Motivating Vietnamese school teachers of English to do self study
1. Description of the targeted problem
There are numerous challenges facing Vietnam education system nowadays, in spite the significant changes and reforms since Doi Moi, the economic renovation starting in 1986. In the particular case of training for teachers of English under Project 2020, it can be observed from test results and teachers’ testimonials that their English proficiency after a few years of working as teachers tend to decline to lower levels than the levels they were at during colleges and universities. According to a recent survey conducted by 2020 NFL project in 2011, more than 95% of teachers surveyed do not meet the language proficiency requirements set by Decision 1400. This can be explained by, among other reasons, their low motivation for self study, or in a more general term, for professional development in terms of methodology, language proficiency and research.
It is common knowledge in the Vietnamese educational context that doing research, writing articles to be published, participating or presenting in workshops or seminars, networking with other professionals in their community of practice, etc. are not, unfortunately, among teachers’ top priorities. It is also very difficult for most of them to take time writing journal reflecting on what they are doing in an attempt to improve it, and even enhancing their English proficiency. This is because their intrinsic motivation for self study is not really up to what is expected.
2. Possible explanations for the problem
This can be resulted from many factors, some of which include their personal needs, government policies, working culture and shared values, and access to resources for research and development.
First, it is undeniable that most teachers in Vietnam have to work very hard for their fundamental needs. Given the hierarchy of needs by Maslow (1943), when their focuses are still at lower levels, it is really difficult for them to value, appreciate and act on the upper level of “self-actualization”.
Second, regarding government policies on salaries for example, it is not reasonable to expect teachers do focus on research when they have to spend time, energy, efforts dealing with problems stemmed from low income.
Third, low motivation for self study can be explained by the institutional working culture. When nobody around the school is doing any research or professional development activities, it affects negatively teachers’ attitudes and appreciation towards these activities – it does not become a shared value among their community of practice.
Finally, limited access to resources for research such as international library links, books, articles, or budget, etc. also discourages teachers from further research and development.
3. Suggested solutions
Firstly, appropriate polices should be issued by the government. For example, teachers’ salaries have to be improved so as to better their living conditions. Teachers should be given opportunities to attend training courses inside and outside the country so that they can widen their knowledge and skills.
Secondly, stricter policies from schools should be employed. For instance, research must be compulsory and a basis for promotion.
Thirdly, sharing and caring cultures should be encouraged among teachers in every school.
More importantly, technology should be utilized to motivate and support teachers’ self-study. ICT, for example presents various opportunities for teachers to facilitate their professional development. First of all, online materials should be suggested for teachers to do their self-study. The examples can be youtube.com, esldiscussions.com, voaspecialenglish.com, etc. Second, language software applications could be introduced and/or provided to them (Langmaster, Livemocha, Dyned, Global English etc.).
The solutions mentioned above are hoped to be helpful and suitable for Vietnamese teachers of English to use as self-study means in order to boost their professional development in general and English proficiency in particular.
Maslow, A.H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review 50(4): 370-96
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