Vietnamese students perform worst in English in national high school exam

By Nguyen Quy, Duong Tam   August 27, 2020 | 02:00 am PT
Vietnamese students perform worst in English in national high school exam
Students in HCMC take the national high school exam on August 10, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
The average English score was 4.58 out of 10, the lowest among nine subjects during this year’s national high school graduation examination.

Over 900,000 Vietnamese high school seniors sat for the exam held on August 9-10, doing tests on math, literature, a foreign language, and a combination of natural science subjects (physics, chemistry and biology) or social sciences (history, geography and civics).

Around 750,000 took the English test, with other options being Chinese, French, German, Japanese, and Russian.

Results announced on Thursday showed 63.1 percent of examiners posting below-average scores in English.

Over half of the English examinees achieved a score of 3.4 out of 10 while 543 students scored below 1, up 1.3 times against last year.

English is the only subject where Vietnamese students scored less than 5. For other subjects, they scored between 5.19 (history) and 8.14 (civics). The average math score was 6.68 and literature 6.62.

The national average English test score last year was 4.38. This year, the English exam had 50 multiple choice questions, but did not include speaking, listening or writing tests. Candidates were allowed to finish the test in one hour.

Students in Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s commercial center, achieved the highest average English language score with 5.85, followed by Binh Duong and Ba Ria-Vung Tau in southern Vietnam, and Hanoi in fourth spot.

Northern mountainous provinces like Hoa Binh, Son La and Ha Giang achieved the lowest scores.

In Vietnam, English is a compulsory subject from 3rd grade onward. Students in public schools are mostly taught using the traditional methods of grammar exercises and vocabulary cramming.

Educators said Vietnamese students have improved their English quite a bit over the past several years, thanks to increased access to resources like cable TV, the Internet and foreign movies, and enormous investment from parents.

In major cities like Hanoi and HCMC, many parents send their children to English centers from early on.

However, English scores from national high school exams in the past three years did not reflect positive results.

In 2019, Vietnam was listed in the low-proficiency category, for the first time since 2015, down from "moderate" in preceding years, and ranked 52nd out of 100 nations in English proficiency, according to EF English Proficiency Index, released by Swiss Education First (EF), a global language training company.

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