[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[Xmca-l] Request for advice


I am presently working at Ton Duc Thang University in Vietnam. English is all the rage. 

In an effort to become one of the "Top 100" universities in the world by 2037, TDTU has adopted a new curriculum, which will be taught in English. 

This plan results in many top-down practices that make me heartsick, such as trolling the internet to identify classes taught at Top 100 universities (according to a certain list) that post syllabi that can be replicated and textbooks that can be bought, reduced to power points and then used to teach a class, in English by professors whose English may be good for reading or writing but is not ready for conversation.

The plan is coming from the top administration. The students are used to working hard and getting over what I see as impossible obstacles (class size 70 or more, no private office hours for consultation, no books -- unless you can borrow the teacher's copy and run to the copy shop). It's the teachers, who take their work seriously, who are caught in the middle. 

So I have been asked to make a presentation to the faculty about teaching methods. First time around, they asked me to describe teaching at Top 100 universities, meaning specifically US "top" places like Harvard, Cornell, Berkeley, Stanford. Since I actually have direct experience of these institutions for various reasons, I set to it and wrote about the working conditions for tenured faculty at elite institutions, the ups and downs of it.  This was not the presentation they wanted (low course load, small class size, big libraries, etc) so now I've been asked to be more concrete and talk about methods.

I think I have to say something very clear about the problems of teaching in English when your English is not great.

Let me emphasize that the teachers (lecturers, they are called; they mostly have MAs, not PhDs, are untenured and young -- in their 30s or early 40s at most) are serious about doing their jobs. yes, they are getting pressure from above and have been threatened with being replaced if they don't rise to the occasion. But they are also very serious about doing the right thing for their students. Getting an education in English is a door to the global world and they know it.

I want to say that an English-only approach will oversimplify the concepts that they are hoping to transmit (share). Some concepts are incommensurate across languages and will require elaboration in the home language. This is probably true of whole registers of discipline-specific concepts, right? 

I am pretty sure that people on this list have experience with this. Can someone help me say this succinctly and clearly? I will probably only be able to devote a short paragraph to this in my actual presentation lest they hook me off the stage.

Thanks in advance,

Helena Worthen
Vietnam blog: helenaworthen.wordpress.com