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Vietnam Adds 5 New Foreign Languages to Controversial Primary School Syllabus

In a controversial move, Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training recently decided to include Russian, Chinese and Japanese as part of the local elementary school curriculum.

According to VnExpress, the three languages are now categorized as “first foreign languages” along with English and will be available at select elementary schools in Hanoi and Saigon on a trial basis.

So far this year, five schools in Saigon and Hanoi have commenced their first Japanese language lessons. Japan recently agreed to provide language textbooks and train local teachers. In the 2017-2018 school year, third graders at a few schools will also learn Mandarin Chinese and Russian.

The foreign language craze doesn’t stop there, however, as the ministry is also launching a pilot program to teach Korean and French as non-compulsory “second foreign languages”.

Results of the language courses will be reviewed after a few years before being introduced to other schools. It remains unclear how many languages students are expected to learn.

Parents, however, are already unhappy with the announcement. Additional languages, compulsory or not, make the current curriculum heavier and more complicated, they allege, especially when expectations for more effective English programs have not yet been met.

One of the main issues with foreign language programs in Vietnam is the lack of quality instructors who are well-versed enough in the languages to teach them properly. In an effort to remedy this problem, Vietnam has budgeted VND10 trillion (US$448 million) for an ambitious language-training program, hoping to improve foreign language skills among young students. The program was launched in 2008 but has yet to deliver strong results.

[Photo via Vimaru]

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