University of Social Sciences and Humanities, VNU Hanoi

https://ussh.vnu.edu.vn


The Labor Union's members give feedback on improving English proficiency

On January 10th, 2019, USSH's Labor Union held the first seminar of the year 2019 titled "Improving English proficiency in teaching and research activities" with the participation of subordinate units.

At the seminar, Prof.Dr Pham Quang Minh (USSH's Rector) shared some information about the University's strategy of international integration in research and training affairs. Annually, USSH's staff publish over 600 academic papers. In 2018 alone, it published over 80 international papers, including 12 papers in journals of high impact index. However, this number has not reached the quota required by VNU Hanoi. To enter the top 100 leading universities in Asia as set out by VNU, the number has to increase much more.

Prof.Dr Pham Quang Minh (USSH's Rector) speaks the seminar

In international integration the English proficiency of USSH's staff is of course an important factor. The University has introduced an array of activities to support its staff such as organizing many basic and advanced English classes; forming the English's Lunch Box Club; providing financial support for whoever participating in overseas conferences and taking IELTS exams; and supporting international publications, with the highest award of 250 million VNDs for a book published by a non-Vietnamese publisher.

Dr. Ngo Thi Kieu Oanh (President of the University's Labor Union, Director of Office for Personnel Affairs) speaks at the seminar

In addition, every year, the University holds 30-40 international conferences on diverse areas and invites foreign scholars to teach and give lectures. The number of foreign students pursuing short-term and long-term courses at USSH is increasing. USSH's study and research environment has clearly internationalized, helping its staff and students access English sources and engage in exchanges with foreign lecturers and students more regularly.

Evaluating the situation of English proficiency among USSH's staff, Dr. Ngo Thi Kieu Oanh said: 35.8% of the University's 363 lecturers are recognized as being proficient in a specialized foreign language according to its designated criteria. Foreign language proficiency will become a prerequisite of the University's staff and should be improved as soon as possible.

USSH's Office for Personnel Affairs is going to propose a program of improving its staff's English proficiency with detailed objectives and iterations until 2020. The staff will be split according to age: under 35, 35-45 and above 45, with each group given its respective requirements of English proficiency. Moreover, foreign language requirements will be increasingly attached to staff recruitment. Activities for improving foreign language proficiency will be regularly held.

The Labor Union's members agreed and supported the above proposal and shared their thoughts on the difficulties and personal experiences in "dealing with" the English language:

Assoc.Prof.Dr Nguyen Truong Giang (Deputy Dean of Faculty of Anthropology) said the Faculty does not have a large membership but among other faculties it has published quite a large number of international papers. That is because each lecturer always motivates him/herself to produce international publications and consider it a responsibility of a teacher/researcher. The Faculty also pioneered in using English as a medium of teaching some subjects. In reality, not only lecturers that study abroad can use English well but those study in Vietnam are fully capable of doing this.

Assoc.Prof.Dr Nguyen Truong Giang

Dr. Truong Thi Bich Hanh (Faculty of History) said there is a rather big challenge for the lecturers no longer young to use English as easily as it should be. In general, the lecturers have to cope with the pressure of balancing their numerous daily needs and responsibilities with professional growth given their limited time. In fact, all of the University's staff can use English but to use it well for specific purposes is not an easy task.

Dr. Hanh also said the habit of keeping oneself as "an average Joe" would result in undesirable consequences. Average English proficiency makes lecturers unable to access specialized projects at a higher level that would help raise their income. So it requires personal efforts to get out of the comfort zone.

Agreeing with the above viewpoint, Dr. Nguyen Thi Thu Thuy (Faculty of Tourism) said studying in Vietnam or abroad is not actually relevant to one's English proficiency, rather it is the will to overcome the challenge. Dang Hoang Ngan (Faculty of Psychology) suggested the University devise specific and strict measures for the fulfillment of the staff's commitment to studying English. Nguyen Huong Ngoc (Faculty of Literature) proposed creating specialized English courses for their respective majors so that studying English is closely attached to improving specialized knowledge. Tran Dang Trung (Faculty of Literature) suggested the compilation of internationally standardized materials to support the use of English in teaching and research activities.

Dr. Do Thuy Lan (Faculty of History) suggested that while the University is not able to provide immediate support each individual has to push him/herself. Foreign language capability has to be binded with specialized research capability. Foreign languages are the tool for lecturers to update and exchange academic information with international scholars of their respective majors. The Labor Union and its subordinate units can help create a network among the members interested in and desiring to exchange professional and foreign language know-how, in which the predecessors help and guide their successors.

Author: Thanh Ha

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