The ‘fever’ for getting an IELTS certificate has reached even rural areas as many families are sending their children to Hanoi to attend IELTS courses. Many parents see ILETS as a passport to enter the top universities in Vietnam.
At Vietnamese universities, the use of IELTS or other international certificates such as SAT or TOEFL is one of the priority criteria for admission, showing a desire to integrate with advanced education in developed countries.
At the forefront of this trend is Vietnam National University in Hanoi which wants to recruit students for training programs using English for instruction.
This year, the two leading economics schools, Foreign Trade University and National Economics University, added a new admission method: exams and IELTS of at least 6.5. According to Foreign Trade University, this will apply to advanced programs and high-quality programs which require fluent English skills.
Initially, there were only a few “pioneering” colleges, but by 2021 more than 60 training institutions in Vietnam considered international certificates such as IELTS, TOEFL, or SAT as criteria for enrollment of new students. More specifically, this year, famous universities with high standards such as Hanoi Medical University, People’s Security Academy and others also sought, for the first time, candidates with English international certificates.
For example, Hanoi Medical University wanted 40 students who are good at English or French. Candidates with an international IELTS score of 6.5 or higher or a French DALF C1 certificate were given priority.
As the only medical school in the country offering advanced programs in nursing (studying in English) starting 10 years ago, nearly half of its graduates are now working at major hospitals in Germany, said Prof. Dr. Nguyen Huu Tu, Vice Rector of Hanoi Medical University.
The university hopes to have international training programs and new enrollment methods to attract good students with foreign language skills.
Three years after the National Economics University recruited the first students according to the combined admission criteria of exams and foreign language proficiency, the students have had relatively good results, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Bui Duc Trieu, Head of the Department of Training Management, told VietNamNet.
“They are all good at foreign languages, and have the ability to think deeply and master many skills. This will be an advantage after graduation, helping them have good job opportunities and meeting the requirements of global citizens,” he said.
This year, the National Economics University increased the number of students admitted based on exams and foreign language skills, up to 15-20% of the total enrollment target.
Opportunity for change
A lecturer at the Vietnam Banking Academy said that she knows many students with very high English high school graduation exam scores, but their ability to read and understand documents, communicate and make presentations in English is very weak. These are essential skills in a university environment.
According to a lecturer at the University of Natural Sciences (Vietnam National University, Hanoi), for basic sciences, foreign languages will be an effective aid to help students read and research documents on their own.
Having instructed many students in how to do internationally published articles, the teacher often asks students to come to the lab to read and analyze specialized documents and articles related to the intended research field. English skills to support self-study is mandatory.
The results of English tests in Vietnam’s high school graduation exams are not sufficient to assess the candidate’s ability and level in language skills and academic thinking. Even if a candidate gets a perfect score in the English high school graduation exam, it will not be of much value.
But with international certificates it is different. The IELTS exam and certification system in particular and many other certificates such as TOEFL, HSK and DALF have been established globally for a long time and have a good reputation.
“IELTS touches on the most in-depth topics such as engineering, economics, science, society. When students have an IELTS certificate of 5.5 or higher, it means they have the ability to listen, speak, read and write academic English at a relatively good level,” said Nguyen Hong Phuong, lecturer at the Institute of Information and Communication Technology, Hanoi University of Science and Technology.
“This will be a good tool for many fields. This also diversifies the choices for students, creating a foundation for international standards for high school and university students,” she added.
Acknowledging the fact that medical students have not focused on foreign languages, Prof. Dr. Nguyen Huu Tu, Vice Rector of Hanoi Medical University, said that he hopes that changes in the enrollment methods this year will encourage students to improve their foreign language ability when they are still in high school.
“Equipped with foreign languages, students can study effectively, refer to international documents and study materials, and participate in medical forums to hone their knowledge and specialized skills. Without foreign languages, it is difficult for students to develop their desired career and meet the requirements of medicine in an integrated world,” Dr. Tu said.
“With the adjustment of admission regulations this year, it can be seen that Vietnamese universities, especially the top ones, now consider foreign languages a necessary competency and an important criterion in recruiting students,” he said.