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NEWS UPDATES 11 September 2010

Teacher and funding shortages halt English

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An ambitious programme to teach English in primary schools has been postponed due to teacher shortages and a lack of funds.

The programme was designed to give pupils an early grounding in the language. The Ministry of Education and Training wanted at least 20 per cent of primary school pupils to be taught English in the 2010-11 academic year.

Under the programme, English will be a compulsory subject for third-grade to the fifth-grade students who will have four lessons per week.

However, a shortage of teachers has forced the ministry to withdraw the plan. Le Tien Thanh, director of the Ministry of Education and Training's Primary Education Department, said the programme had been successfully implemented in a few schools.

The programme was launched in 2003. However, the results have been disappointing. Hoang Thi Dieu, principal of Bac Phu Primary School in Ha Noi's Soc Son District, said students were only taught English twice a week.

She said the school had only two qualified English teachers and that it did not have the funds required to buy tapes, projectors and equipment to properly teach the subject.

An official at Soc Son Education and Training Bureau said some primary schools had already piloted teaching English but teacher shortages had meant they'd had to abandon the project. The Viet Nam Education Science Institute said there were more than 4,000 teachers teaching English in primary schools across the country.

Institute deputy director Nguyen Loc said there were sufficient teachers to conduct a pilot programme in the country.

But Loc said about 2,000 more teachers needed to be trained each year. Only by so doing would primary schools be able to meet the ministry's requirements, he said. Thanh said teacher quality was a major concern.

"It depends on the actual capability of the teaching staff whose English language proficiency must meet international standards," said Thanh. "University degrees are meaningless by themselves."

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