Vietnam to revise doomed multi-million dollar foreign language project

By Tue Nguyen, Thanh Nien News

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An English training class for secondary school teachers in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach
Vietnam's Ministry of Education has pledged to revise its VND9.4-trillion (US$440.3 million) language training program after deeming it a failure.
Deputy Education Minister Nguyen Vinh Hien confirmed that adjustments were underway on the National Foreign Languages 2020 Project during a recent interview with Thanh Nien.
Launched in 2008, the project called on local provinces and cities to independently draft and implement foreign language programs and fund them with a combination of local and national funds.
However, the ministry raised eyebrows by removing English as a compulsory subject on this year's high school graduation examination; only 16 percent of students opted to take English tests last week--the second-lowest rate in the history of the exam.
Even ministry leaders admit that many of the project’s objectives will “definitely” be missed.
They've also noted that it will not be completed in 2020 as planned.
Many educational authorities said they could not conduct plans effectively due to the critical shortage of quality teachers.
According to a representative from the educational department in the northern province of Bac Kan, when the province launched the project, none of the local teachers met the ministry's standards, where were reportedly formulated using a European framework.
Following training, only 15 teachers were deemed qualified.
As such, Bac Kan could not launch all of the required programs, like teaching foreign languages to third-graders, the official said.
The same situation was reported in many other provinces like Lai Chau, where 98.5 percent of English teachers failed competence tests.
On the other hand, Vu Thi Tu Anh, deputy chief of the project’s management board, criticized local authorities for wasting money on teaching and learning equipment, leading to the lack of investments into other projects like teacher trainings.
She pointed out that of many teacher's universities and colleges spent as much as 75 percent of their investment on new equipment.
Hien agreed, saying that many provinces and cities failed to attach importance to the training of teachers, and focused on equipment instead.
During a recent meeting, Anh quoted reports from 42 participating provinces and cities which found that 75 percent of elementary teachers and 90 percent of high school teachers were unqualified.
Meanwhile, 21 others have yet to submit their plans to the ministry, she said.

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