EFL Teaching and Learning at a Vietnamese University: What Do Teachers Say?

By Nguyen, Hong Thi; Fehring, Heather et al. | English Language Teaching, January 2015 | Go to article overview

EFL Teaching and Learning at a Vietnamese University: What Do Teachers Say?


Nguyen, Hong Thi, Fehring, Heather, Warren, Wendy, English Language Teaching


Abstract

This paper reports part of a study that documents the factors affecting the efficacy of teaching and learning English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Vietnamese higher education from the teachers' perspectives. Individual face-to-face semi-structured interviews were conducted with twelve EFL teachers at Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (HUTECH), Vietnam. The study explored both positive factors and negative factors affecting teaching quality. The findings show that an updated syllabus, modem teaching methods, and adequate facilities and equipment are positive factors identified by the teachers. Nevertheless, there are still many negative factors hindering the efficacy of English teaching and learning, including: insufficient time for English subjects; lack of speaking component in tests and examinations; unequal students' English abilities; large class sizes; limited support from university leaders; and students' limited efforts and motivation. The teachers were also given the opportunity to express their expectations about an ideal EFL training program, which included: a balance between financial profit and education quality; more independence for teachers and students in teaching and learning; placement tests; good and enthusiastic teachers; well-equipped classrooms; small class sizes, and student autonomy.

Keywords: English teaching, EFL, teachers' perspectives, higher education, Vietnam

1. Introduction

English as a foreign language (EFL) has been taught widely as a compulsory subject in many educational institutions in Vietnam, from primary schools to tertiary institutions. The efficacy of English teaching and learning attracts a lot of interest from Vietnamese people and society. Vietnamese government has set out a number of policies and initiatives in order to improve the quality of EFL teaching and learning in Vietnamese education system. However, it seems that there have been a number of challenges for EFL teachers, and a lot of problems inhibiting EFL teaching and learning in Vietnam.

2. Teachers' Beliefs and Language Teaching

A lot of effort has been expended to uncover teachers' beliefs in language teaching (Borg, 2006; Chen & Goh, 2011; Mangubhai, Marland, Dashwood, & Son, 2004), and teachers' beliefs have a great influence on their teaching practices (Borg, 2003; Chen & Goh, 2011). According to Williams and Burden (1997), "teachers' deep-rooted beliefs about how languages are learned will pervade their classroom actions more than a particular methodology they are told to adopt or course book they follow" (p. 57). Yilmaz (2011) found that teachers rate themselves to be more efficacious in instructional strategies than in class management or student engagement. Teachers also perceive themselves to be better in reading and speaking skills than in writing and listening skills, and tend to use communication-oriented strategies more than grammar-oriented strategies. It is hypothesized that the more proficient the teachers believe themselves to be in the four macro skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing), the more efficacious they feel.

3. Teachers' Perspectives in English Language Teaching

Teachers' perspectives have been explored in many various aspects of English language teaching. Teachers' challenges in English language teaching attract a great deal of research interest and discussion from educators and scholars. Teaching practices can be affected by many factors, and recognizing the challenges that teachers encounter in their teaching is very important. It not only helps teachers to employ appropriate teaching techniques to improve their professional practice but also encourages teacher educators to design effective teacher preparation and training programs to reduce the teachers' difficulties and increase the quality of teaching (Chen& Goh, 2011).

Of the challenges that teachers face, the exam-oriented education system has been identified as a barrier to the teaching of communicative language. …

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