagogical schools tend to study abroad or work for foreign companies rather than as teachers of English.
Meanwhile, teachers complain that it is difficult to teach students in the same classes with different capacity. For example, students in mountainous and rural areas have to follow the same curricula used in big cities.
The problem doesn’t exist at English centers, where students are classified based on their capability. Suitable lessons are designed for groups of students and there are only 10-15 students in each class, instead of 50-60 students in state owned schools.
In large cities, foreign teachers are hired to teach English to students and parents have to pay tuition for these classes. However, Hoa said, the quality of foreign teachers remains uncontrolled.
Local newspapers have also repeatedly warned of the qualifications of foreign teachers. Many of them are ‘backpackers’ who stay for a short period and don’t have certificates in teaching English.
Nguyen Minh Thuyet, the chief ‘designer’ of the new general education program, said it is necessary to reconsider curricula and textbooks, and teaching methods.
“By designing lessons with a focus on grammar, we are going against the world’s tendency in teaching foreign languages. Remember that the optimal goal of teaching foreign languages is that students can listen, speak, read and write,” he said.
An education expert said that with the current teaching method, students will not be able to use English after seven years of study at school and four years at university. The currently applied teaching methods foster passive learning. Students have to take extra English classes as teaching methods in schools remain outdated.
He said it is necessary to create environments where students have opportunities to practice English. He suggested using English as a second language at school, teaching science in English, and establishing English speaking clubs.