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High ranking in EF is no cause for celebration as English levels still low outside cities

VietNamNet Bridge - Experts say there remains a big gap in English proficiency level among provinces and cities.
VietNamNet Bridge - Experts say there remains a big gap in English proficiency level among provinces and cities.


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There remains a big gap in English proficiency among cities and provinces



In the 2018 Education First’s (EF) English Proficiency Index (EPI) of 88 countries in the world, Vietnam ranks seventh in Asia. In recent years, Vietnam fell in the ranking, since the first ranking release in 2011.

Education experts, while affirming that the English skills of the Vietnamese youth have improved significantly, still say that ‘Vietnamese should not be too optimistic about their English skills’.

Nguyen Ho Thuy Anh, a lecturer at John Robert Powers School, former lecturer of the Sai Gon University, pointed out the big difference in English skill levels among provinces and cities. The English skill in large cities, where students have opportunities to approach good training courses, is getting better, while it is still bad in other localities.

A high school lecturer in Hanoi commented that the method applied by EF when assessing English skills of Vietnamese people is not reasonable. Only a number of students did the English tests given by EF online, and therefore, the results must not represent all the students in Vietnam. 

He went on to say that even in large cities, not all students can approach English classes, and that general school doesn’t play an important role in teaching English.

“Many students are very proficient at English, but I am sure they go to extra English classes rather than relying on English lessons at school,” he explained.

In the 2018 Education First’s (EF) English Proficiency Index (EPI) of 88 countries in the world, Vietnam ranks seventh in Asia. In recent years, Vietnam fell in the ranking, since the first ranking release in 2011.

Vietnam has been implementing the national plan on English teaching and learning which begins English classes in the third grade. 

“Who knows exactly how many provinces and cities begin learning English in third grade?” he said, adding that under the national plan, students only have four English lessons a week.

Over many years, big money has been spent on teaching English in an effort to upgrade English skills. 

However, the achievements remain modest. A high proportion of students got below 5 (the average mark) for the English test at the 2018 high school finals. This also happened in HCMC, a prosperous city which has made big investments in facilities and teaching staff.

Cao Huy Thao, former principal of the Vietnam-Australia International School, blames the low efficiency of the English teaching at general schools on the unreasonable curricula and examination scheme.

Students now learn English just because they want to pass English exams, rather than consider how necessary it will be for them in their future jobs. 


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