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Vietnam challenges local universities to keep up with ASEAN standards, sets English as second language

In a bid to ensure that its local universities can keep up with those in neighboring countries, Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training has announced plans to make English the second language at universities across the country.

Its minister Phung Xuan Nha said in August that the ministry had devised a roadmap to guide them towards the ambitious goal, which will begin this academic year.

Nha urged universities to improve how they taught in English and recommended that they apply the latest techniques, emphasizing that it was vital to convey to students the importance of globalization and the fact that proficiency in English would help improve and expand Vietnam’s international links.

He added that under the new policy, students would be required to conduct all presentations and group discussions in English, while the staff would have to speak English at their meetings, reported local news site VietnamNet Bridge.

According to Nha, the ministry has issued specific instructions for the 61 universities and academies under its purview to take the initiative and come up with teaching standards that would match that of other ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members.

The suggested teaching standards would then be published and the public would be invited to share their thoughts and recommendations so that the ministry could improve on them.  

The ministry also asked universities to evaluate and report the challenges they would face in implementing English as a second language and come up with possible solutions to overcome them, added Nha.

The ministry said it would help train capable English teachers via new programs focused in remote areas, such as the north-western, Central Highlands and south-western regions.

Earlier this year, the ministry made English a compulsory subject from grade three onwards, starting in 2018.

Currently, English is only a mandatory class from grade 10 onwards, while it is an optional subject at primary school level.

However, one-tenth of the country’s primary school pupils don’t even get the chance to learn English, as Vietnam is suffering a shortage of up to 7,700 teachers.

In addition to that, only a third of existing English teachers at primary and high schools meet teaching standards, reported the ministry.

Vietnam ranks 29th on Education First’s English Proficiency Index 2015 out of a list of 70 countries, and is fifth among Southeast Asian countries.

Thanks to government efforts, English is becoming more common in Vietnam, particularly in urban areas such as Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and other tourist destinations. 

Image via Flickr

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