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English centers remain quiet notwithstanding permission to reopen in Ho Chi Minh City

English centers remain quiet notwithstanding permission to reopen in Ho Chi Minh City

Sunday, January 09, 2022, 17:28 GMT+7
English centers remain quiet notwithstanding permission to reopen in Ho Chi Minh City
An English center remains closed in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Trong Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Many English language centers in Ho Chi Minh City have remained closed even though local authorities already allowed the resumption of in-person learning earlier this week.

Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper has contacted some popular English centers such as VUS, ILA, and YOLA, whose consultants said they were unclear when in-person classes would resume even when Vietnam has switched to living safely with the coronavirus from a zero-COVID strategy, backed by a wide vaccine coverage rate.

Most courses are still organized online, but learners can register for offline classes in advance by taking placement tests virtually.

Now is not a good time

This is not a suitable time to welcome back learners as most students are busy with their first-term exams at school, a representative of SEAMEO Regional Training Center explained, adding that students will have a Lunar New Year break in about three weeks.

Do Thuy Hong, CEO of IvyPrep Education, said she is glad that foreign language centers are permitted to offer in-person classes, but IvyPrep Education is still concerned about the safety of students, staff, and the community given the COVID-19 pandemic.

The center is conducting a survey to assess the demand of students and their parents before making further decisions, Hong added.

It may apply a hybrid learning model, which includes 50 percent of online classes and 50 percent of in-person courses.

“We encourage fully-vaccinated middle school and high school students to take part in offline courses, while elementary school students should continue with remote learning,” Hong elaborated.

Most learners are not vaccinated

Aside from facilities running preparatory programs for English certificates such as the IELTS and TOEIC tests, most English centers in Ho Chi Minh City offer their courses to young learners, according to a manager of a center in Tan Binh District.

The manager said more than 65 percent of the learners at his facility are elementary school students, who have not received COVID-19 vaccination.

Meanwhile, learners and teachers must be inoculated with at least one dose to partake in offline classes at local centers, according to public health regulations.

“Unless authorities set out specific criteria for younger learners, we will have to wait until elementary school students are vaccinated to reopen,” the manager said.

A representative of APAX Leaders said that the center will maintain remote learning in the meantime as most of its learners are in seventh grade and lower.

An English center remains closed in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Trong Nhan / Tuoi Tre

An English center remains closed in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Trong Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Foreign teachers count the days

Raphael Galuz, a Frenchman who teaches English at a center in District 7, said he had had challenging months as strict social distancing measures resulted in his wage being halved.

His center had to lower tuition fees to discourage learners from quitting during the pandemic, and thus teachers’ payment also decreased, Galuz explained.

Chubby Vinaltino, a Singaporean teacher at an English center in Tan Phu District, said he is teaching only two classes, about eight hours, per week, which is four to five times lower than before the outbreak began on April 27 last year.

Vinaltino only received US$10 for an hour of online teaching, compared to the $15-20 per hour that he got from in-person instruction.

The teacher added that his income had shrunk by $70-80 per week, which made it difficult for him to pay for food, rent, and utilities.

“Three of my friends who are English teachers have had to move to cheaper places to live,” Vinaltino said.

Some even had to sell their own phone, he added.

Vinaltino said his only wish is that English centers welcome back learners as soon as possible, which will help foreign teachers solve their financial problems.

Ho Chi Minh City has recorded over 507,000 local COVID-19 infections since the fourth virus wave hit the country on April 27, 2021.

Due to the serious outbreak, municipal authorities required all students to stay home and switch to remote learning on May 10, which resulted in the suspension of in-person classes at all educational facilities, including English language centers.

After the pandemic was put under control, ninth and twelfth graders were allowed to resume in-person learning from mid-December, while seventh, eighth, tenth, and eleventh graders could return to school on January 4.

Centers teaching foreign languages and computing were permitted to resume offline classes from January 4, but teachers and learners must be at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 or have recovered from the disease.

The city began providing vaccination to children aged 12 to 17 in late October.

As of December 9, 96.6 percent of residents in this age range had received one dose, while 85.5 percent had been jabbed twice.

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