Academic journal article European Journal of Language Policy

Reconsidering the First Steps of CLIL Implementation in Vietnam

Academic journal article European Journal of Language Policy

Reconsidering the First Steps of CLIL Implementation in Vietnam

Article excerpt


Considered as an innovation in language learning, Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is a "dual-focused educational approach in which an additional language is used for the learning and teaching of both content and language" (Mehisto et al. 2008: 9).

In general, CLIL aims to promote linguistic diversity, language learning and develop the proficiency and internationalization of the learners (Van de Craen et al. 2007). In language teaching particularly, CLIL can be a development of Communicative Language Teaching (Coyle et al. 2010; Lasagabaster and Sierra 2010). More than a method for learning foreign languages (FL), CLIL can lead to significant results in learning in general due to changes in the brain (Blakemore and Frith 2005, in Van de Craen et al. 2007). CLIL also motivates school students (Coyle et al. 2009) and improves educational programmes in general (Baetens Beardsmore 2001, in Pavo?n Va?zquez and Ellison 2013). Indeed, CLIL has been proved to provide students with social, cognitive and linguistic benefits (Pavo?n Va?zquez and Ellison 2013). For example, as cited in Pavo?n Va?zquez and Ellison (2013), CLIL students are more motivated, less anxious (Arnold 2011), increase their skills in problem-solving, vocabulary acquisition (Marsh 2007) and improve their linguistic levels (Lasagabaster 2008).

Thanks to these advantages, CLIL has been adopted in the majority of European countries at primary and secondary level (Eurydice 2006). In Asia, for the last decade, several countries have taken actions to embed CLIL in their national curriculum. For instance, CLIL has been applied in Malaysia in 2003 (Yassin et al. 2009), in Thailand in 2006 (Suwannoppharat and Chinokul 2015), in Indonesia in 2006 as well (Floris 2013) and in Hong Kong in 2009 through their fine-tuning of medium of instruction policy (Leung 2013).

In the Vietnamese context, since the introduction of the Economic Renovation and the "open door" policy (in foreign investment and the global market) in the late 1980s, English language has become more and more important in Vietnam (To 2010). Accordingly, much effort has been devoted to English language teaching and learning in both formal and informal, of all levels from primary to higher education. However, the quality of FL education is still below expectation. Therefore, in an attempt to improve the FL competence of Vietnamese people, the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) recently issued National Foreign Languages Project 2020 (hereafter referred to as Project 2020), including the implementation of CLIL in the formal national education system.

As part of new practice, there are a number of critiques from both insiders and the public. This paper is aimed at discussing four critiques raised by insiders regarding (i) the significance of CLIL in Vietnam, (ii) teachers' readiness, (iii) students' readiness for CLIL and (iv) the lack of available CLIL materials. The discussion will be followed by a case study to illustrate what has been discussed and give a general picture of teachers' perceptions of CLIL-related issues, their CLIL performance and the obstacles they experience.

It should be noted that CLIL discussed in this paper is content and English language integrated learning, or English is used as a medium of instruction for school subjects. Bilingual programmes with French language since 1970 or with Vietnamese language for ethnic minorities, supported by UNICEF, are not considered.

1. Current changes in practice

1.1. Traditional education

The Vietnamese general education system is comprised of three levels with 12 grades: primary level (grades 1-5 for children aged 6 to 11); lower-secondary level (grades 6-9 for children aged 11-15); and upper-secondary level (grades 10-12 for children aged 15-18).

Traditionally, content subjects and language subjects are taught separately. MOET is responsible for issuing the official standardized curriculum for all schools from primary to upper-secondary level. …

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