Vietnam: English language classes stir controversy

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Mar 16 12:43:01 UTC 2007


English language classes stir controversy

by Trung Hieu

The teaching of subjects in foreign languages at schools has raised
concerns among a number of education experts and members of the public who
feel that the countrys mother tongue has already fallen into a state of
disrepair. A high-ranking expert with the Education Science Institute,
Nguyen Gia Phong, is one such expert who has publicly protested the use of
foreign languages to teach mandatory curriculum subjects. He pointed out
that, during a recent session of the 11th National Assembly, deputy Nguyen
Minh Thuyet had said the HCM City Department of Education and Training is
now experimenting with teaching Maths and Science in English in local
primary schools, although they have yet to gain approval from the Prime
Ministers office.

According to the Law on Education, the Prime Minister is charged with
regulating the teaching of foreign languages in schools and other
educational institutions. Thuyet went on to question Minister of Education
and Training Nguyen Thien Nhan if the experimental programme being run by
the HCM City Department of Education and Training was in direct violation
of the Education Law. "Some schools compile their own textbooks for these
two subjects in English, without the approval of any national standards
council," he said.

"As schools race against each other to use foreign languages to teach in
schools, this situation will cause the Vietnamese language to lose its
position, and make the nations official language deteriorate right in our
very country." Nguyen Kim Diem, a Hanoian primary school teacher, who is
of the opinion that there should be a continuance of more foreign
languages being introduced to schools around the country, but also
stressed caution at the teaching of core subjects in English. "We should
pay more attention to the teaching of foreign languages to students. But
the teaching of foreign languages, and using foreign languages to teach
other subjects in the official curriculum, are two entirely different

Ha Thi Tan, a primary school teacher in Dong Da District, said she wanted
the position of Vietnamese to be given more prestige by the greater
population at large. "Currently, many young people cannot write a
grammatically-correct sentence in Vietnamese. When chatting with others
while using the Internet, young kids use so much slang, it erodes the
Vietnamese language.  I think there should be careful consideration when
deciding on what language to teach subjects at schools," she said. Phong
said one of the first achievements of the national liberation August
Revolution was to consider Vietnamese to be the official language of the
country and the language with which to teach in schools.

"Since then, Party and State leaders have always cared for the development
of Vietnamese. President Ho Chi Minh once said "Vietnamese is a very
precious asset that our forefathers left for us. We must preserve, develop
it and popularise it." Phong pointed to these examples as important
contributions to the development of Vietnamese and the national culture.
The educational expert is concerned that the teaching of several subjects
in English in primary schools may spread to other subjects and then on to
higher levels of education. I too am concerned and agree with his
viewpoint. Perhaps those responsible for the policy of using English to
teach other subjects should carefully consider to not let "our nations
very precious asset" the Vietnamese language fall into disrepair.  VNS


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