• Skills For Employability In Vietnam: Three Industry Experts On The Past, Present, And Future Of Work

    Fears about technology displacing jobs are unfounded. Historically technology has created more jobs than it has erased. Clearly, there’s a complex interplay of factors, such as the way climate change is creating jobs in “green” industries. However, it’s also obvious that the skills we need to be a success are changing. Here, three industry experts from Asia talk about the shifting professional landscape in Vietnam.


    Economically, Vietnam is booming. A combination of political stability and nourishing trade deals have helped make the southeast Asian country a bright spot in the region. Another driver of growth is Vietnam’s youthful population. The average age is 35 and over half of the people of around 95 million are below 34-years-old. But as the economy grows companies are becoming more discerning about who they hire. Added to that the pool of prospective candidates has evolved. Often, the aspiration for young people in Vietnam was to live and work overseas—in countries like America, the UK, and Australia. But increasingly, young Vietnamese are looking to study and work overseas but then return home to help develop their own communities.


    A broad range of skills

    “We no longer look for staff with a very specialised skill set. Instead, we’re looking for employees who have a broad range of applicable skills,” Alan Malcolm begins. Currently Pearson’s head of Asia, Alan has worked in the education sector for almost 20 years progressing from sales director for Japan six years ago to head of sales and marketing for Asia to his current post as regional head. He admits that “companies might need one or two specialists across the region,” but key to employability is “flexibility.”


    Alan is also seeing the need for skills like problem-solving and critical thinking. “People with those skills are the ones who are currently fulfilling the majority of the roles for us in Vietnam and across the region,” he explains. And active listening, particularly for sales teams, is more important than ever according to Alan. “Active listening—being able to show people that you’re listening to them—is really important, particularly in client-facing businesses. If you can show you’re engaged you’ll build a much deeper relationship,” Pearson’s head of Asia adds.

    Authentic Learning


    Beyond the CV

    For Huynh Thi Cao Thi, a well-written CV merely gives a candidate the chance for an interview. She is the human resources director of FPT Retail. The company employs over 4,000 staff in Vietnam at their retail stores where they sell a broad range of devices from laptops to mobile phones. In her role, Huynh Thi Cao Thi engages with two kinds of prospective employees: salespeople for their stores and administrative staff who support their sales teams.

    “Of course, a CV is still important, it’s the first thing we use to screen candidates but in an interview, I’m really looking for three things—self-confidence, good communication skills, and a positive attitude,” she explains.

    Another focus of the training programs developed by Huynh Thi Cao Thi is time management. “That’s the focus of one of the key courses our training centers deliver,” FPT Retail’s director of human resources explains. “Perhaps our staff have never been instructed in this before, but arranging their schedule and being able to meet deadlines is crucial,” she adds.


    Learn and relearn

    Learn and relearn

    Winnie Lam agrees. She also looks for good time management skills and flexibility in her team members but, she feels, it’s not just new hires and graduates who need to develop their skills. She thinks even experienced staff need a regular refresher. Winnie is the chief operating officer for Colliers International Vietnam. She has acted on the board of CanCham Vietnam, for the Canadian chamber of commerce, and for the Hong Kong Business Association in Vietnam, as well as being the director for the TMF Group and AB Horizon Vietnam.

    Winnie sees that a fixed skill set is liable to outdate a prospective candidate’s opportunities for success in the job market quicker than ever. “There are a lot of new titles and obviously lots of new functions that people are performing,” Winnie muses, “so even experienced people like me need to learn and relearn otherwise we won’t be able to access new positions simply because things are being done so differently.”

    Winnie has also noticed that her staff are less observant than before, perhaps because of their over-reliance on technology. “People are so focused on the screen they don’t realize what’s happening around them. There are times I want them to drop their devices and just be present and aware of what is happening,” she says.


    Colliers International Vietnam are also committed to training staff to develop their soft skills while encouraging self-study in hard skills. “We want our staff to seek out learning in hard skills themselves. But we actively train soft skills because I think our staff need a model that we can expose them to because they need to understand clearly what soft skills should look like,” Winnie Lam adds. “I think soft skills trump hard skills now and in the future,” she smiles finally. For more information on Future Skills please visit Skilling Up for 2020: A View from Asia.

    read more
  • Social & emotional learning: five key skills you can start teaching in your school

    Research is increasingly telling us that children and adolescents who learn social and emotional (SEL) skills achieve better academic development, physical health, and quality of life. 90 percent of educators believe that SEL skills directly benefit their students’ performance, and 80 percent of employers believe that SEL skills are extremely important to achieving success in the workplace.

    Learn about the five key skills you can start teaching, and how to implement an effective classroom system in your school.


    What is SEL?

    SEL is the process through which students acquire the knowledge and skills to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, empathise with others, cultivate positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. It provides a foundation for safe and positive learning, and teaches students resilience and life skills. A recent meta-analysis revealed that adoption of SEL programs led to a 22 percent increase in social and emotional skills, and an 11 percent increase in academic achievement.

    Separate studies have shown that having emotional and social skills can help increase the likelihood of high school graduation, readiness for postsecondary education, career success, positive relationships, and better mental health.

    Importance of social-emotional learning graph

    Setting students up for life: five key skills

    If we expect students to be ready for life after school, then classroom instruction must include the following social and emotional skills: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

    Each social and emotional skill is listed in more detail below, along with an example of how it can be promoted in the classroom.



    the ability to identify your emotions and tie thoughts and feelings to behaviours, leading to an awareness of how your words and emotions impact other people.

    Reflective tasks like journaling allow students to see their impact on the world.

    the ability to self-motivate, have self-control, and regulate your emotions.

    Breathing exercises, taking a break, and counting to five are tools that can help a student deal with strong emotions or learning anxiety.

    Social awareness:
    learning to embrace diversity and empathise.

    Role-play a social justice issue, or conflicts that arise in the playground, like bullying.

    Relationship skills:
    the ability to work cooperatively with other people to handle challenges and resolve conflict.

    Project-based group work can help students learn to compromise and work cooperatively together.

    Responsible decision-making:
    the capacity to consider the wellbeing of self and others, and ability to evaluate the consequences of various behaviours and actions.

    Ask students to debate an issue, or make pros and cons lists to help them listen to, and respect, others’ ideas.

    The importance of Response to Intervention (RTI)

    RTI is a multi-tiered framework that can help identify students with learning difficulties and provide evidence‐based early intervention. A student's response to instruction and intervention allows you to recognise which tier and level of intervention is appropriate for the student. Students in tier 1 and 2 respond well to general classroom instruction, and may only need smaller group intervention to help them catch up to their peers.

    Importance of social-emotional learning graph

    RTI also aims to identify the students in tier 3, usually 5% of the class, who are struggling the most as they lag behind their peers by more than 12 months. Students in this tier usually go through tier 1 and 2 without making major progress, and will therefore require a referral to an allied health professional for intensive, individualised intervention.

    This framework can also be used to identify students who have social, emotional, or behavioural difficulties, as well as academic difficulties. In this way, the RTI model can be helpful for improving learning of academic skills and social and emotional skills.


    The Social Skills Improvement System – Social-Emotional Learning (SSIS-SEL) Edition

    The good news is that social emotional learning skills can be taught and continuously improved using in-class assessment and intervention tool like SSIS-SEL. This assessment is based on the RTI model and provides evidence-based tools to screen, assess, and intervene for each of the five key emotional skills. The program can be used as a preventative framework for students who present minor to mid-range difficulties in tiers 1 and 2, and it can also be applied as a more comprehensive intervention tool for struggling students in tier 3. SSIS-SEL is a flexible clinical tool, it can be applied either as a classwide program, or as a targeted solution in smaller groups of students.

    SSIS-SEL is the only system that incorporates key academic skill areas, allowing you to assess the same skills that you teach. Using this system, you can support the development of social and emotional skills in each of your students.

    The screening assessment takes approximately 5 to 10 minutes to complete, the full assessment takes approximately 15 to 20 minutes to complete, and the intervention modules take up to half an hour to complete.

    Importance of social-emotional learning graph


    This article is part of the Mind the Gap initiative, aimed at supporting student wellbeing to improve learning outcomes. For more information about supporting your special education or classroom teachers with effective assessment tools like SSIS-SEL, please feel free to contact Anisa Zulfiqar.

    read more
  • Are Teachers The Key To Vietnam’s Transformation?

    Fast changes are happening to Vietnam’s “tiger cub” economy. As the country transforms itself into one of the most dynamic in the world, the government is aiming to drive innovation with major revisions to its national curriculum. But will outdated teaching methodologies check the country’s chances of reaching its full potential?


    Leading Innovation, Not Following

    “Things in this part of the world move very fast,” Ms. Nguyen Phuong Lan warns, “We are not talking about Vietnam as simply a follower of technology anymore, but as a leader.” Lan is the Chairwoman for EMG. Established in 2005 in Hanoi and expanding to Vietnam’s southern business hub of Ho Chi Minh City in 2010, the company have become a leading education provider in the dynamic Southeast Asian country. One of Vietnam’s first private education companies, EMG agreed to a wide-ranging partnership with Pearson last year that includes implementing the education company’s English proficiency assessments, international examinations and vocational qualifications.

    “The Vietnamese people are quick to notice trends. You can see that in our engagement with technologies like blockchain,” Mr. Vu Hai Long, Director of FPT’s Greenwich Collaboration College, part of the FPT Corporation, concurs. The two education specialists were in Da Nang, in February, at Pearson’s invitation to talk about how education can support Vietnam’s economic growth at the company’s “The Future Of Learning” conference.

    Mr. Vu Hai Long has seen the project to upskill Vietnam’s millennial generation bear fruit first-hand. “Fifteen years ago, FPT Software faced genuine difficulty finding the right people—there was a real skills shortage. We decided to invest in education primarily to help support our own business, but our focus on learning has meant young Vietnamese have been able to achieve success here while also entering the international job market,” Mr. Vu Hai Long adds.

    FPT is the largest IT company in Vietnam with over 10,000 software engineers and the corporation also run FPT University that currently has campuses in Hanoi, Danang, and Ho Chi Minh City. Added to that FPT Greenwich Collaboration College offers courses under the supervision of the University of Greenwich which gives their students the opportunity to receive a world-class undergraduate education at an affordable cost.


    Forward-thinking Curriculum Changes

    However, despite FPT’s successes, question marks have arisen over the effectiveness of Vietnam’s higher education system. Many feel that Vietnam’s university programmes are producing some of the best trained graduates in the region, but also some of the worst. The Ministry of Education and Training’s Deputy Nguyen Minh Hien suggested the blame lay with teaching standards at elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels.

    “Looking back at my education, we were taught the book,” Ms. Nguyen Phuong Lan elaborates about Vietnam’s pedagogical approach, “Today, in Vietnam, I do think the government recognizes that from K-12 we don’t want to box in our young generation. They think the curriculum should support our children’s growth and help them to achieve their full potential,” she adds about the prospective changes to the lives of the 1.8 million students in Hanoi and 1.6 million in Ho Chi Minh City who currently access kindergartens, schools, and high schools—besides many more nationwide.

    There does seem to be genuine government-level interest in using the national curriculum to further develop Vietnam’s school-age generation in readiness for the 21st century job market. According to Vietnam News, the revised curriculum “could very well shatter the typical image of Vietnamese schools as places where students learn the same things and have the same ideas.”

    The flexible competency-based curriculum, although still in its draft form, aims to offer a mix of traditional subjects such as maths, literature, foreign languages, geography, history, chemistry, biology, and computer science, with new subjects that focus on developing creativity and the cognitive and behavioral skills that will help graduates find and thrive in their jobs.

    “The government now is forward-thinking and they recognize the need to examine the impact of the curriculum on the learners. The major changes will be to focus on STEM and interdisciplinary learning, and they will also look to promote innovation and creative skills,” EMG’s Chairwoman, Ms. Nguyen Phuong Lan, adds. “This also presents huge opportunities for publishers, as there will be widespread revisions to materials.”


    “It’s not going to be easy”

    However, originally scheduled for implementation in 2018, the curriculum is now likely to be introduced for the 2019-20 academic year. Besides worries over spiraling costs, behind the delays are further concerns about the abilities of the existing cohort of teachers to adapt to these significant changes—The Dean of Hanoi National University of Education suggested that in Vietnam as many as 90% of all teachers’ skills are substandard.

    Allied to the need for better trained teachers is a perceived requirement to move away from teachers preparing students for national exams, which often precludes the opportunity to develop soft skills. As one senior specialist reviewing the plans for the World Bank predicted: “It’s not going to be easy. The previous curriculum that was launched in 2001 with a similar idea failed because we didn’t have enough of the elements required, most importantly, competent teachers.”

    read more
  • How long does it take to learn a new language?

    Students learning and collaborating

    “How long will it take me to learn English?” This is a question we often hear, especially with summer intensive courses just around the corner. Students all over the world want to know how much time and effort it will take them to master a new language.

    Teachers know the answer isn’t as simple as it seems. It’s dependent on lots of different things, such as; how different the second language is from their mother tongue, how old they are, whether they can speak other languages, how much time they will have to study outside the classroom, their motivation and ability to practice.

    The truth is, it takes A LOT of work to become proficient in a new language – and students need to be aware that they need to study independently if they want to progress rapidly.


    Explaining student responsibility

    Becoming truly proficient in a language can take many years. In a study carried out by Pearson they found that even for fast learners it can take as much as 760 hours to enter the B2 CEFR level from <A1.

    Also, most year-round courses are around 100-120 hours per level, (not including homework). So the reality is that it should take approximately 1000 hours to go from A1 to C2.

    However, one of the biggest misconceptions students have is that there is a “fixed route” to language learning and that this is linear – and that time spent studying in class is all that’s required to make the progress they expect. This mistakenly puts the onus on the teacher, rather than the student, which means they may not take responsibility for their own learning.

    While most language learners need great course materials, instruction, correction, and mentorship from their teachers, it’s key that they are motivated to become independent learners. Progress and success comes down to regular practice, feedback and the confidence to make and learn from mistakes. Students must understand this from the outset – so make sure this is a conversation you have with your classes from the very first day.


    Understanding language goals

    It’s also extremely important to understand your students’ language learning goals right away. Some, for example, will want to learn a language for travel purposes and may simply be happy to reach an elementary or pre-intermediate level of English. Others will want to learn it for work or study purposes and will need to reach a more advanced level. By definition “learning a new language” will be very different for those two groups of students – and this will affect how you design and deliver your course.

    Therefore, it’s key that you discuss individual learning objectives and then form a plan of how students will meet them. You should also explain that not everyone progresses at the same rate, but that is normal and should not be a cause for frustration.

    In private language schools (PLSs), which offer English for specific purposes (ESP), business English, CLIL, English for Academic purposes, intensive summer classes, and a range of other courses, it’s even more important to do this well. Correctly managed expectations, well selected materials, and tailored courses will keep students motivated and help the business thrive.


    Setting and meeting targets

    At an institutional level, schools, PLS’s and even government agencies also need to be aware of the pitfalls of rigid target setting.

    Not only can mishandled targets directly affect learner motivation when they are held back or moved up too quickly, but they also can force educators to “teach to the test”, rather than planning classes and designing courses that meet their students’ needs.

    On the other hand, standardized testing systems help place learners at the right level, set benchmarks and show student progression. Examinations also give students firm objectives to work towards.

    So, at the very least, management and governing authorities should consult with educators before setting broad targets.


    Handling feedback and adapting to individual needs

    When it comes to talking to individual students about their progress (good or bad), honesty is essential. It’s hard telling someone that they haven’t achieved the grades they need move on to the next level, but it’s the right thing to do. Putting a person in a higher level to save their feelings only leads to frustration, demotivation, and self-doubt. Likewise, when a student has done well, praise is good, but you should still be honest about the areas in which they need to improve.

    This is what happens at a successful PLS in Japan who run 1000 hour year-round intensive courses. They get results because they consult their learners in order to understand their goals and focus their courses on developing key communicative skills for professionals. At the same time, they track motivation levels and adjust their courses to ensure the student’s progress is on track to meet their expectations. Of course, this is quite a unique setting, with a very intensive, highly personalized approach, and the school has the advantage of tailor-making courses.


    Using tools to help

    They also used the Global Scale of English (GSE) to help design their curriculum and use the ‘can do’ descriptors to set goals. They then selected Versant assessments(which are mapped to scoring against the GSE) to measure student progress on a monthly basis.

    Educators can emulate their approach. By using tools like these, as well as others, such as the GSE Teacher Toolkit, you can design syllabi, plan classes, place students at the right level and measure individual progress, helping you meet your institution’s targets while supporting your learners to achieve their goals.

    An additional benefit from using the GSE, is that this granular framework breaks down what needs to be learned within a CEFR level, and our courseware, Placement, Progress and high stakes assessments, like PTE Academic, are already aligned to the GSE. To help accelerate the learner journey, our courseware now features three new levels – A2+, B1+ and B2+. By moving to eight level courses, it ensures students are able to master the content at a more achievable rate.

    Check out the Global Scale of English now and discover exactly how you can help your students to progress and meet their learning objectives.

    read more
  • The Vietnamese Companies Powered By Learning Millennials

    All eyes are on Vietnam. That’s because the ambitious Southeast Asian country’s young, tech-savvy population is helping position it as a future global leader in industries like blockchain technology. But what is it like harnessing the skills of a country with 40% of its population under 25, and how are some of Vietnam’s biggest employers making learning key to help train and retain their teams?

    read more