Nov 14, 2012

Vietnam - Vietnam kicks off pilot program on teaching science subjects in English

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VietNamNet Bridge – Science subjects have been taught in English at many general schools in big cities, where students can start learning English very soon and have good basic English skills.

The guests, who attended the mathematics lesson at the Luong The Vinh High School in district 1 of HCM City on November 8, all said that they were so surprised when seeing the lesson going so smoothly. Both the teacher and students communicated in English with no trouble.

Nguyen Minh Chau, MA, a mathematics teacher of the school, when students learn mathematics in English, their foreign language skills can be improved quickly. This would help the students read math materials at their suitable levels.

Hong Vinh, a 7th grader of the school affirmed that he understood what the teacher said. When the teacher raised questions, a lot of students raised their hands.

Sixth and seventh graders of the school have one math lesson in English a week. Meanwhile, 10th graders have two math lessons in English a week. Besides, physics and chemistry have also been taught in English.

The schools’ leaders admitted that it is really a difficult job to teach in English, therefore, the school began preparing for the program in 2006. To date, only 10 high schools in HCM City teach mathematics and other science subjects in English in the classes gathering 1600 students.

An official of the HCM City Education and Training Department said that the aim of the program is to improve the English skills of students. He also said that this is an optional subject, not compulsory, while the result of the learning would not be referred to when teachers assess students’ capability.

Cao Huy Thao, President of the Vietnam-Australia International School, said teaching science subjects in English at general schools is completely a “reasonable decision” which can help Vietnamese students improve their foreign language skills.

What curriculums to be used?

To date, there has been no official guidance from the Ministry of Education and Training on the curriculums, class organization and teaching staff. General schools choose teachers, curriculums and do everything themselves after consulting with experienced educators.

The board of management of the Nguyen Thi Minh Khai High School in district 3 in HCM City said the teachers here have to read documents and improve their English skills to be able to teach students.

Regarding the curriculum, the teachers follow the lesson plans compiled on the basis of Australian textbooks for mathematics, Australian and American textbooks for physics.

Meanwhile, at Luong The Vinh School, the teachers follow the curriculums of College Mathematics.

The representatives of the 10 high schools have agreed at a meeting gathered by the HCM City education department that they all would use Cambridge’s curriculums.

The educators said Cambridge’s curriculums have 80 percent of the content similar to the content in Vietnamese textbooks. Therefore, this is really a reasonable choice.

However, it is the teaching staff, not curriculum, which is the biggest problem for schools. The English skills of the majority of Vietnamese teachers remains weak, while the teachers have not been retrained.

Dr Nguyen Dong Hai, Deputy Director of NSETC, a foreign language center that provides teachers to the high schools running the program on teaching science subjects in English, said the center has just finished the training of eight physics teachers. Meanwhile, the other 60 teachers are following the training courses at the center, whose English skills are at different levels.


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