Việt Nam has caused surprise by improving its records on a global English test given by an international education company, in spite of current English teaching problems, and indicated transformation in its English ability between 2007 and 2012.
The country ranked 28th out of 60 countries and territories in the 2013 EF English Proficiency Index, according to results announced by index creator EF Education First over the weekend.
It stood at number 31 in the previous test taken by people from 54 countries and territories.
China is six notches away from Việt Nam in the index while Thailand is near the bottom at number 55.
Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands topped the list, according to EF English First.
The 2013 ranking was prepared on the basis of EF papers taken in 2012 by 750,000 adults from the participating countries and territories.
EF Education First did not reveal how many Vietnamese took the latest test but said that it only assessed those countries and territories with at least 400 test takers.
Việt Nam and Indonesia are among some Asian countries that have transformed their English proficiency from 2007 to 2012, the company added.
Even teachers fail exams
The results can be seen as a surprise, the official Việt Nam News Agency commented, saying Việt Nam has recognized that English is not taught effectively to its students at the moment.
The agency pointed out that the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) is considering new methods to improve the learning and teaching of English after it already announced plans to make English an optional test, instead of a compulsory one, in the national high school graduation exam.
This comment is justified by the performance by local teachers of English on a MoET test in 2012.
Thousands of teachers in 30 Vietnamese provinces and cities were required to sit for the test based on guidelines from the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages to check their listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills.
MoET demands that high school teachers reach the framework’s second-highest skill level (C1), while elementary and middle school educators must achieve the third-highest level (B2).
It was a shock that a mere 3-7 percent made the grade, and veteran instructors were also among the unsuccessful test takers.
In Hồ Chí Minh City, a paltry 15.5 percent of 1,100 teachers passed the test, even though the southern economic hub has some of the country’s highest academic standards.
Most strikingly, those who failed included seasoned instructors who had successfully trained students at leading specialized schools for national competitions and university entrance exams.
Many hold master’s degrees in English instruction.
Just 165 of 1,500 English teachers passed in An Giang Province, in the Mekong Delta, whereas far fewer passed in neighboring Đồng Tháp Province and Cần Thơ City.
Established in 1965, EF Education First specializes in language learning, educational travel, academic degrees, and cultural exchange programs.
Source: Tuổi Trẻ News