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World's top-10 teacher elected MP in Vietnam

By Duong Tam   June 12, 2021 | 12:05 am PT
World's top-10 teacher elected MP in Vietnam
Ha Anh Phuong, a high school teacher in Phu Tho Province, northern Vietnam. Photo by VTC.
An English teacher who was among the 10 finalists for the 2020 Global Teacher Prize has been elected as a deputy of the National Assembly.

Ha Anh Phuong, 30, teaches English at the Huong Can high school in Thanh Son District of the northern Phu Tho Province.

She has become one of 499 people elected as legislators for the National Assembly (NA)’s 2021-2026 term.

"This is such an honor for me yet it comes with great responsibility and I must try harder. I realize that I do not just represent educators but ethnic minorities, women, and the younger generation."

Phuong, an ethnic Muong, became the first Vietnamese ever to be shortlisted among 10 finalists for the Global Teacher Prize of the London-based Varkey Foundation last year.

She had decided to become an English teacher after watching a Vietnamese documentary on how teachers knocked on people’s doors in remote mountainous areas to persuade them to send their children to school.

She had been offered a position as a representative director of a Pakistani pharmaceutical firm in Vietnam, but turned it down to pursue a career as a teacher.

In 2016, she quit her previous job as an English teacher at a major language center in Hanoi and an interpreter to teach at the Huong Can high school, where 90 percent of students are from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Usually, members of ethnic minorities have little chance to practice English with foreigners, leading to low language competence, shyness, poor intercultural awareness and lack of interest.

Phuong taught herself how to utilize IT tools to connect teachers and students, even from different countries. She also made use of films and online classes, even creating a YouTube channel to teach English for free.

She has taught students in four continents - Africa, Europe, Asia, and America - and is an active member of a Microsoft educational community of global teachers that designs lessons and engages in professional development.

Now, as an NA deputy, Phuong said she will continue to explore and listen to make recommendations and solutions to improve the effectiveness of English teaching and learning in schools in particular, while improving the quality of education in Vietnam in general.

"I am also concerned about issues that Vietnamese students usually struggle with, such as reading culture, preserving national cultural traditions, and internet safety," Phuong said.

Currently, in addition to the cross-border classroom model, she is working on other online projects such as "Happy Library" and "Safety in Cyberspace" to encourage students to read more and learn how to protect themselves online.

Phuong said she is also interested in ensuring the rights of teachers and would support policies to this end.

As a member of ethnic minority communities, Phuong said she would pay special attention to priority policies for ethnic minorities, because a majority of the groups are still facing a lot of difficulties, especially in achieving financial independence.

"I will actively learn the thoughts and aspirations of those groups to become a bridge so that their voices will be heard in the parliament," she said.

At a press conference Thursday, Bui Van Cuong, Secretary General of the NA and Chairman of the NA Office, said that on the election day on May 23, voters nationwide elected all 500 delegates for the 2021-26 term.

However, the National Electoral Council decided not to confirm the eligibility of one candidate who did not meet the standards of NA deputies.

In addition to Phuong, the 15th National Assembly has 24 teachers and officials working in the field of education.

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