Teaching in English does more harm than good

Published: 15/04/2011 05:00



Many schools are
wasting students’ time when teaching natural science subjects in English
because they only produce students who are bad at natural science subjects in
Vietnamese and bad at foreign languages as well.

Ngoc Hung, Head of the standing committee for the implementation of the
national foreign language teaching project by 2020, related that recently, he
attended a teaching hour at a high school for the gifted. The teacher was very
famous for his very deep professional knowledge and all schools wanted to
invite him to teach their students. However, Hung realized that the teaching
required too much exertion from the teacher because he needed to teach in
English, while students could not understand him.

natural science subjects in English has become a big goal. A lot of big schools in Hanoi have decided to teach school subjects
in English, believing that by doing so, students would have both the good
knowledge in the subjects and good foreign language skills. Some schools even
have cut some lessons taught in Vietnamese in order to reserve hours for the
teaching in English. Others schools give lessons in Vietnamese in the morning,
and then repeat the same lessons in the afternoon in English.

teaching school subjects in English has become a competitive edge of some
schools in comparison with other schools. Parents, who want their children to
have the best education nowadays, are rushing to enroll their children in the
schools that teach academic subjects in English.

academic subjects in foreign languages is not a good idea. It is wasting the
time of students, money of parents and efforts of teachers,” Hung noted.

theories all affirm that students can only best obtain knowledge if they are
taught in Vietnamese. “If we want to improve students’ English skills, we need
to teach English, not to teach mathematics, physics and chemistry in English,”
he said.

works all say that when students cannot reach certain thresholds in foreign
language skills, but they still have to learn in foreign languages, they will
be bad at everything, the mother tongue, professional knowledge and foreign
languages as well,” he maintained.

“If parents
want their children’s English skills to be improved, they need to urge the
children to intensify their learning of English. And the person, who can help them improve
their English, is an English teacher, not mathematics, physics or chemistry
teacher,” he added.

educators also agree with Hung. When students get 550 points at TOEFL, they can
go abroad studying at subjects they want in English. Meanwhile, students should
not bypass necessary steps and still learn in English even though they do not
have good English skills.

educators have also pointed out that the teachers used in the program on
teaching academic subjects in foreign languages are still seriously lacking. In
general, grammar schools try to invite foreign teachers to teach their
students. However, it is very difficult to find the teachers who are good at
both teaching skills and academic subjects. In general, schools can only hire
native speakers to teach English, partially because the visas of the foreign
teachers have a short validity of less than one year.

Nguyen Kim
Hien, a senior official of the Hanoi Education and Training Department, related
that she once attended the mathematics class carried out by a non-Vietnamese
teacher at a school. “The teacher could barely help our students in solving
mathematics questions,” she noted.

What the
teacher did was simply giving mathematics questions and then answers. “When I
asked some students if they knew why the questions had such answers, they shook
their heads,” Hien said.

Phuong Mai,
an assistant teacher, who is cooperating with some high schools which are
teaching academic subjects in English, also noted that foreign teachers are
only good at English, while they do not have necessary knowledge in the

Tuyet Ngan

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