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Southern cities and provinces in Vietnam short of English teachers



At the start of the new school year, there is a shortage of English teachers not only in public schools but also in private centers for foreign language teaching in Ho Chi Minh City and southern localities, though teachers are being offered great advantages.

Tran Ngoc Duc, deputy director of H123 English Afterschool Center with eight branches in Binh Duong Province bordering Ho Chi Minh City, said his network of centers is back in operation since March after being closed for six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, more teachers have been recruited since then as the number of existing teachers cannot meet learners’ demands.

Most foreign language centers are suffering from a shortage of both Vietnamese and foreign teachers.

At the same time, at the beginning of the new school year, the number of students has increased by one and a half times, sometimes even two times, compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Income increases of 30 percent for recruitment

According to Duc, many English centers in Binh Duong used to not recruit their own teachers and instead asked a mid-level human resources partner to do it for them.

For example, if a center needs teachers for a new semester, the partner will provide them.

However, at the moment, some of these job placement partners also have a shortage of teachers and cannot share with the centers as usual.

Duc explained that the shortage of English teachers is related to the fact that many large enterprises, especially enterprises with foreign investment capital, are restructuring their workforces after a prolonged period of stagnation due to COVID-19.

To this end, companies have launched large recruitment campaigns offering high incomes and many other benefits to attract employees with foreign language skills.

English centers are among the last services that were allowed to reopen in the new normal post-pandemic situation. Because of this, many people who used to be English teachers changed jobs.

“As for foreign teachers, it is very difficult to keep them even if the average salary increased by 20 to 30 percent,” Duc said.

A representative of a center with five English branches in Dong Nai, the province located east and northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, reported the same.

He believed that the shortage of English teachers has existed for a long time but has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

To solve the problem, the company needs to rotate its teachers between centers.

For example, a teacher must rotate between centers to cover classes. On days when there are fewer classes, the center’s teachers are assigned to other centers to assist.

“Part-time work”

According to Cao Thi Ngoc, a representative of the EVAC International English Center based in Binh Duong, many people have found working as English teachers at a center unsafe after two years of the pandemic. 

They experienced being fired or not receiving a salary when something unexpected happens, depending on whom they work for. 

As a result, according to Ngoc’s observation, there are more and more English teachers who found another job and consider teaching English in centers only as a side job.

Tran Ngoc Duc believed that the current shortage of English teachers cannot be solved in the short term, especially in small- and medium-sized foreign language centers. 

In his opinion, centers are currently competing not only with others but also with enterprises in various industries when it comes to English-speaking staff. 

According to Duc, thanks to stronger financial resources, enterprises in other sectors have a greater advantage in attracting staff with English skills than those in the education sector. 

In addition, many education centers are already facing great difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his opinion, well-funded centers with good human resources policies can retain their teachers, while others have to rely completely on people who consider teaching English as their second job.

Duc suggested a way to train enough English teachers in the long run. According to him, it would be more sustainable to cooperate with universities that have English departments and offer them more benefits.

Meanwhile, education centers can cooperate with these universities in various activities to promote their companies to students who may want to become their employees after graduation. 

In this way, teaching at English centers can become more attractive to students. At least, the centers can ask them to work in the first two years after graduation, Duc said.

A representative of Viet My Group (VMG), which has 10 branches in Dong Nai province, said they always need to offer more incentives to have enough teachers to meet the demands of a new school year.

In addition to salaries and bonuses, VMG teachers can also receive a commission if they help the company recruit high-quality English teachers.

The commission can be up to VND5 million (US$211) if the teacher recruited is a foreigner.

Work 11 hours a day

X.B., 24, a Spanish national, has been working as a full-time English teacher for a large foreign language center in Ho Chi Minh City for one month. In an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, X.B. said he felt overwhelmed by the long duration and workload in the past month.

X.B. said that he and other colleagues have to work overtime because the center is short of teachers.

The number of available instructors can only meet 70 percent of the demand.

“I work a total of 11 hours a day. Of course, it is nice that the center pays me the money for the overtime, but the workload is so high because of the staff shortage,” said the Spanish teacher.

“Besides teaching, I also have to take care of office work, which is also very time-consuming. I am often assigned to other branches of the company where there are fewer teachers.

“Sometimes I come to Thu Duc City, other times to District 1 or Go Vap District,” X.B. added.

How to keep English teachers?

One of the solutions VMG has applied to retain its teachers is to provide them with opportunities for professional development.

There is a widespread belief that it is difficult to make a good career as a teacher in private education centers compared to other professional environments.

Therefore, VMG provides opportunities for its lecturers to participate in courses to develop their professional skills.

The more the teachers commit to the center in the long term, the larger subsidies they can receive from the center when they attend courses.

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Daily challenges for a visually impaired teacher in Vietnam



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 Special School. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre

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.”

Teacher Le Hong Vu Minh teaches English to a class at Nguyen Dinh Chieu Special School. Photo: Ngoc Phuong / Tuoi Tre

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

Trying to protect students from the ‘negative impact’ of the Internet

Among the various challenges, Le Ho Vu Minh is most concerned about the negative impact of the Internet on his blind students, although information technology has helped them a lot.

According to him, before the Internet era, the blind spent so much time playing music.

There were many music talents that came out of the visually impaired community.

Nowadays, however, many of them spend their time not only studying and living, but also surfing websites or social media.

Therefore, the number of blind people who have a special talent for music has remarkably decreased, which can be observed by some music teachers at Nguyen Dinh Chieu school.

“I often tell my students that as blind people, we always need much more time to do the same work than normal people,” Minh said.

“In other words, we have to try harder to do everything in life, so we had better not waste time on worthless things on the Internet.

“But it’s not that simple. We are really trying to fight to protect our students from the bad temptations of the Internet.”

Truong Viet Toan, a schoolmate of Le Hong Vu Minh at university, said his friend is an excellent example of strong will and perseverance.

In their years at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Minh left his friends with the impression of a person with a good sense of humor who always sees the positive.

“He can take care of himself in everyday life, except when he has to ask others to guide him to school,” Toan said.

“But he is incredibly good at remembering the roads. Sometimes I drive him somewhere and he navigates my way.”

According to Toan, Minh is an excellent English teacher who has mastered the four skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

He is also enthusiastic about after-school activities, so others sometimes forget that he is blind.

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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 2022 Open Doors reports shows the numbers of Vietnamese students studying in the U.S. over the years.

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.

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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.

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