The Minister of Education and Training, Phung Xuan Nha, has initially aimed this regulation at 61 universities, academies and colleges under the Ministry.
Announced last month, the regulation will ensure that lecturers at universities hold their meetings in English, with students also required to give presentations and discussions in English.
“It sends a very strong signal that English proficiency is important for Vietnam”
Autonomous universities will be asked to review and report on the difficulties in implementing English as a second language on campus, and suggest resolutions.
“Once English becomes a second language at universities rather than just a foreign language, international cooperation in the education and training area will become much easier,” said Nga Bui, education services manager at British Council Vietnam.
Bui added this trend should also pave the way for increased student exchange.
“UK institutions can promote their summer English courses,” she said. “And English language providers may want to consider opening a branch campus in Vietnam for student training or capacity building for academics.”
Mark Ashwill, managing director of the education agency Capstone Vietnam, told The PIE News that the new regulation is a “bold move”.
“It sends a very strong signal that English proficiency is important for Vietnam, its ongoing integration into the global community, and its long-term sustainable development.”
Ashwill nevertheless echoed more student mobility could arise as a result of the policy.
“There are official efforts to recruit more international students and, in many cases, the language of instruction is English so, yes, this move will support that trend.”
Vietnam ranks 29th on EF Education First’s English Proficiency Index overall, ranking 5th among Asian countries.
As the country aims to compete in a global marketplace through the recently launched ASEAN Economic Community, improving the country’s level of English is crucial.
Other efforts to raise the bar include making English compulsory for students in Grade 3 and above by 2018. It is currently only mandatory for those in Grade 10 and above.
According to Ashwill, progress is indeed being made. “I have been an eyewitness to the rapid improvement of English proficiency among young people,” he commented.
“This applies not only to students who plan to study in an English-speaking country – I get very good feedback from US colleagues about the English proficiency of most Vietnamese students – but also in general, even among young people who have no plans to study overseas.”