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Interventionist management
Son Nguyen
Friday,  Sep 22, 2017,13:52 (GMT+7)

Interventionist management

Son Nguyen

In education, each stakeholder should have a separate role. The teacher – and the school in a wider sense – is mandated to convey knowledge in the most efficient way; the student needs to maximize learning to earn good academic record; and the State management agency should create the best corridor for educational development. Each stakeholder should understand well its role.

It is no wonder why a controversy gets heated following new guidelines issued by the HCMC Department of Education and Training, as many are of the opinion that the State agency has squarely intervened in the teacher’s job. The big question is not whether such guidelines are right or wrong by nature, but it is whether such intervention is necessary or not.

As covered in local media, the city education authority has just brought out new guidelines on English teaching assumed by native English speakers at elementary schools. Among controversial contents, native English speakers are not allowed to give English names to Vietnamese students, nor are they allowed to use audio-visual equipment such as cassette recorders and smart blackboards for English teaching so as to have more time for interactions between the teacher and the student. When Vietnamese teachers accompany native English speakers in class, they are not allowed to use the Vietnamese language but English only. And all materials to be used must be those already approved by the education department.

Such guidelines immediately spark debate.

An official at the education department explains on Vnexpress news website that the names of Vietnamese students are proper nouns that must be respected, and as learning English is meant for international integration, the local identity must also be preserved.

Many people also approve the department’s instruction, saying local names need to be respected as such names are sacred given by their parents. Even some students who have studied abroad say on Dan Tri online newspaper that they prefer having their Vietnamese names used in all occasions, and when studying overseas, teachers as native speakers there also try to pronounce their names as correctly as possible. 

However, many others say it is just a matter of convenience when local students are given English names, and there is no issue of respect or not in such instances. 

They argue that giving English names to Vietnamese students is popular in many English teaching classes citywide, as many native English speakers in many instances find it difficult to pronounce Vietnamese names correctly, let alone many of such names may arouse bad senses or images in English.

Apart from the issue of English names that sees a deep public divide, other issues specified in the department’s guidance have all met strong opposition.

Regarding the materials to be used in such English classes, for instance, many people challenged the department’s requirement that all must have been approved in advance. In case a English teacher guides students how to ask for traffic direction, and uses a photocopied map as a teaching tool, there is no reason why such material is banned, according to Tuoi Tre.

Or regarding the requirement to use English only in class even in the presence of a local teacher as an assistant, there is no logic for those students whose English skills remain modest, according to Thoi bao Kinh te Sai Gon. A bilingual class in this case will be more effective, says the paper.

But, as stated early on, it is not the contents of the department’s guidelines that arouse debate but the necessity of such guidelines.

Many people have found the guidelines funny, saying the State management agency seems to have nothing to do so they conceive patchy regulations to intervene in the job of the classroom, according to Dan Tri.

Contents in the guidance, according to Tuoi Tre, are none of the department’s business, since such issues are vested in the relationship between teachers and students, and are issues of concern to schools rather than an area of State management. A good school, says the paper, should be able to evaluate the effectiveness of using English teachers on their own, and “should not rely on regulations banning the use of audio-visual equipment.” In addition, as all native English teachers are recruited and paid by schools and parents of students rather than the State budget, there is no ground for State intervention in this case.

Nguyen Xuan Quang, a teacher of English, says in Thoi bao Kinh te Sai Gon that the ban on the use of audio-visual equipment as well as other materials “has restricted the choice of teaching methods on the part of teachers, and the right to access learning methods on the part of students, which will make the class boring and less effective.” Similarly, Hoang Thuc Nhi, who has done a post-graduate education program in Finland, says in the weekly magazine that assistance tools like audio-visual equipment have many advantages, making the classroom more exciting. The education department should not intervene in teaching in such a way that limits the creativity of teachers, she says.

The issue of greater concern should be the quality of the English class, says Vnexpress. The various bans on uncertified materials or audio-visual equipment, according to Tuoi Tre, are not professional guidance but are patchy and petty interventions that will go nowhere.

For guidelines that affect schools as well as students like this, the department should seek opinions from professionals and parents first, according to Thoi bao Kinh te Sai Gon. The key role of a State management agency, says the weekly news magazine, should be to create a pure, healthy and modern environment for education so that teachers and schools can bring into full play their roles, rather than to make direct intervention into the teaching decisions of teachers.

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