May 2021 saw the much-awaited pilot of a programme designed to support teacher educators, from ten higher education institutions across Viet Nam, who are tasked with providing training and continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities to in-service teachers in all 63 provinces of Viet Nam. As part of this pilot programme, 30 lecturers and teacher educators from the 10 key universities are participating in a remote, online programme, rather than face to face training, due to the current restrictions to address the Covid-19 situation in Viet Nam. 

The National Foreign Languages Project (NFLP) of Viet Nam’s Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) has a remit to improve the teaching and learning of English. One way in which this is done is through the provision of teacher development training opportunities for in-service primary, lower- and upper-secondary teachers of English across all 63 provinces, with the aim of encouraging them to apply more learner-centred approaches to their teaching practice. Such training is often planned and delivered by lecturers from the ten key teacher training universities that have been identified by NFLP.  

Following needs analysis with lecturers and teacher educators regarding some of the challenges they face, NFLP appointed British Council to develop a Teacher Educator Programme to develop and upskill an initial cadre of over 200 lecturers from the 10 NFLP institutions as national teacher educators. In response, the British Council has developed content for a 150 hour programme, blended with over 40 hours of online content to supplement the face to face training programme. The programme has been developed in line with the British Council’s Teaching for Success approach and in particular the CPD Framework for Teacher Educators

NFLP Director Dr Nguyen Thi Mai Huu explained, 'NFLP, MOET and the British Council have agreed to cooperate in the development of high quality English language teaching, learning and assessment. Not only have we agreed and coordinated objectives and direction, we have also cooperated to deliver a series of important training, teaching and learning activities. The British Council have provided international consultants to develop a training programme for teacher educators who can foster improved teaching capacity among English teachers across Viet Nam.' 

Starting in May, the 30 participants have embarked on a 60 hour online pilot of the professional development programme in order to develop their professional practices and skills as teacher educators. Their feedback on the pilot will also help to shape the future direction and delivery of the Teacher Educator Programme as it is expanded to encompass more lecturers from the ten key universities. Training modules cover topics such as understanding the teaching context and teacher learning, focusing on specific subject knowledge related to primary and secondary teaching and learning, demonstrating effective teaching behaviour and supporting and mentoring teachers. 

British Council English for Education Systems (EES) Academic Manager Davide Guarini Gilmartin, who is facilitating the initial online pilot, said, 'The participants are all experienced lecturers, and most have worked with in-service teachers before. However, they have appreciated the opportunity to collaborate, share experiences with each other and, perhaps most importantly, develop themselves professionally - moving from lecturers to teacher educators. They have all participated actively and shown particular interest in the need to empathise with the many challenges that practising teachers in Viet Nam face, in order to plan and deliver more effective teacher development activities'.

Participant Hoang Quy from Hanoi University said, 'I particularly liked the session on understanding the needs of local teachers. I think this is very practical in terms of ideas and tools to identify their needs”. Another participant, Chung Thi Thanh Hang from Can Tho University, explained that, “I appreciate the content materials, the facilitator’s explanations and sharing ideas with my colleagues in order to approach various training contexts in Viet Nam”. Meanwhile, Danang University’s Le Thi Giao Chi has appreciated the opportunity to “familiarise ourselves with the CPD framework for teacher educators, challenge our assumptions about teaching contexts and teacher needs, and critically analyse some of the coursebooks which are used by teachers in Viet Nam. I am excited to see what we will cover in future weeks'.

The initial programme will continue until mid-July, by which time many of the participants will be able to apply much of what they have learned as they begin to deliver their training and support teachers throughout Viet Nam as part of their annual in-service teacher development programmes on behalf of NFLP. Future phases of the programme are expected to be implemented in the coming months and years, including monitoring and mentoring of the teacher educators and the creation of online communities of practice to maintain support, develop networks and encourage sharing of best practice amongst this and future groups of teacher educators, who are seen as key to the long term development of teacher quality in the classroom and improved student learning outcomes across Viet Nam.