Issues in the Implementation of Bilingual Education in Vietnam


This paper explores the implementation of bilingual education at a private institution in Vietnam, with a focus on its successes and challenges. Despite long-term English education as a compulsory subject at grade levels 3 to 12, there is still a need for Vietnamese learners of English to improve their language profciency beyond the national curriculum. For that reason, many institutions have been established to make English a more important part of the curriculum, not simply a subject but a means of communication and a medium of instruction. In other words, the aim is to make those learners reach bilingualism. However, training learners to be bilingual is not an easy mission, since it has numerous requirements. Observing how bilingual education was implemented at a private institution in Vietnam, this paper reveals some positive effects on learners’ language development along with challenges regarding teaching materials, qualifed staff, and negative infuences of the national curriculum. Introduction While English is a mandatory subject in Vietnam, the focus is still on grammar and vocabulary, not communicative competence (Denham, 1992; Nunan, 2003). To develop English language profciency of future generations of Vietnamese students, the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) proposed the use of English as the medium of instruction at high school and college levels nationwide (MOET, 2008). As stated by MOET in Directive 1400, the national curriculum embarked on a project entitled “Teaching and Learning in English in the National Education System 2008-2020,” or “Project 2020” for short. The goal is that by the year 2020, a majority of high school graduates will be able to undertake higher studies entirely in English and communicate meaningfully in English. Moreover, high school students will be taught mathematics and a number of other subjects in English. In order to accomplish this goal, MOET encourages high schools to implement bilingual education to gradually familiarize learners with English as a medium of instruction. However, research on bilingual programs in Vietnamese public schools has shown the diffculties involved in following MOET’s directions. Some have concluded that many public gifted high schools fail to make English the medium of instruction due to unqualifed teachers, lack of materials and facilities, and inappropriate use of teaching materials (Ben Tre Department of Education, 2017). Responding to the need for bilingual education, many private institutions have bilingual or international programs following British or American educational systems for Chi, D. N. (2017). Issues in the implementation of bilingual education in Vietnam. TESOL Working Paper Series, 15, 96-113. Website: Hawaii Pacifc University * Email: [email protected]. Address: An Giang University, 18 Ung Van Khiem Street, Dong Xuyen Ward, Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, Vietnam. TESOL Working Paper Series those who plan to study abroad (Hoang, 2011). These programs aim to promote the use of English for varying purposes, such as teaching, learning, and communication. However, little is known about the extent to which these programs have succeeded in implementing a bilingual education model at private institutions (Hoang, 2011). Hence, there is a need for an in-depth study on how those institutions implement those programs and to what extent they are able to improve learners’ English language profciency. This paper aims to address this issue through a case study of a private educational institution in Vietnam which claims to offer a VietnameseEnglish bilingual education program. It is the only institution claiming to have such a program in the Mekong Delta region. Before I present the case study, I will review the key characteristics of a bilingual individual and forms of bilingual education.