Problem with Vietnam's language centers: unqualified teachers

By jhvnherrmann   January 15, 2023 | 05:13 pm PT
Problem with Vietnam's language centers: unqualified teachers
Parents gather to demand tuition fee back from an English language center in HCMC after several of its scams, April 2022. Photo acquired by VnExpress
I would like to bring your attention to what I consider the degradation of ESL teaching (English as a second language) in Vietnam.

When I arrived in Vietnam in 2004, all schools and language centers sought native English speaking teachers or the non-native teachers who had to speak fluent and almost unbroken English. This insistence sought to make sure that students were being taught proper English in writing, speaking, spelling and pronunciation along with correct sentence structure.

However, that has changed and today more than ever, teachers are being hired here in Vietnam to teach English from almost every corner of the non-native English speaking world. You will find people from Russia which constitutes the fastest growing nationality of non-native English teachers, to other from Spain, India, Pakistan, Lithuania, France, the Philippines, Indonesia, Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana, Hungary, Poland, Sweden, Norway, Kenya, Serbia, Romania, Estonia, Argentina and other non-native English-speaking countries.

This drift away from hiring only proper English speaking teachers has led to an invasion of people from Europe, Africa and other countries as mentioned and is swinging the native English speaking teachers into the minority here in Vietnam. The problems resulting from this are many, and firstly is that; parents are paying tuition fees expecting to have their child taught proper English by a native speaking teacher. This is not the case in many instances and the downward trend is escalating to the point where it is acceptable in Vietnam and is even being one of preference; that of hiring non-native English-speaking teachers.

The ads are everywhere on social and other public media. Many ads state that companies and schools seek Europeans and other non-native English-speaking teachers over that of native English speakers. This allows companies and schools to have a broader hiring range and also allows for lower wages to be paid for these teachers. Many schools are now paying English teachers 2006 wages and some even less than that. This leads to less qualified teachers teaching Vietnamese students and also drives out the native English-speaking teachers. This whole circus is being back-officed by a new generation of HR and recruitment personnel who are often non-professional, and do not truly understand their job. They have created inner circles that keep out old and more experienced teachers to hire on good looks and youth to go along with being able to hire cheaper European and other non-native speakers. These are some of the reasons many native speaking teachers say they have had enough of Vietnam.

The effects from this trend produces students with a lower ability to speak and write English properly. No matter how many qualifications a non-native may have, there is no substitution for a native English-speaking teacher. Parents expect that but many do not know that their children are being taught by non-native English speaking teachers. They are in actuality, being cheated out of their money and their students are not being taught properly. Teachers are running here for wages higher than in their own countries and most always it is money that draws them - not the passion of teaching and helping Vietnamese students or the country of Vietnam itself.

It is quite evident that the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs might want to bring an end to this massive invasion of non-native teachers into Vietnam. It is most detrimental to the student generation that in the future will rely on good English skills. If the trend continues it will lead to other allowable negative instances in Vietnam. It is time to pass laws to keep these non-native speakers from obtaining English teaching positions in Vietnam. There are plenty of native English-speaking teachers who are available to teach and many who wish to return to teaching after losing their jobs to these non-native English speaking people.

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