Lecturer pans ministry for testing English teachers

Testing local English teachers against a European framework is an ‘unfair’ and ‘arbitrary’ practice, a Ho Chi Minh City lecturer protests

A student is seen answering a question during an English class at Doc Lap Middle School in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City in this July 8, 2012 photo.

A college lecturer in English slams the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) for suddenly checking local English teachers’ language command against a European framework, saying it is “unfair” and “arbitrary.”

MoET has been testing the English proficiency of Vietnamese teachers across the country since last year, using guidelines from the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages to assess their listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills.

This is part of a US$480 million national project to improve Vietnam’s foreign language, primarily English, learning and teaching system. Under this project, MoET requires that high school teachers reach the European framework’s second-highest skill level, while elementary school teachers must achieve the fourth-highest level and middle school educators the third-highest.

The shocking result was that a mere 3-7 percent of teachers from 30 provinces and cities, including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, lived up to expectations, with veteran instructors among the unsuccessful test-takers.

Le Thanh Hai, the instructor based in the southern hub, complained to Tuoi Tre that it is “unfair” for teachers even though such testing is necessary to improve the English learning and teaching system in Vietnam.

Hai explained that English teachers have been forced to focus on grammar and reading comprehension for years, as MoET exams are being prepared based solely on these areas, so it is inevitable that they have lost the other skills.

“After those years of teaching students to pass grammar and reading comprehension tests, how can they speak and listen anymore?” he protested.

MoET has made an “arbitrary” decision, the lecturer said.

He elaborated that it had never set any specific graduation requirements on the language command of English teaching majors before but the ministry now ironically demands that these same people reach a level applied in Europe.

The education body is throwing money away on this form of teacher testing, Hai added.

The educator further explained that Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, where academic standards are among the country’s best, have reported poor teacher performance so allocating more funds to judge teachers in other provinces and cities like the present is a huge waste.

“We all know what the result would be in these localities,” he said.

The lecturer then proposed requiring college students to achieve a certain skill level of the European benchmarks upon graduation.

English teachers should be requested to earn popular certificates like FCE, IELTS, or TOEFL that can be converted to the model’s corresponding levels before they are recruited by any school, he suggested.

They should also be requested to take these exams again when their certificates expire, he said.

Substantial changes will be made to the current English learning and teaching methodology if these suggestions are implemented in real life, Hai asserted.

Vietnam now wants most of its students to be able to use a foreign language, especially English, confidently in their study, daily communication, and work by 2020 in accordance with the proposal.


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