Is French a dying language in Vietnamese schools?

Today, an article read in a Vietnamese newspaper about the place of French in Vietnamese schools… Students nowadays want to learn only English, which presents an enormous obstacle to the Ministry of Education and Training’s programme aimed at increasing French language education within the national education system.


According to the Ben Tre Education and Training Department, the number of pupils learning French in the 2007-2008 academic year reduced by 1,000, or 16 classes over last year.

An official from the department said that despite contrary efforts, students are still choosing English, a threat to gifted classes, (where math and physics are taught in French) and classes where the number of English and French lessons are equal and may not exist in 10 more years.

In order to maintain French in schools, the department has been trying to teach French as the second foreign language in schools (English is the first foreign language) through a 7-year education programme for 6-12th graders and a 3-year programme for 10-12th graders who study French twice per week and English three times.

However, the department has been facing considerable difficulties in opening these new classes as the standard curriculum designed by the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) for high school students does not afford room for French lessons.

As such, French has become an optional subject and the Ben Tre department is unable to interest students in French classes. Since the 2006-2007 academic year, the number of students choosing to study French has fallen by a third.

Deputy Director of Thua Thien – Hue Education and Training Department Pham Minh Hung said that since the 2006-2007 academic year, the province’s schools cannot interest gifted students in French language classew and many 12th graders are asking permission to stop studying French.

Mr Hung said French language education has not received the necessary funding. Meanwhile, technical and material support from the French speaking community (experts, documents and equipment) has been reduced, leaving rural and remote areas French free. That explains why several schools in Phong Dien, Huong Tra and Huong Thuy districts have cut their French programmes.

The Ben Tre Education and Training has proposed MOET draw up plans to promote diverse foreign language education in the national education system. English should not be the only foreign language students are learning. Other popular languages, including French, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and German should not be optional in schools but considered compulsory subjects.

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