Sunday, August 5, 2012

Teaching English for First Graders - Where to Start?

Teaching English for first graders: where to start?

The HCM City Education and Training Department has decided that students will not have to sit the exam to be able to enroll in intensive English classes. Those students, who want to study English, will only have to register their demand with the schools. However, the problem is that there are too many students who want to learn English, while the number of English teachers remains modest.

“160 first graders have registered to learn English. The students are now put in the same classes with the students who do not have the demand to study English. However, they will be put in separated classes from the second semester. What I am worried about is that the splitting cause a great chaos,” said a teacher of Bau Sen Primary School in District 5 in HCM City.

Nguyen Xuan Bao, Headmaster of Bau Sen Primary School, said that he still does not know what to do with the students who have registered to study English. The students must be divided into four classes, while in current conditions, the school can only arrange two classes. “Recruiting English teachers proves to be the biggest problem now, because it will not be easy to find teachers if we can only offer modest pay,” Bao said.

Under the current regulations, the teachers who teach English to first graders, under the pilot programme must obtain TKT certificate granted by Cambridge ESOL. In order to obtain the certificate, teachers must attend a training course in English teaching skills with foreign teachers. However, the problem is that teachers themselves would have to pay the tuition for the training course, estimated at six million dong.

“I agree that TKT certificate is a necessary document which shows teachers’ qualification. However, it is unreasonable to force teachers, who have modest income, to pay for the training course,” said a headmaster of a primary school in District 3 in HCM City.

She went on to say that the school really wants to pay the tuition for the teachers, but it cannot arrange the money. Meanwhile, students only have to pay 50,000 dong a month for English classes, which is not enough to pay the teachers.

Shortage of classrooms also causes headache to primary schools. The city’s Education and Training Department has decided that every class can only have a maximum of 35 students. Meanwhile, schools say they cannot arrange enough classrooms for so many students,
“We have no idle classrooms. All the rooms have been used to ensure that all the children in the district can go to school,” headmaster of a primary school in Tan Phu District said.

It seems that many schools are puzzled when implementing the pilot English teaching programme. At some schools, students, who who want to study English, are put in the same classes with those who don’t. At other schools, students who study English are put in special classes. Yet other schools still have not begun to accept registrations from students who want to attend English classes.

Headmaster of a school in District 3 complained that his school is still awaiting guildelines from the local education sub-department. “Our teachers are very worried. They fear that when the classes are re-arranged, this will affect the teaching quality,” he said. As first graders are small children who may not adjust well and find it difficult when put in other classes where they have to sit with new friends and study with new teachers.

Though the HCM City Education and Training Department has decided that first graders can also begin to study English, some educators still believe that it would be better to start teaching English in the second grade.


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