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English is a "key to science, technology and commerce", and also in the political arena; English is the domineering language used. By 1989, English has become the most non native language used in Vietnam; it has also been incorporation as one of the compulsory subjects that is learned from the primary level to Universities. (Hang, (2011), Khamkhien (2010) As a result of the importance attached to English language, the government worked out modalities through which this young subject would be taught so that it would benefit its citizens to eventually become integrated in the world economy and political activities. Hang, (2011). Hang; explained that, the Vietnam government, to forge ahead on it stand, issued decree No. 1/2001 TC-TTg which would make it possible to over haul Vietnam Education system which for over two decades has not only been foreign but grossly inadequate. Hang, (2008), Phuong & Thang, (no date). By the beginning of 2002, the Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) set up various committees and charged it with the responsibilities of redesigning the curriculum and writing of new text books for all schools. Hang, (2008) explained that the contents, objectives and methods of pedagogy are to reflect on its current needs: human resources: for her projected industrialization and modernization period. The outcome of this assignment was a laudable curriculum and newly designed books intended for use in Vietnam schools. However this curriculum has many issues that are crippled it: stiff resistance by the cream of the society, lack of expertise to execute, inappropriate content and ineffective teaching methods among others. This paper will focus on these issues as factor that affects the teaching and learning of English Language in Vietnam.
The curriculum REFORM: a factor affecting the Learning and teaching of english language in vietnam
2.1. the curricullum
Phuong & Thang (no date) explained that one of the reasons for the reforms of the curriculum, states, that it was fashioned to deviate from the old learning method and approaches, which, were mainly characterized by "boredom" and ``hardship''. Pham, (2000). He further added that in this traditional method, learning English language was based only on learning grammar and vocabulary. Grammar points were taught in formulas, i.e. to teach the present continuous tense a rule to guide a learner is "I be + verb + ing". He added that memorization and rote learning was the order of the day, but with the new curriculum, learning would be under the guidance of the teacher, self-directed, discovery way of learning. All of these are to infiltrate the traditional teacher-centered approach which makes learners as mere spectators and passive listeners. This approach is: communicative language teaching (CLT)
In the CLT approach, classroom goals are focused, and aimed at communicative competence. Learning becomes more learner-centered; because they are meaningfully engaged in language use, while classroom tasks are geared towards equipping the learners with skills for communication. Students have opportunities to explore their learning by adopting learning strategy that sooths them. The role of the teacher in the classroom is mainly to facilitate and guide the learners, and not to act as a knower and be domineering. Brown, D.H. (1994). This is the kind of classroom which the reform agitated for. The era for adherence to grammar-translation method teaching is over, - out dated. Pham, T.T. (2000). Sadly this laudable effort was made with stiff resistance from the administrators, teachers and politicians who were not willing to adopt any form of change
2.2. Unwillingness to adapt to change
In a survey conducted by Tomlinson and Bao, (2004) in Canh & Barnard, (2009), it revealed that a substantial number of teachers were not willing to engage in anything that would bring about a change; some of the teachers in Vietnam are not willing to adopt the CLT approach to language learning and teaching, rather they prefer to cling to their old methods just because they are rigid and dogmatic; while others felt the learners would not be capable to learn English and even express themselves fluently. This notion is further revealed in a research conducted by Utsumi &Doan, (2009) on the trends in teaching English in Vietnam. Both teachers and students responded that traditional practices of teaching are in place and also mostly used in classrooms across some universities, even when the call is for all pedagogical processes is to be communicative based and Learner centered.
2.3. LACK of experts to execute
While developing Nations are experts in theoretical statements, execution is always a herculean tasks. Those to execute to new curriculum are just novice, they are not experts in the field of curriculum development therefore new viewpoints have been applied ineffectively because they lacked the knowledge and skills to use the right approach for maximum results.
Most of the teachers to teach this new curriculum lack the knowledge to teach it. Utsumi and Doan, (2009) also pointed out that on the issue of challenges to teaching, most teachers reported that they had difficulty in creating student-centered lessons and which will lead to student autonomy. With reference to their own learning challenges, or professional challenges, they explained that it includes lack of exposure to the English language cultures, Confidence in fluency, communicative competence and ability to teach their students. Hoang, (2008), explained that there are also a ``disproportionate demand-supply'', that the number of those desiring to learn English out- numbered the manpower. Pham, H. H. (2001), explained that by 1986 when Vietnam adopted an open door policy so as to be part of the economic boom with her neighboring countries, this act created a dire need for English Language to match this trend, but then the few available proved highly insufficient. Hence, the need for a huge drive for teachers, who were hastily trained, therefore lacked the skills and ability. Neither are they equipped with methodology of teaching. Sadly as the curriculum spelt out CLT as the pedagogical methodology, it does not have these calibers of personnel to execute it.
Most of these young teachers had part-time or off-campus training which lasted for only two years and were eventually turned into university lecturers. The calibers of these teachers are those who may have failed their university entrance exams. Canh, (2007), explained in Canh & Bernard (2009). As a result of this hasty and poorly taught programme, poorly equipped teachers are sent out to schools to also produce poorly equipped students.
The older teachers were not even better; Canh said that they were a spill-over from the Russian language teachers, after Vietnam decision of 1986. These teachers weren't laid off but rather, most of them were co-opted to teach English language after ad-hoc training on them. Therefore the curriculum which is expected to boast communicative competence in learners lacks teachers with communicative competence, let alone the methodology to implement it, Canh & Bernard, (2009).
2.4. Inadequate teacher development
"No educational system can rise above its teachers; and no nation can experience remarkable development without quality teachers". This is a statement that is very much over looked, the point is, "teaching; and making the teacher the center of reform in educational sector will enhance productivity", Emeh, J.U. (2001). For every nation, the teacher should be treated with respect because he owes the answers to the nation's problems. Education is not static, it is dynamic, new theories, and methodologies are discovered in this dynamic field. This new happenings in educational sectors are shared in conferences, seminars and workshops and without an opportunity to attend such then such a teacher is surely lagging behind. A part from attending seminars abroad, the school or the department can organize in-house seminars whereby colleagues would benefit from each other. Pham, (2001). Much senior teachers in the department can serve as the resource person. This can be done at the beginning of every academic year. Teachers need to keep a brace with the latest happenings in the education sector through which he would himself.
2.5. Course books
Even though the new curriculum ordered for developing new text books that would help learners to attain communicative competence, many teachers complain that this goal is not feasible. Most complain that the books may be suitable for students in the urban centers, who are able to augment what they are taught in class in language centers, this is not the case with children in mountainous schools. The books are difficult and would not fulfill the purpose which is intended- communicative competence. Most activities are for grammar and vocabulary, with a few on listening and speaking which is the core of communication.
The 135 minutes spread into three periods a week makes it highly inadequate to attend communicative competence. The way the lessons are structured in the text books makes it difficult to teach in 45 minutes in most of the primary schools. This is highly inadequate for interaction let alone practice to yield a tangible result, Canh, & Bernard, (2009). As such, most of the learners may forget what they were taught in class before the next lesson. Furthermore, most teachers focus on accomplishing what is prescribed for each lesson rather than working towards realizing the goal of the lesson so that they don't face the wrath of the body concern with monitoring.
2.7. Class Size
The large class size is another militating factor, Canh, & Bernard, (2009), Hoang, (2008). Mention that most of the classrooms are congested; again these schools are situated along high ways which is characterized by distractions from horns and noise from passers-by. This highly congested nature of the classrooms makes it so uncomfortable for effective learning to take place. The situation is worse in rural schools.
2.8. Poor remunerations
The teacher has a heavy workload, Utsumi & Doan, (2009), Pham, H. H. (2001). Pham also added that the heavy workload is not commensurate with the "modest state salary". Therefore, everyone does an aside or extra job to augment what is earned from the main job. Nguyen, the Executive Director of Vietnam's National Foreign Language 2020 Projects attested to this in her words she said, "We are dealing with everythingâ€¦.salariesâ€¦..to promotionâ€¦.." VNS, (2011). A resultant factor of this modest salary is the emergence of various language centers, where there is more pay and therefore more commitment. Pham, H.H. (2001), adds that some teachers even work for 10 to 15 hours a day doing one form of tutoring from one house to another, and which has earned them the name "backpacker teachers" as an identity to them by the local community. This busy life style has also robbed many teachers of the opportunity to be developed so that they are better equipped for the curriculum.
Instructional resources are helpful in realizing the aims and objectives in a lesson. Most teachers use their text books as an instructional resource. The text book alone is not enough. There are situations that the teacher needs some pictures or realia to use in the classroom because this goes a long way in helping the learners to understand the lesson. No wonder, the saying, "a picture speaks a thousand words". Hoang, (2008) observed that the situation is better in city schools but it is an eye sore in rural areas. Some sit on the ground or stones in the classrooms and under leaking roofs, (Bui, T, T, H. (2009). Others travel long distances and under harsh weather conditions to get to school already very exhausted and worn out. How much will such a child do for the day? Some of the schools do not have libraries or internet. These amenities are so useful in educational set ups.
2. I0. Assessment and Feedback
The issue of assessment remains a challenge in the curriculum. The main focus of a language is communicative competence which can only be realized through the CLT approach, Hoang, (2008), and even though MOET has emphasis that learning outcome be based on the four linguistic skills namely, listening, speaking, reading and writing. Yet, MOET has adopted the multiple choice types of test as the only method for language testing in schools. This examination tests only the cognitive aspect of education, which based on grammar and vocabulary, with listening, speaking and writing left out. Hoang,( 2008), Canh & Bernard,( 2009). The type of feedback sent to parents is not comprehensive; it reflects either Pass or Fail. Education is not about testing knowledge alone. That is why the Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives talks of the cognitive domain, affective domain and psycho-motor domain.
It is a step in the right direction that after twenty years a foreign based curriculum, it decided to do away with it, but then design a new one which will meet the needs and aspirations of the citizens. However, the main operators, implementers and facilitators were left out the designing committee. That is why Canh & Bernard, (2009) refer to it as a "curriculum innovation behind closed doors". Teachers on ground, those currently doing the job of teaching should be part of it. The voice of the teacher should be heard.
Another solution is to decentralize the education body, i.e. set up a commission for universities, a board for High school education and a board for the Junior and Primary education. Set up these bodies independent and grand them autonomy. Since they are independent, it may make information flow well.
Equip the teachers; give them more and regular teacher development programmers and equip them to cope with the changing trend in learning classrooms. Give them job satisfaction to curtail their busy life styles and be focus on one job alone and thereby yield maximum results.
Decongest the classrooms so that it can be a manageable size of learners at a time for effective classroom management and effective learning and teaching to take place. Otherwise the teacher will use the greater percentage of instructional time to keep the class calm.
For effective English Language teaching and learning in Vietnam, there must be a passionate teacher, a willing learner, a committed community and full government support. Having a passion for education makes the teacher work himself out to realize his goals regardless of all odds. The government must therefore, employ people who have a calling for the job not just anybody.
The government must ensure that`` round pegs are put in round holes Often, Large resources are used for training and at the end of the day the wrong people are given the office to hold, give task to those that are competent
By investing in the educational system and giving the job to the right caliber of people, we would have half solve some of the problems that militate against the teaching and learning of English Language in Vietnam and this would have lightened the work of researchers. This paper has examined the pitfalls in the new curriculum which possibly the were not envisage therefore no adequate steps were taken guard against them. These little yet significant issues marred the vision of the founding fathers. One of the major ideas worth giving attention is how we can help to equip teachers and make them love this profession. Besides those mentioned above, other incentives would be regular promotions, and special pay package that is different from other sectors and loan facilities for motorbikes or bicycles for teachers in the rural areas.
Despite the various concerns raised above, I see hope, in the future, the New-breed English Language teaching in Vietnam will invigorate to attend the heights of its founding fathers.