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VN woman - only Asian lecturer in English teacher education at Australia university

At an interview for the post of lecturer at Flinders University, Ngo Tuyet Mai, when asked why the university should choose her, said in addition to her knowledge and experience, she also has empathy and understands international students.

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Mai is now working as a senior lecturer at Flinders University, the only Asian lecturer in the Faculty of Society, Arts and Humanities' program in English Language Teaching Education.

“To be admitted to an Australian school to work as a lecturer, first of all, your CV needs to outperform other candidates. At the interview, you need to show that you deserve the position,” she said.

Mai said she spent many years equipping herself with knowledge, skills and experience, while also learning from excellent lecturers and professors.

She attended lectures given by experienced lecturers at Sydney and New South Wales universities, where she studied for a master’s degree and doctorate.

“Attending the lectures helped me grasp different approaches and learn a lot from experienced lecturers. Only when understanding the environment and work of a lecturer in Australia well could I find my roadmap to learn, strive and thrive,” she said.

Her deep knowledge helped her perform well at the interview for the lecturer post.

Mai considers her being Asian an advantage that allows her to be closer to students, understand them and inspire them.

“I always try to learn and constantly renew my lectures. And I regularly ask for feedback from students and I do this throughout the course, not only at the end. This allows me to make adjustments when necessary,” she said.

“Before I begin my lectures, I tell my students that if there is something they cannot understand, they can blame me. I ask them to tell me immediately so that I can explain once again in a clearer way,” she added.

Her students don’t hesitate to share their thoughts with her, which makes her lessons more open and effective. The interactions between them are extremely useful, she said.

Her academic journey

After years of postgraduate study in Australia, Mai returned several times to Vietnam to work at Hanoi University, where she had studied in the past.

 

At an interview for the post of lecturer at Flinders University, Ngo Tuyet Mai, when asked why the university should choose her, said in addition to her knowledge and experience, she also has empathy and understands international students.

 

She applied for an Australian Government scholarship in 1999-2000 and obtained a scholarship for a master’s degree program in English teaching at University of Sydney.

Soon after obtaining a master’s degree, she returned to Vietnam and devoted herself to Hanoi University for 10 years, ignoring job opportunities in Australia.

During the five years of working as General Faculty Dean, she realized that she still lacked management skills. She decided to go to Australia to study for a doctorate in university administration for four years. When returning to Vietnam, she took the post of Director of the International Education Center at Hanoi University.

Two years later, she returned to Australia for postdoc study and became a lecturer at Flinders University.

“Vietnamese can make contributions to the country’s building and development, no matter where they live,” Mai said, explaining why she decided to stay in Australia.

Mai’s research projects all have relations with Vietnam.

Concerned about the quality of English teaching and learning in Vietnam, the Vietnamese lecturer, who is in her late 40s, organizes free seminars for teachers of English every time she returns to Vietnam. She has done this since early 2019.

As Covid-19 broke out which forced Australia and many countries to close their doors, Mai and her co-workers organized online seminars with topics of public concern, such as “helping teachers ease the workload thanks to smart solutions’ and ‘improving the teaching of English thanks to attractive teaching methods’.

English is key for progress

Mai, a former English major student at the Hanoi-Amsterdam High School for the Gifted, said the biggest problem in Vietnam is that both teachers and students are under pressure from tests and examinations, so they have to spend too much time on review to prepare for grammar and vocabulary exams and international certificates (IELTS and TOEFL).

Learning how to use English as a daily communication tool has not been given much attention.

She also pointed out that many teachers want their students to have English skills as high as native speakers. They tend to correct minor mistakes in pronunciation.

This puts pressure on English learners and makes them lose interest in learning English. As they fear that their pronunciation is wrong, they are afraid of speaking and communicating. This way of teaching English is ineffective, she said. 

Thuy Nga - Phuong Thu

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