English was yet again the subject with the lowest average score among nine subjects in the national high school exam (the first phase) this year, according to results released last week by the Ministry of Education and Training.
More than 749,000 students took the English test in the first phase this year, with an average score of 4.58 out of 10, a slight increase compared to last year’s average of 4.36. The most common score this year was 3.4.
As many as 543 students or 0.07 per cent of candidates scored less than one point. More than 63 per cent of students scored less than five points.
Education specialists were not surprised at the poor results, saying the scores reflect the quality of English teaching and learning in Việt Nam despite a project from the Ministry of Education and Training to improve the quality of foreign language teaching nationwide in the 2008-20 period.
Students take the English test at Long Xuyên High school, Mekong Delta province of An Giang. — VNA/VNS Photo
Dr Phạm Ngọc Thạch, chairman of the management board of the Hà Nội University, said the vast majority of students took the English test at the national high school exam for high school graduation only. They did not need to score high for university admission so they just targeted not scoring under one point.
Dr Lê Trường Tùng, chairman of the management board of the FPT University, told the Voice of Việt Nam (VOV) online newspaper that the quality of teaching English depended largely on the capacity of teachers and teaching conditions. In Việt Nam, English teaching and learning methods tend to help students score high in the exam, not help them use the language effectively in practice.
“The conditions of teaching and learning English, and teacher capacity are different in various localities. Students who score high not only learn at high schools but also take extra classes and study at international or private schools,” he said.
Dr Nguyễn Quốc Bình, former principal of Việt Nam-Germany High school in Hà Nội, said the quality of teaching and learning English at high schools in many localities have not met practical demand. That is the main reason for the low results although the English test this year was seen as easier than in previous years. “We have to look at the fact that our teachers have a lot of shortcomings. Our teaching methods remain outdated and have not caught up with modern teaching methods. We really need an English teaching overhaul in remote areas,” he said.
The experts also said the design of the project for teaching foreign languages in the 2008-20 period has not been relevant to teachers’ capacity and students’ ability. Foreign language teaching quality could not be improved in a short time but needed changes in the primary, secondary and high school level.
The national high school exam is a major event in Việt Nam, with its results used to determine whether a student graduates from high school and if they can enter a college or university.
Candidates were tested in maths, literature, foreign language, natural science (including physics, chemistry and biology) and social science (including history, geography and citizen education). All the tests were in a multiple-choice format, except for literature.
This year, for the first time, the exam has been organised in two phases due to the COVID-19 pandemic. About 867,000 candidates finished the first phase on August 10. The second phase for more than 26,000 students in COVID-19 hotspots and those in quarantine will take place on September 3 and 4.