While it’s common knowledge that a teacher’s role is to help others to learn, what we love about our teachers is their own personal commitment to learn. Today, on International Teacher’s Day, we’d like to share some of the work our teachers in Vietnam have been doing to better understand their students’ needs and offer them an education that has the potential to transform their lives.
In Lai Chau province, a sparsely populated area in northern Vietnam bordering China, pre-school teacher Mrs. Huong stays inside her classroom during her break time working on crafts while the children go outside to play. “What I’m working on are pedagogical tools which allow my students to understand their lessons better” she explains.
Mrs. Huong has been teaching for almost 15 years and says she has struggled during that time to keep her students engaged and on track. “Most of my students, who are from the ethnic minority group Mong, were not able to follow the lessons, I felt that the teaching methods I had learned and been instructed to use, were not a match for the real situations of these students”.
Pedagogies adapted to everyone’s needs
Many ethnic minority children (who speak their own language) find it hard to communicate in Vietnamese properly with teachers, making it difficult for them to follow instructions as well as understand lessons. Soft skills including presentation, communication and social knowledge among ethnic minority children are also limited, which prevents them from having full participation in school activities.
Earlier this year, when Aide et Action offered teacher training to help address some of these issues, Mrs. Houng jumped at the chance to attend. The training was designed to allow teachers to develop new activities and educational games to support child learning, to build child-friendly learning environments in the classroom and to create new teaching tools.
Holding a flower, a tree and an animal that she’s crafted from coloured paper, Mrs. Huong explains that tools like these are new in her classroom but despite the effort and time it takes her to create them, she knows they’ll be worth it. Since the training, she describes feeling more creative and flexible in her teaching methods. “I can see the difference it’s making, my students are listening; they’re interested” says Mrs. Huong, smiling.
A chance to build a better future
Another difficulty ethnic minority children face is finding gainful employment after they complete secondary school. In Mrs. Chi’s class, 97% of her students are from ethnic minority groups and typically after completing secondary school, most of them stay at home and take on farming jobs which provide them a low and unstable income. “If they don’t choose farming, the other popular option is to go to China in search of work but sadly that comes with a high risk of being trafficked or abused”, tells Mrs. Chi.
Tired of the out-of-date content in the textbook she teaches from, Mrs. Chi recently became interested in how she could offer students a chance at building a brighter future. The problem, she thought, was that there was a lack of information on career orientation and vocation for her students. “I want to help them to be well-prepared for their occupational choices and study fields that are consistent with their own social needs” she explains.
Make free and informed choices
Feeling determined to find relevant information to offer her students, Mrs. Chi joined an Aide et Action project designed to up-skill teachers on how to teach career orientation. Since joining the project, Mrs. Chi notes that her grade 8 students and sitting up and paying attention. “The lessons are useful and students are beginning to learn how to choose a career for themselves. They’re being guided clearly about a career suitable for their abilities, their hobbies, their needs, and the complex labor market” she adds.
While career-focused lessons or child-friendly classrooms might be the norm in schools in other parts of the world, in Southeast Asia’s public schools, Mrs. Chi’s and Mrs. Huong’s methods are challenging the status quo and offering new ways for marginalized children to benefit from education. Without teachers like these, we wouldn’t be able to implement our projects so successfully and make the difference we are making. On behalf of everyone at Aide et Action we would like to celebrate and thank Mrs. Chi and Mrs. Huong and all the other incredible teachers we are working with in Vietnam, Lao DPR, Cambodia and China. Happy International Teacher’s Day!