More than twenty years ago, Le Hong Vu Minh was a blind student. Today he is an English teacher at the school where he once studied, Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for the Blind in Ho Chi Minh City, but many challenges Minh has faced are quite different.
One day in the past, at the age of ten, Minh found that his eyesight was gradually deteriorating until he could no longer see.
His parents sent him to Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for the Blind in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City to learn useful skills for the blind while trying to find treatment.
Despite their efforts, the exact cause of Minh’s blindness has not been determined to this day.
The decision to give back
“As for me, I may be even luckier, because tragedy struck when I was a child,” Minh recalled.
“At that time, I was too young to know how terrible blindness would be, so I was not too shocked.”
At Nguyen Dinh Chieu School, Minh had the opportunity to meet friends who were going through the same thing, which made him feel very compassionate.
“I was so busy with many things, including finding treatment for the disease and learning life skills for the blind, that I did not have time to feel sad,” Minh said.
Over time, the boy who suddenly went blind has grown up step by step, with the love of his parents, the naivety of his childhood, and the strength of his will in his later years.
After attending Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for the Blind for two years, Minh returned to regular school to study with classmates with normal sight.
At the same time, he still attended classes in survival skills at the special school.
In those days, Minh encountered numerous subjects that were ‘not for’ the visually impaired, such as three-dimensional geometry, one that required him to imagine what they were in his head and to even ‘draw’ graphs in his mind.
Despite these challenges, he gradually completed all levels of general education and graduated from the Faculty of English Linguistics and Literature at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities under the Vietnam National University-Ho Chi Minh City.
He later won a scholarship to study for a master’s degree in special education in Australia.
“Actually, I did not want to be a teacher at first, so I worked in a company after I finished my bachelor’s degree. I still kept in touch with the teachers at Nguyen Dinh Chieu School and helped them when I could,” Minh said.
“One day I knew my old high school needed an English teacher and felt the job seemed to fit me, so I came back,” teacher Minh told of a turning point in his life when he became a teacher at Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for the Blind in 2011.
His decision may come as no surprise, as the old high school has always been a family to him and others.
|Teacher Le Hong Vu Minh has been blind since he was ten years old, but he has tried to overcome his fate to become an excellent English teacher at Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for the Blind in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre|
Knowing that there is no faculty that trains pedagogical methods only for the blind, Minh decided to study at two faculties at the same time in Australia, the Faculty of Education for the Blind and the Faculty of English Teaching, hoping to help students the most.
Minh has tried to learn English before, when there was no Internet. So, he knows how difficult it is for learners to find ways to learn foreign languages.
As a result, he is aware of the many advantages available to today’s learners thanks to innovative technological achievements.
Minh has focused on finding the best teaching methods that combine both traditional and innovative approaches to teaching English to his visually impaired students.
“When I was a student, there was only Braille, now there are more tools like computers, audiobooks, and the Internet to help students learn,” said Minh.
“I especially admire teacher Minh,” said Nguyen Thi Thanh Hue, principal of Nguyen Dinh Chieu School.
“As a normal person with healthy eyes, I find it exceedingly difficult to learn English.
“In contrast, he knows English very well and has effective methods to help blind students learn the foreign language comfortably and normally like sighted students do.”
Challenges for educational integration
Minh is not only an English teacher, but also responsible for helping the visually impaired students to participate in classes in a normal school together with healthy classmates, as per Vietnam’s policy to encourage the blind to mingle with those with normal sight.
He helps the students find solutions to the problems they may have in class. While playing this role, Minh acts like a brother to the students, according to Hue.
“Students often turn to me to ask about the problems they have attending regular school,” Minh said.
“There is a student who had difficulty learning because the teachers only write on the blackboard and he could not see anything, while some others were discriminated against in some cases.”
In line with the government’s policy in recent years to help the blind integrate into the ordinary education system, the visually impaired have the opportunity to attend a school near their home when they reach the appropriate age.
Although the policy is humane and appropriate, its implementation faces many obstacles.
“Some schools are reluctant to accept blind students because they are not confident in teaching them with the specially required skills. We have tried to help schools overcome these difficulties,” Minh said.
He was incredibly pleased with the positive feedback from teachers in these schools, who said that it was no longer a challenge for them to teach visually impaired students after they had acquired the necessary skills.
When Minh told your correspondent about the positive feedback that he received from the teachers at Nguyen Dinh Chieu School, his face brims with joy.
During the three months of summer, Minh and many other teachers at Nguyen Dinh Chieu School did not have a single day off. They had to rush to prepare the new English textbooks in Braille for use in 6th grade in the 2022-23 school year.
Since there are three English books that schools can choose to teach, and the official decision on which books to teach was announced late, the ‘translation’ of these books into Braille is not yet complete.
Currently, Minh and two other teachers have to continue the remaining work.
“One of the biggest challenges for us in converting English textbooks into Braille is that there are so many pictures,” said Minh, explaining the process of creating a Braille textbook.
“We have to decide which photos to keep or remove as long as that does not have a negative impact on the amount of knowledge in the books.”
|Le Hong Vu Minh teaches English to a class at Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for the Blind in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre|
Vietnamese students make fifth largest group of foreign students in US
Vietnamese students constitute the fifth largest group of foreign students in the U.S. for the academic year of 2021/2022, the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi cited the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) annual Open Doors report.
Despite a 4.2 percent decrease in the number of students from 21,631 in 2020-21 to 20,713 in 2021-22, the position was up from sixth last year.
When assessed on a basis of overall economy size and measured through GDP output, the data indicates that Vietnam now sends more students to the U.S. than any other country, the U.S. Embassy said in a press release on Friday.
Vietnamese students also continue to demonstrate a strong footing in strategically important subjects across U.S. institutions such as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and business/management studies.
The percentage of Vietnamese students pursuing STEM and business/management majors are 47.1 percent and 25.6 percent respectively.
|A screenshot from the 2022 Open Doors report shows the number of Vietnamese students studying in the U.S. over the years.|
“As the United States approaches the tenth Anniversary of the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership, the Open Doors data is demonstrable proof that education remains a cornerstone of the bilateral relationship, while the nature of our current educational cooperation is already strategic,” Genevieve Judson-Jourdain, U.S. Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer, was quoted as saying in the press release on Friday.
According to the U.S. Embassy, the U.S. Mission to Vietnam is committed to deepening the two countries’ education cooperation through enhanced linkages and dual programs between American and Vietnamese institutions, facilitating joint research, and increasing opportunities for Vietnamese and American students, faculty, administrators, and staff to have meaningful exchanges.
Over 948,000 international students from more than 200 places of origin studied at U.S. higher education institutions during the 2021-22 academic year, a four-percent rise compared to the previous academic year, the 2022 Open Doors report showed.
British Council allowed to resume IELTS exam in Vietnam
The British Council received the permission from the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training to resume IELTS exam on Friday, one day after IDP Education was granted the same approval.
The approval allows the British Council to cooperate with Dong A Education Tech Ltd., ODIN Education JSC and University Access Centre Vietnam Ltd. to organize the tests.
Hanoi, Hai Phong City, north-central Nghe An Province, central Thua Thien-Hue Province, and Ho Chi Minh City are the British Council’s five licensed exam venues.
The mentioned companies have to inform People’s Committees at provincial and municipal levels about exam schedules at least five days in advance and are required to submit reports on their operations every six months, before June 25 and December 25, to the education ministry.
The British Council and IDP Education are the only two IELTS test organizers in Vietnam.
The education ministry issued a similar decision to permit IDP Education to resume the test on Thursday.
Last week, both the British Council and IDP announced the temporary postponement of all tests until further notice.
The reason for the suspension was that test organizers had not completed their legal dossiers as per the regulations.
The two IELTS test organizers just submitted the required document to the education ministry earlier this week.
Vietnam allows resumption of IELTS examinations
The Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training granted permission to IDP Education to immediately resume IELTS testing on Thursday after one week of suspension.
The education ministry’s decision came into effect immediately and will last five years.
IDP Education is one of two IELTS test organizers in Vietnam.
One week ago, the ministry postponed all IELTS examinations, one of the most popular English certifications in Vietnam, citing quality concerns.
Foreign language proficiency tests for South Korean, Japanese, and Chinese were also halted.
The decision came as a surprise and caused worry among students and parents, with some planning to travel abroad in order to take the IELTS test.
The Ministry of Education and Training said the reason for the pause was that test organizers had not completed their dossier as per the regulations.
Earlier this week, IDP Education submitted the required documents to the education ministry for review and processing.
Upon receiving permission to resume IELTS examinations on Thursday, IDP Education immediately contacted students who had already enrolled to take the test at the organization’s centers in Vietnam to inform them of new arrangements.
The education ministry now allows IDP Education to organize the exams only in Hanoi, Da Nang City, and Ho Chi Minh City, but not in 41 other provinces and cities across the country as before.
Nguyen Thanh Sang, general director of IDP Education in Vietnam, expects the change to affect test takers for the foreseeable future.
“It will take more time to have enough space for all the test takers,” Sang told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Thursday afternoon.
The British Council, the other IELTS test organizer in Vietnam, is still in the Ministry of Education and Training’s review process, according to Dan Tri news outlet.
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