Teaching in English: ambitious plan needs thorough preparations

Published: 30/03/2011 05:00



VietNamNet Bridge – The Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) has decided that from the 2011-2012 academic year, some school subjects will be taught in English. However, both teachers and students complain that it is really a difficult task.

The bilingual teaching model

At the High School for the Gifted majoring in natural sciences under the Hanoi National University, some subjects have been taught in English for the last several years. Nguyen Vu Luong, Headmaster of the high school, said that students still study mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology as usual, but they have extra learning hours, when lessons are taught in English. At first, his students had to work harder, but they are now familiar with the lessons in English later and now they like them very much.

Luong said that in the first phase of the program on teaching in English (about four years), his students will keep normal hours of instruction in Vietnamese and then have extra hours when schools subjects are taught in English. In the second phase (the next two years), 50 percent of the time of the normal teaching hours will be carried out in English, while syllabuses will be in English. Meanwhile, in the extra hours subjects will be taught in English. In the third phase (2 years), 100 percent of natural science subjects will be taught in English.

“In order to implement the program, we need qualified teachers and advanced teaching methods. Besides, we need advanced syllabuses, because syllabuses in English are needed to teach in English,” Luong said.

According to Tran Duc Huyen, MA, Deputy Headmaster of the Le Hong Phong Gifted School in HCM City, his school has been teaching mathematics, physics and chemistry in English over the last three years. The school now has eight classes, eight teachers and 250 students in the program. Students have four such hours of instruction a week.

Quach Thi Thuy Trang, chemistry teacher of the high school under the Hanoi University of Education, complained that it is very difficult to teach natural science subjects in English, because of the big disparity in the English skills of the students of the school.

Trang believes that it would be better to teach in both English and Vietnamese, because it is impossible to teach in English only. “The students, who want to study natural science subjects in English would have to register to study at bilingual classes. At the classes, besides popular syllabuses, students will also have the syllabuses in English. As such, the number of classroom hours the students have to take will be double the number of hours of other students,” Trang said.

The biggest problem for the teachers who teach in English like Trang, is that there is no official curriculum guiding the teaching of natural science subjects in English. This has forced the teachers to grapple to build up lesson plans in English.

A difficult task

Though agreeing that teaching and learning in English is a necessity in the context of the global integration, both teachers and students believe that it is really a difficult task to be fulfilled in the current period.

Nguyen Thi Thuy Linh, MA, a teacher of the High School for the Gifted majoring in natural sciences, said for mathematics teaching, in the first period, students learn some basic terms used in mathematics. After that, they learn mathematics in English based on the standard curriculum of the Ministry of Education and Training and only reference the US curriculum.

However, Linh said that it is really difficult for many students to listen to lectures in English.

Associate Professor Dr Ta Thi Thao from the University for Natural Sciences also thinks that students will not be able to understand the lessons, especially the complicated problems, especially when foreign language skills remain a barrier.

Dr Luu Thi Lan Huong also said that it is not easy to teach in English at schools. “I have two high quality classes to teach. There are 30 students in each class. But only 5-6 students have good English skills, while a half of students have poor English skills,” she said.

“They only understand some simple questions, while they cannot fully comprehend the entire lessons. Most of them cannot understand lessons in English,” she concluded.

C. V

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