Saigon's ban on audiovisual aids in ESL classes: What do teachers say? 

A 'confusing' ban, one says

Students learn English with a foreign teacher at Luong Dinh Cua Elementary School in District 3, Ho Chi Minh Ciry. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Editor's note: A number of English teachers have responded to a Tuoi Tre News call for opinions regarding the Ho Chi Minh City education department's recent regulation that prohibits native speakers from employing smart boards and CD players in the classroom.

The regulation, which is applied in primary schools throughout the city, includes a ban on using audiovisual aids while teaching.

According to the guideline, native English teachers should call their students by their Vietnamese names and under no circumstance address them by Western names.

It is also dictated that English-speaking teachers refrain from using audiovisual tools including cassette players, CD players, and smart boards to play music or videos for students during their lessons.

Instead, teachers are expected to create conditions for students to practice English through social interaction.

‘Entirely ridiculous’

I’m currently teaching 9 classes a week at a primary school in Ho Chi Minh City and I find the ban on using audiovisual tools like cassette players, CD players, and smart boards entirely ridiculous. While there are bad teachers who abuse these tools because they're too lazy to teach, most teachers use them appropriately. By banning these tools, they're effectively removing a lot of content from the curriculum of the same books they use themselves (the Family and Friends books for example, which contain a lot of audio and video resources in order to make the lessons more dynamic).

Lelané Schoeman - Photo: Tuoi Tre
Lelané Schoeman. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Besides that, there is dialogue in the books used in schools that sometimes require more than four voices. It's absurd to expect the teacher to read multiple characters' dialogue. Then there's the case of teaching through music. There have been studies that have proven that learning through music (especially at a young age) is one of the most effective ways of learning a language.

Audiovisual learning makes the whole lesson more interesting and fun, encouraging students to learn more and have fun while doing so, as opposed to boring lessons comprised entirely of the teacher's speaking.

I usually use music, videos, and a smart board when teaching very young learners (grade 1 to grade 3). When teaching older students (grade 4 to grade 12 and beyond), I would only occasionally use audio (usually for a conversation from the book) and very rarely video (usually to give them more information about a topic we're learning).

Especially for young learners, audiovisual tools are extremely effective. They get easily distracted and bored. So the use of music, video, and a smart board really improves the environment. They're definitely good tools when used well.

I agree that there should be a balance when using these tools (instead of just playing music and videos during the whole lesson) and class time shouldn't be wasted on these things, but I think it's foolish to ban it completely. Playing a song at the beginning of the class is a very easy and fun way to wake up students and get them using English. Playing a related song after they learn new vocabulary or grammar is a fun and effective way to help them practice and remember it.

In the case of the smart board, I don't agree at all about having a balance. For the early grades, not including games or activities I organize for the class, I teach exclusively on the smart board because first-grade and second-grade students have very short attention spans and have limited understanding when I give instructions on doing exercises in their books. By using a digital copy of the books they learn on the smart board, I can create more focused and interactive lessons that get the kids excited to learn English, and I can save a lot of time by easily instructing the whole class on how to do certain exercises in their books by demonstrating them first on the smart board, instead of going around the classroom and explaining to one student at a time. I also reward students who do their work quickly with the chance to demonstrate their work on the smart board to the whole class, which really motivates the class to do their work well.

Lelané Schoeman, South African

‘Confusing’

Working for a primary school in Da Nang, I find the ban on using audiovisual tools like cassette players, CD players, and smart boards to be confusing more than anything. It has been proven in numerous academic studies that all students learn through different methods. Some respond to structured speaking, some respond to listening, or writing, or through art. The idea of trying to force ALL students to learn through one manner is not only ineffective, but also possibly damaging to some students. The ban seems to be driven by concerned parents who don’t seem to understand that not all students are the same, and that different students require different mediums to learn. 

Kit Davidson in a photo he provides Tuoi Tre News
Kit Davidson in a photo he provided Tuoi Tre News

In addition to that, many of the curricula used by English centers and schools require chanting, songs, and videos to help with the lessons. So removing these elements from teaching can actually prevent students from learning the entire lesson, or learning to their potential. This ban seems to be trying to create an environment where all students are required to learn in the same way, which is not that effective when it comes to ensuring all students are learning the material. Learning is not the same as wearing a uniform.

Almost every English teacher in Vietnam has used, or uses, audiovisual aids to assist with teaching. As I said above, many lessons have chants or songs built into them, or even short videos. It is very rare to find a teacher who does not use a single bit of audiovisual in their lessons. Now, I do know some teachers who use what might be considered an “excessive” amount of audiovisual content, and perhaps this ban comes as a result of some of those teachers. However, teachers should be encouraged to find a happy balance between all methods of teaching, as opposed to simply using one system, so that they may effectively reach all students.

Living in Vietnam, my social network is one of many teachers, with plenty of history and experience across many different countries, and almost all of those teachers are as confused as I am, as they have used audiovisual aids in learning throughout the world. If many other countries around the world were finding this proposed system successful, then it would be possible to understand why this is desirable. Unfortunately, Vietnam seems to be relatively alone when it comes to this, which could ultimately hold Vietnamese students back in the future, rather than encourage them to learn in any way they can.

Kit Davidson, American

No change

Some primary schools also simply don't have the Internet or lack electronic equipment in the room - so again CD/cassette players/Internet are not generally an issue. So, for me, these rules don't actually change anything.Personally, these rules don't affect me. As for the smart boards, I have been teaching in public schools for 3 years and have never yet been to a school where the smart boards actually work. They are either broken or more often simply unplugged. In 3 years I have never used one. 

Mark Young, Australian

 

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