​Should music, smart boards be banned in English teaching?

‘The ban is an overcautious intervention that leads nowhere’

A native English teacher plays with students at a primary school in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Editor’s note: Many readers, including local and native English teachers and parents, have expressed objections to a recent regulation by the Ho Chi Minh City education department, which includes a ban on giving Western names to students and using music and smart boards as teaching tools.

In this opinion sent to Tuoi Tre News, local reader Sy Phu says the education department has made a ‘trivial yet pointless’ request.

Read his view below and share yours with us in the comment box or mail it to ttn@tuoitre.com.vn.

So the Ho Chi Minh City education department has insisted that native English teachers refrain from using such audio-visual tools as cassette players, CD players, and smart boards to play music or videos for students during their lessons. But is it feasible to enforce such a ban?

If we put ourselves in the shoes of those who compose the regulations, we might somehow understand why they do so. If a school has to spend a great amount of money on hiring English-speaking teachers, it definitely should try to make the best use of them. Why should a school allow the highly paid teachers to do nothing but turn on a cassette or video player for students to watch through the class?

However, even if this is the case – when a native English teacher is too lazy to communicate with his/her students – it remains a question of whether banning them from using the audio-visual tools will effectively resolve the problem.

The fear of teachers who do nothing but play CDs is justified, given that not all native English teachers have an adequate work ethic. However, this is a problem between teachers and students, not something that needs controlling by the state.

For young adult students, we can train them to know how to evaluate whether a native teacher satisfies their needs after a class. We should make it a habit for students to report or complain if their teachers make them watch movie after movie in their class. The school managers will know what to do after receiving such reports.

For younger students, say primary students, we cannot expect them to make such a complaint. However, school managers are still able to understand the class quality, as native English teachers are normally assisted by a local during their lesson.

A school with good management is one that knows how to effectively evaluate the quality of its native English teachers through various measures, not through a ‘don’t do this’ style ban.

After all, it is the school managers who decide to hire those English-speaking teachers, and it is parents who pay for them. No state capital is used.

Prohibiting the use of cassettes or CD players is not a professional guideline [as the education department claims it to be]. It is an overcautious and trivial intervention which in the end leads nowhere.

According to Sy Phu, besides the no-CD ban, the education department also has another regulation that discourages teachers from applying creative teaching methods.

“A teacher delivers photocopied maps of the local area to his/her students and uses them for speaking practice. This is a creative lesson plan but it is deemed unacceptable because the education department bans the use of any documents in class without its consideration and approval,” Sy Phu wrote.

“Can you start to see how much such a regulation stifles the creativity and inspiration of teachers?”

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