British Council

On 24 September, representatives from more than 150 educational organisations from both the UK and Vietnam gathered both physically (at Hanoi’s Melia Hotel) and virtually at a ‘hybrid' seminar. Organised by the British Embassy and Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) and National Foreign Languages Project (NFLP), the event aimed to outline the many opportunities for partnership and cooperation to help further Vietnam’s vision to develop the capacity for English language teaching and learning for all. The British Council played a key role in the event, as the UK’s educational and cultural organisation.

Prior to the event itself, British Council Country Director Donna McGowan accompanied HM Ambassador Gareth Ward to a bilateral meeting with MoET Vice Minister Nguyen Van Phuc, to share achievements since the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with MOET exactly one year ago. Progress includes system improvement in Higher Education and English Language Teaching through our research, insights, partnership creation and response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Our English future priorities were later presented and conveyed to the seminar participants.

At the beginning of the seminar itself, opening remarks by Vice Minister Nguyen Van Phuc and HMA Gareth Ward paid tribute to Vietnam’s battle against Covid-19 and joint efforts in education e.g. sending some 20 Chevening scholars to the UK, conducting 50 Research partnerships, online testing events with Cambridge Education, all in celebration of the 10 years of a strategic partnership between the UK and Vietnam. The Vice Minister also acknowledged the British Council’s ongoing support for the work of NFLP.

Sir Steve Smith chose Vietnam for his very first appearance on the world stage since his recent appointment as the UK’s new global education champion. Indeed, he stressed that Vietnam is one of the UK’s five priority countries in the world. Sir Steve has been to Vietnam many times and is keen to return soon to offer his support to UK–Vietnam educational initiatives.

NFLP Director, Nguyen Thi Mai Huu, outlined the current situation of English education in Vietnam and NFLP’s objectives for 2020–25, including new English curriculum from Grades 1 and 2 all the way to Grade 12; the introduction of more formative assessment tools and techniques to cover all four language skills, rather than a reliance solely on testing; the important role of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities to improve teacher quality; as well as the need to ensure student motivation through real life context for learning and using English. In a number of these areas, Director Mai Huu acknowledged the valuable contribution and support for its work from British Council in Vietnam as a strategic partner.

Representatives from MOET’s Higher Education, Primary and Secondary Departments also outlined the current situation, including challenges, and identified ‘room for growth’ e.g. in the number of students studying through English language courses or joint programmes with UK HE institutions. Ms Thuy from MOET’s Primary Department made particular reference to recent research undertaken by the British Council through a survey of ELT specialists from Vietnam’s 63 provincial DoETs. She emphasised the need for further CPD activities (including establishing Communities of Practice) to support these ELT specialists in their important work, and we hope to cooperate with NFLP, MOET and the DOETs on this in the very near future.

Finally, there was a joint presentation by Geoff Gladding from the UK’s Department for International Trade, and his DIT colleagues, who expressed their keen support for Vietnam’s ambitions in both educational partnerships and in the growing EdTech sector, all in support of further English language teaching and learning in Vietnam. Geoff handed over to British Council’s Donna McGowan, who outlined our achievements and partnership with MOET/NFLP over the past 20 years. Donna also introduced an initiative for a digital portal to support NFLP’s ambition to develop an online learning platform. She concluded by introducing Dr Nicola Galloway from the University of Edinburgh who presented her recent British Council funded research into the growing field of English Medium Education in Vietnam. Indeed, these joint presentations not only demonstrated the UK’s collaborative approach to education and ELT but also generated considerable interest amongst the audience, who raised many questions later on, many of which were addressed directly by the British Council team present.

As a result of this event, the UK ELT and EdTech sectors have been well-positioned as partners to Vietnam. Equally, throughout the event, the British Council was acknowledged and recognized as a trusted partner to support Vietnam in its ambition for system change in English language teaching and learning. Overall, this conference was important in cementing our ongoing and future relationships and the ways in which UK and Vietnamese stakeholders can partner, with the UK and British Council being recognized for our track record, expertise, insights and research.