An inspiring teacher’s commitment to quality education in Vietnam

In Khun Há Primary School, located in the scenic green mountainous province of Lai Chau, teacher Tạ Thị Thùy is committed to advancing quality education in Vietnam.

Despite already having 15 years of teaching experience under her belt, Thùy decided to join Action Education’s (formerly Aide et Action) teacher training activities to improve her teaching and better support her students, who are predominately from ethnic minority households.

Teacher Tạ Thị Thùy teaches primary school students in Khun Há Primary School, Lao Cai province, Vietnam. Photo: Action Education Vietnam, 2022.

When it comes to school enrolment, Vietnamese Kinh majority children and ethnic minority children share similar rates during primary and lower-secondary school. However, once they reach the age of 15, minority group children are less likely to continue education. Research from the World Bank indicates that approximately 74% of Kihn are attending upper-secondary schools compared to just 44% of minority group children.

Addressing language barriers

Minority group children are also lagging behind in grade levels and according to Action Education Vietnam project manager Thu Huong Tong, the importance of mother-tongue instruction must be addressed in pre-and primary school education in order to keep minority children in school for longer. “This will lead to improved reading outcomes in national languages later in school, thus reducing one of the contributing factors of dropouts and is the priority in the new state curriculum until 2030,” says Huong.

The students attending Thùy’s school are mostly of Hmong heritage and speak Hmong at home so when they are introduced to the school environment where their lessons are taught in Vietnamese it can be challenging for them to communicate and adapt. “To overcome these difficulties, I try to have conversations with the children, communicate more with their parents, and learn more from my colleagues, says Thùy.

Supporting teachers

To support Thùy and her colleagues, Action Education organises communication sessions and experiential activities to strengthen the connection between families, schools and commune authorities. Since January 2022, our work in this area has reached 1,624 children in Vietnam (of which 48% were girls), 936 preschool and 688 primary school children. We have accompanied 57 preschool teachers, 128 primary school teachers and 9 school managers through capacity-building activities such as online training and coaching, peer learning activities and dialogue meetings.

For Thùy, these activities have led her to a greater understanding of child-friendly pedagogies which she is now implementing. “Since the lessons became more exciting, interesting and effective, I see a lot of positive excitement from the students, and the quality of teaching is improved,” she notes. “For example, in student-centred teaching methods, when using games in lessons, students enjoy and understand more deeply, and the lesson is not boring like the old teaching methods.

Thùy’s proudest moment as a teacher

Thùy’s motivation lies in her desire to ensure Hmong students receive a quality primary education. “I myself found that I needed to change to become a motivated teacher because 90 per cent of my students are 90% Hmong people and I need to thrive every day for them to be able thrive.” Speaking of her proudest moment of being a teacher, Thùy recalls student Lu A Phi.

Teacher Tạ Thị Thùy teaches primary school students in Khun Há Primary School, Lao Cai province, Vietnam. Photo: Action Education Vietnam, 2022.

“Student Lu A Phi was initially a shy, timid student and often did not pay attention in class hours, greatly affecting the learning quality of the whole class,” remembers Thùy. “A lot of times Phi missed school for no reason but through the process of exchange and help from friends and myself, I tried to create conditions to allow Phi to get along better with the class and to participate in group activities. After a while, Phi changed a lot and can now confidently share more ideas, play with friends and is achieving better grades.”

For Thùy, seeing positive changes and growth in students like Phi is what makes her job rewarding. “What makes me feel happiest is the positive change from the students,” she says. This not only helps the children become better themselves but also helps their parents feel more secure when sending their children to school.

Joint commitment to advance quality education in Vietnam

Thanks to the commitment of teachers like Thùy, our project activities have led to 100% of the ethnic minority children we work with having better access to an improved learning environment. Additionally, 70% of the school leaders we work with have changed school practices based on training received and the dialogues we’ve had with caregivers. 70% of the caregivers we work with have also more actively participated in educational activities at school and at home. Now, 60% of the local authorities we work with are integrating early childhood care and education in their annual commune and district plan and we’ve seen a 10% increase in the number of meetings with governments and regional education authorities.

We thank all our partners for supporting and advancing our commitment to quality education for all.

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