Nov 6, 2012

Vietnam - Vietnamese students encouraged to begin learning foreign languages soon

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VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnam has geared up for the national program on teaching foreign languages at different levels, under which students would be encouraged to begin learning foreign languages soon, while under-standard teachers would be dismissed.

It is estimated that the national program on foreign language teaching by 2020, kicked off in June 2011, would need 9378 billion dong for the 10-year implementation. The program aims to renovate the teaching and learning of foreign languages in the national educational system.

Prof Nguyen Ngoc Hung, Head of the Standing Committee of the project, said that foreign languages could be seen as a kind of “internationally recognized certificate” that Vietnamese workers need to have to exist in a competitive labor market in the integrated era.

It is expected that the ASEAN community would begin operation by 2015, which means that the labor market would be opened from 2015 to foreign laborers to Vietnam. Therefore, it’s necessary to prepare the Vietnamese labor force well in order to become competitive in the market.

Especially, Hung said, it’s very necessary to equip Vietnamese workers with high foreign language skills.

The Philippines is believed to open the labor market too soon, when its workers still could not well prepare for stiff competition. As a result, Malaysian, Singaporean and Taiwanese flocked to the country, taking medium-class management positions. Meanwhile, Filipino do not have the opportunities to access high positions, thus becoming the hired workers right in its home market.

Meanwhile, the story about the Republic of Korea shows an inverse situation. It prepared the workforce very carefully before opening the labor market which has helped it succeed.

Hung recalled a case of a Vietnamese worker who missed the opportunity to go work in South Korean because of his weak foreign language skills.

A group of South Korean experts once came to Vietnam to seek underwater welders. They got a very good impression about a Vietnamese worker, who was believed to have the qualification equal to that of a 7th grade South Korean worker.

However, the experts later realized that the Vietnamese worker did not have foreign language skills, and they had to erase the name of the worker from the list of workers to be recruited.

When asked why Vietnamese students cannot begin learning foreign languages from the first grade instead of the third grade, Hung said though Vietnam encourages students to start the learning soon, it does not have enough money to teach foreign languages to first and second graders as well.

“It would be unfeasible for Vietnam to ask students to begin learning foreign languages from the first grade,” Hung said.

“If we do, 7.5 million more students would learn foreign languages, while 30,000 new teachers would be needed. This would require a huge sum of money to implement the program,” Hung said. Therefore, only the third and subsequent graders, about 4 million, now can learn foreign languages at school.

The private run schools are believed to make a breakthrough in the teaching and learning of foreign languages. With the education socialization policy, i.e. calling for non-state resources for education, children would be able to begin learning foreign languages soon, possibly from nursery school.

Regarding the quality of the teaching staff, Vietnam now has 80,000 English teachers, but the majority of them still cannot meet the standards, which is really a big problem.

Experts say it would take 20 years to re-train the 80,000 English teachers, while the project developers hope to shorten the time to 10 years. After 2020, the under-standard teachers would not be able to continue their jobs.

Compiled by Thu Uyen

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