Dr Vu Thi Phuong Anh is currently the Vice Director (academic) of Educational Quality Training and Support Center (EQTS) of the Association of Vietnam’s Universities and Colleges (a voluntary position that she has held since 2011), and a national “strategic consultant” for Project 2020 since 2014. Before retiring from her permanent position a year ago, Dr Vu had worked full-time in various positions as Dean/Vice Dean of English and/or Foreign Languages, Director/Vice Director in Testing and Quality Assurance, and Director of International Relations in different public and private universities in Ho Chi Minh City. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in English from Ho Chi Minh University (1983), a Post-Graduate Diploma in TESOL from the University of Canberra (1991, Australia), and a PhD in Education (specialized in Language Testing) from La Trobe University (1998, Australia). As one of the very first people professionally trained in the field of language testing after 1975 (the year when Vietnam was reunified a one country), Dr Vu spent 8 years (from 2004 to 2011) working as Vice Director and then Director of the first standardized testing center in the whole country, the Center for Educational Testing and Quality Assessment. While there, she was in charge of English test development and validation research using CTT (classical test theory). Besides teaching and research, Dr Vu is also a columnist who writes on education topics for Tia Sang, a non-specialist journal published by Ministry of Science and Technology. Among her research interests are language test development and the washback effect of testing on teaching and learning.
25 years of language assessment in Vietnam: Looking back and looking forward
That assessment has a direct impact on the teaching that goes before it, is a truism which any educator and educational policy-maker in Vietnam will readily accept. That notwithstanding, it is also very well-known that assessment is the most neglected aspect of language education in the country – or at least, until very recently.
This paper aims to present a critical review of the practice of language assessment in Vietnam over the past 25 years, starting in the early 1990s, when language assessment emerged for the first time as a “science” and not an art to be left in the hands of the “masters” – those language education professionals who happened to hold decision-making powers in various educational institutions.
Three stages in the development of language assessment as a science will be identified: the pre-scientific stage (pre-1995); the “standardization-as-reliability” stage (1996-2006), and “standardization-as-validation” stage (2007 – the start of Project 2020 – up till now). In retrospection, it can be clearly seen throughout the three stages, the practice of language assessment has come to bear heavily on the outcome of language learning and teaching, with or without our knowing it.
It appears that even though the development of language assessment in Vietnam has been by fits and starts, things look really promising now, and what is being done now in developing the national assessment competence, with shared expertise from the international assessment community, will profoundly impact on the outcome of language learning in teaching in Vietnam in years to come.