The term “EdTech” used to be an unfamiliar phrase, two words that raised confusion if not being totally shrugged off by the traditionalists. But last year, when the pandemic disrupted normalcy, including in physical classrooms, around the world, we all witnessed a tremendous “digital” transformation in global education. Despite the fact that up to 70-80% of educational activities have been digitized, the majority of EdTech enterprises in Vietnam admit that this revolution has yet to fully take off.
“Education is not quite different from vaccination,” said Martina Hlisc, Master degree in Education and Second Language Acquisition, Business Manager at ELSA - a language app, “we could push the development process due to the urgency of the pandemic. Still, no stage should be skipped.”
And within these stages, teachers and the quality of education they offer to their students are crucial factors, regardless if lessons are done in virtual or physical environments.
All of the hats a teacher has to wear in the 4.0 era
The fact that the internet has become the most popular and endless information channel is proof that nowadays teachers are no longer the only source of knowledge for students. Instead, students come to them for guidance as they analyze and fact-check what they gather from various sources to obtain fundamental knowledge.
Teachers are also counselors whose job is to activate and encourage learners’ critical thinking skills and advanced mindset so they are able to apply what they have learned into appropriate contexts (contextualizing) in real-world scenarios.
This approach is called SVA and has been successfully utilized by an English teacher named Ha Anh Phuong, the first Vietnamese teacher featured in Top 10 Global Teacher Prize - the Nobel Prize of the education field. SVA stands for Situation (providing a real situation or context), Visualization (visualizing new words), and Action (practicing new words on a daily basis).
According to Martina, the majority of Vietnamese teachers tend to micromanage their classrooms, which means that they give more help to their students than they actually need instead of giving students the opportunity to learn things by themselves and build independence. As a matter of fact, in most K-12 educational facilities, students are not allowed to use mobile phones, which takes away their access to educational sources. Such teaching approaches aren’t quite appropriate anymore in this modern era as they limit learners' individuality and self-confidence.
As learning methods change, teachers now need to focus on carefully observing their students’ behaviors, emotions, performance and self-development. This way, they can easily detect drastic and negative changes in their students and can address it right away. In this internet-dominated era, negative influences that cause such changes might also come from the virtual world where students get exposed to overwhelming information on a daily basis. A teacher’s support toward her/his student’s self-development has never been more important.
To be able to wear too many hats at once, an instructor must constantly upgrade their "system" by studying and implementing new teaching methods. This is how they can continue guiding their students and equipping them with valuable skills for their future.
However, the biggest question is: are Vietnamese teachers ready for this new chapter?
Since the Education Law was officially implemented on July 1, 2020, the Ministry of Education and Training has investigated, evaluated, organized and conducted training for teachers with the new standards of education. According to the MoET, 70.95% of Vietnam's one million teachers have been certified with the updated requirements, while the rest (including public and private school teachers, full-time and visiting teachers) have failed to show matching excellence.
Particularly in ELT (English language training) scence, “Another challenge is the caliber of the teachers themselves, and I am talking about Vietnamese teachers and foreigners. There is a dire need for better training and development,” said Nam Nguyen, CEO of YOLA.
The digitization process in education and its “first” generation of students
As mentioned above, digitization in education undergoes different developing stages, which take years to complete and master. Why years? Taking ELSA as an example, Martina explained, “After approaching and introducing ELSA’s technology and its potential to an institution, the whole procedure often takes three to five stages depending on the scale and teaching methods used by the organization. But the most crucial stage is always introductory workshops and training for teachers.”
According to Martina, ELSA has been collaborating with a good number of public schools, private schools, and English centers across the country in aid of converting their traditional teaching/learning activities into comprehensive digital forms. As part of the whole process, institutions evaluate their teachers, help them enhance their skills, and introduce them to innovative educational technologies.
“To ensure that teachers get to know ELSA thoroughly, the training process may take three to five months, or up to a year. They’ll be able to understand our technology from the perspectives of an educator and a learner at the same time, and to assess the app’s effectiveness based on their improvement as first-hand users.”
After the first phase, ELSA works closely with educational institutions to review the app’s potential and to determine whether to begin piloting the program with a select number of students before extending to a broader scale. This largely depends on the goals and commitment of each institution to its students and parents.
The right people with the right tools at the right time
“Back in my time, sending a kid to an English center would probably cost a fortune. That decision used to be considered as a “revolutionary act” as well. Because back then many parents or grandparents did not quite realize the importance of speaking another language fluently,” shared Martina. “Not to mention the lack of qualified teachers, and the fears felt by students: fear of speaking out loud, fear of making errors, and fear of correcting the mistakes.”
This was why Martina decided to join ELSA Vietnam after five years working for an education organization in England. From her perspective, ELSA isn’t just the “cure for those fears”, but also emerges as an answer to the need of well-trained teachers, the problem of the accessibility of education, and burgeoning tuition fees, especially for students living in remote areas.
2020 was a hectic year for Martina and her business partners as they successfully finished a great deal of tasks, from conducting training for teachers in Northern schools, to officially starting their collaboration with IDP Education (co-owner of IELTS). These are all strategic moves of ELSA’s team toward the mission of providing their technologies to their 1.5 billion users all around the world. “We’re looking forward to the results of our demo programs, which will come out in a few months.”
Let’s all hope 2021 will be a wholesome and fruitful year for education in Vietnam and all over the world.
For enterprise inquiries, English centers or individuals operating in English education, you can connect with ELSA via firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is adapted by L A M