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English language teaching needs serious improvement

HCM CITY — Pedagogical universities and colleges should offer specialised training courses for teaching English in primary schools to meet targets set by a project that the Prime Minister approved in 2008, experts say.

They said at a workshop held last week at the University of Pedagogy that the pilot project, which began implementation in the ongoing academic year, would require at least 15,000 qualified English teachers at the beginning.

The number will rise very year, they said, adding it would reach 30,000-40,000 eventually.

According to the Viet Nam Institute of Educational Sciences, there are about 60,000 English teachers at all levels nationwide, but most of them are teachers for the sixth grade and above. And of these, only 4,000 or so teach English as an optional subject at primary schools.

Meanwhile, the foreign language faculty at pedagogical universities and colleges only provides 300-500 new teachers each year.

Many primary school teachers working now are not adequately qualified. A recent study found just 28 of 147 surveyed teachers able to get the 550 TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score required by the ministry. Eighty-eight teachers scored 400, and the remainder, even lower.

Ngo Thi Nga, deputy head of the Bac Ninh Pedagogy College's Foreign Language Faculty, said that many English teachers at primary schools were not trained at pedagogical institutions.

They passed out of foreign language universities and colleges and only attended short-term training courses on teaching skills, Nga said.

Thus, they lacked sufficient knowledge of teaching techniques, and were not trained to understand the psychology and character of primary students, making it difficult for them to fashion suitable study materials as well as teaching methods for this age group, she added.

Dr. Nguyen Thi Ly Kha, head of the city's University of Pedagogy's primary education faculty, added that pedagogy universities and colleges should have programmes that train their students not only in teaching basic subjects like math but also the English language.

These institutions also lacked faculties that specialize in training English teachers for primary education, she added.

Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Vu, head of the English Language faculty at the same university, said they had been offering short-term training courses on teaching English at the primary school level.

He also presented a double-degree option that students can take under which, after five years, they can, at the same time, obtain a degree in primary school teaching and another in English teaching.

Many other experts speaking at the seminar suggested ways to improve qualifications of English teachers at the primary level and increase their number at the same time.

Hoang Truong Giang, Kha's deputy, said that the English language faculty and primary education faculty at pedagogy universities and colleges should closely co-operate with each other to open more short-term training courses and improve their training programme.

The pilot program on teaching English in primary schools envisages that by the year 2020, all students passing out of primary schools will have basic English skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing.

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