HCMC wants more kindergarteners to study English

By Le Nguyen   January 17, 2024 | 03:23 pm PT
HCMC wants more kindergarteners to study English
A girl learns English with a foreign teacher at South Saigon Kindergarten in HCMC's District 7. Photo by VnExpress/Le Nguyen
Municipal education leaders say the 57.4% of Ho Chi Minh City kindergartners studying English is too low a figure, and local authorities aim to up the number.

According to the preschool unit under the city's Department of Education and Training, around 157,000 children aged three-six in HCMC are studying English at kindergartens in HCMC.

Luong Hong Diep, head of the unit, said a kindergarten English-teaching program was launched in 2020 as a voluntary option parents could chose for their children.

After three years, the city now has 1,218 kindergartens teaching English, all equipped with the proper facilities and tools to do so, thanks to the program.

About 3,200 teachers teach the language, including over 230 native English-speaking teachers from 130 private language centers collaborating with the schools.

Diep said that through learning English at an early stage, children get to explore and understand the world around them in various ways. They become more bold, and more confident in communication, according to Diep.

"Children can familiarize themselves with their second language naturally by absorbing it through games, songs and stories, instead of in constrained, obligatory classes," she said.

This also lays the foundation for better English learning in higher grades, Diep argued.

James Moran, Academic Director at EMG Education, which developed the competency survey criteria for preschool children, shared the same thoughts.

He said countries where English is considered a second language, such as Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines introduce English to preschool children alongside their mother tongue, and that Japan and South Korea have similar programs for preschool children.

Given such benefits, Le Thuy My Chau, Deputy Director of the Department of Education and Training, said that after three years of having English taught at kindergartens, the ratio of just over 57% of children getting access to English learning is "concerning" and should be improved, especially when the city has about 3,000 preschool education institutions.

She said that administrators need to find solutions to increase the number of children exposed to the language.

Nguyen Ba Linh, an official from the Education and Training Department of Cu Chi District in the city's suburban, acknowledged difficulties in ensuring that preschool kids learn English.

"Most parents agree that learning English is necessary but they argue that it is not necessary for the children to learn it at such an early stage," he said.

Additionally, kindergartens in outlying districts lack English teachers, and so they have to collaborate with language centers, the funding for which comes only from parent contributions, leading to a lack of uniformity and reliability.

Diep said that in order to teach English, kindergartens must have separate classrooms, equipped with computers, interactive boards, smart TVs, and a system of toys and visual aids that are relatable and appropriate, and not all schools can afford that.

Children from poor families also find it difficult to participate as their parents must make contributions, she added.

The Ministry of Education and Training released the English familiarization program for preschool children at the end of 2020.

The program's targets are for children to be able to understand and repeat some words, phrases, and simple sentences. They should be able to respond and perform some short, simple, familiar requests, while also understanding the content of very simple comic stories, and repeat and read along with some rhymes, poems, according to the ministry. Being able to sing along with some simple songs, is another of the program's features.

The Vietnam Institute of Educational Sciences reported that by the end of the previous school year, 53 out of 63 localities had introduced English to preschool children.

Nearly 267,000 out of approximately 472,000 children have access to this program, accounting for 56.5%.

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