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Vietnam’s English targets set to fail, experts warn

Education experts are worried that Vietnam’s plans to make all university graduates reach at least CEFR B1 in English by 2020 are set to fail, the Vietnamese press reports.

Vietnam english proficiency - A view of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.A view of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: pixabay/ Quangpraha

“Young Vietnamese, in particular, are beginning to embrace the digital learning revolution that includes foreign language instruction”

In a recent meeting organised by the education ministry, university and government representatives said that the government’s targets for language proficiency in the country were too ambitious, Vietnamnet reports.

The national project Teaching and Learning Foreign Languages in the National Education System 2008-2020 expects all university graduates not majoring in languages to reach B1 English.

It is not the first time that the so-called ‘Project 2020’ has sparked worry and controversy

However, according to a survey quoted in the meeting by university department head Nguyen Thi Lan Anh, only one in five students could achieve that level in 2015.

The deputy director of Thai Nguyen University said at the meeting that the institution had to lower the requirements to A2.

Also, the meeting heard that schools are struggling to reach the targets due to teachers’ poor English proficiency, lack of resources and outdated teaching methodology with a heavy focus on grammar.

Deputy head of the department of higher education said at the meeting that reaching the targets will be a tough challenge, Vietnamnet reports.

The government has reportedly moved some of the objectives of the language learning and teaching plan to 2025.

It is not the first time that the so-called ‘Project 2020’ sparks worry and controversy.

In 2011, an ELT development manager at British Council Vietnam told The Guardian that the government’s targets were ‘unachievable’, while VnExpress quoted the Vietnamese minister of education and training saying at the end of 2017, “Let me get it straight: the project has failed to meet its target”.

Commenting on the reports, founder and MD of educational consulting company Capstone Vietnam Mark Ashwill told The PIE News: “Teacher preparation is one issue.”

“According to the results of a 2013 English proficiency test administered by the education ministry to 500 English teachers, most were at the B2 level, one step ahead of the ultimate learning goal for their students.”

Other issues, he said, include large class sizes and a lack of time and opportunity for students to practice using what they learn in the classroom.

As for a possible solution, Aswill would look to technology.

“Young Vietnamese, in particular, are beginning to embrace the digital learning revolution that includes foreign language instruction.”

“Vietnam has an Internet penetration rate of over 50% and ranks 7th in the world in the number of Facebook accounts.  The country’s mobile networks are being upgraded to 4G and wi-fi access is ubiquitous,” he explained.

 “There are more opportunities than ever to access online courses in foreign languages and a wide variety of other subjects.”

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