EduVoice with National Geographic is a series of educational interviews with top Educators discussing issues and opportunities in Education. This episode Where Are We Going Next? : Vietnam’s English National Curriculum with Dr. Hieu Nguyen (CEO, IEG Consulting) and Dr. Nguyen Thanh Binh has attracted 600+ people from 20+ countries. They shared their view on
The design and roadmap of the new national curriculum of English
The challenges for multiple stakeholders across geographies, segments and school models
Potential impacts of the new national curriculum on teaching and learning quality from K-12 to college
Systemic solutions for school leaders and teachers to cope with challenges
How do Changes affect Schools?
Interviewer: I know that public schools have to follow the new curriculum? Will this affect all schools (both public and private)? Or are there some schools that won't be affected by this? Or is that a complex question?
Dr. Hieu: Kind of complex, but not so complex. I think private school is affected differently. So basically, private school has the leeway to have more English lessons per week compared to public school. And also a lot of the characterization of students and parents in private school, they tend to be more prepared, and international-minded.
Besides, if you look at the new curriculum, the equivalent outcome in CEFR for primary school will be A1, A2 for middle school, and probably B1 for high school. In the past three or four years, for a lot of private schools, the majority of students have achieved A2 at the end of primary school already. And I know that some of the leading private schools in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city are pushing for B1. I have witnessed a few primary school graduation classes with 50% of students achieving B1. So for middle school, it should be B2. And they already have signed up for assessments like IELTS or TOEFL. So I think for a lot of leading private schools in lots of our cities, they will not be affected at all. That is one way to think about it.
However, public schools now have the new curriculum in place with outcomes clearly indicated, it poses pressure to private schools in the middle or the low anchor. There is pressure to push themselves to the English and language teaching and learning standards of the leading group and exceed the outcome of the public school. In that sense, the leading group also feels the pressure to push their language learning as well.
How do Changes Affect Students?
Interviewer: For students, they will all be learning similar language points, competencies, topics and themes. However, the actual content they're learning will be different from province to province or city to city when they choose different textbooks. This changes a lot about the shared education experience that we are familiar with. What does this change mean for students?
Dr. Binh: In the old curriculum, grade 6 to 12. With the new one, we set it as compulsory from grade 3 to 12, and we also have curriculum in grade 1 and 2 to familiarize students with English. I think students now have some better opportunities to approach the English language at earlier ages. And there are a variety of alternative ways to gain access to this language, for example, the internet and a lot of resources that will help them with learning. At the moment, it is now the transition period. Not all changes are easy for teachers to follow, but changes are inevitable.
Dr. Hieu: I think the change is not much of a challenge to students and parents. Nowadays, there's so many alternative resources for learning and exposure to language. I have seen public school students speak English fluently, just because they watch a lot of videos on YouTube or on Netflix and such. So I think the challenge is not much on the students and the parents as much as it is for the schools and teachers.
The question I kept asking school and educators and teachers is “Do we innovate quickly enough to meet the needs of the students?”
The students don't need to innovate to meet our needs. The pressure is on us to innovate ourselves and our system to meet the learning needs of the students because I think students have tremendous learning needs and learning capabilities.
The challenge lies more on the school and the teachers than other students in the parents because within even the old system, we have seen so many students thrive and excel just because more and more alternative resources of learning are available. It does not stop at after-class learning centers, but also a lot of edtech products and online learning programs. Students in Vietnam can learn programs by Stanford gifted talents. It is available already.
The question is, what if there's a public school where students that are way above the level required for the school year already, and teachers are just teaching under the level of the student?
See the full interview here.