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My job in Can Tho (1997-1999)

Daily life - 1998-1999 - Photos in the classes 1 & 2
Extra-curricular activities - Arroyos - Can Tho, the city

Hervé Fayet and Serge Cao on a visit in Can Tho

So I was selected and hired by the APEFE (Association for the Promotion of the Education and Training Abroad, branch of the French Community of Belgium).

I am paid, supported and evaluated by them, but I work, as a dozen other Belgians, with the AUPELF-UREF for the "Bilingual Classes" project.

Bilingual classes ? A "delegate" program for the AUF (because not being of higher education nor research) which takes a more and more important dimension.

The bilingual classes

Begun in 1992 by Hervé Fayet (today Project manager for the South-Vietnam) with 6 classes, in 1997 this program touches already more than 500 classes (15 000 pupils) in Vietnam and the project extends in Laos and in Cambodia (as well as Haiti, Vanuatu and Moldavia for the "strengthened French" classes).

Usually, in Vietnam, children go to school half of the day, notably because there are not enough classrooms to accomodate all the pupils at the same time.

But the children of the Bilingual Classes stay all day long and learn all the subjects of the Vietnamese official curriculum, plus about 10 hours of/in French per week.

One of my schools : Tan An

From 1st 'til 3rd grade, the children learn with the method "Il était...une petite grenouille" ("There was... A little frog") (Clé) which works on the 4 oral and written skills on base of tales abundantly illustrated and accompanied with audio cassettes (story, dialogues, songs...)

In fourth and fifth grades, the children follow the method "Ici et Ailleurs" ("Here and Somewhere else") ( IREFA) for "international French" and "Ici au Vietnam" ("Here in Vietnam") for the regional specificities as well as for the sciences in French (math, physics, biology, geography...)

In middle school, the pupils continue with "Ici et Ailleurs", in which were added chapters dedicated to the knowledge of the French-speaking world.

They also have math and physics courses in French, with teachers specialized in these disciplines.

In cursus B, the pupils begin learning French in 6th grade
with the method "Tieng Phap" ("French language") ( Hatier).

They also have math and physics in French.

(This "short" program was closed -temporarily?- in September 2000)

The demand is strong : the Vietnamese grant a great deal of importance to the education of their children, and if English is attractive, French presents many historic, cultural, scientific and...Material advantages.

That's right, the AUF and the APEFE support very intensely this program of the Vietnamese Ministry of the Education and Training by offering numerous equipments (a photocopier for each school, TV, video, tape recorders; textbooks, French-speaking books, etc.), advantages (the teachers of the bilingual classes are better paid and benefit from a training) as well as the help and the expertise of the foreign administrative and educational personnel.


Physics course in French

So you can imagine that sometimes, there are more than 500 candidates for the opening of two classes of 30 pupils... This limit of 30 was set to avoid the overpopulation observed in the normal classes (sometimes more than 50 pupils by class). The recruitment is made by "aptitude tests" during the summer, which allow to select the "most capable" pupils.

As for me...

From 1997 till 1998, I handled the 40 bilingual classes of Can Tho , and both classes of Vinh Long (about an hour and a half drive from Can Tho). It represented 38 teachers, about 1100 pupils in 9 schools (for the evolution in 1998-1999, see the next page).

My timetable : mainly, visit the classes to observe, help, evaluate, motivate. These visits are almost always followed by an individual meeting for remediation with the teacher.

Another important moment is the weekly educational meeting. Every Thursday, in Can Tho, I spent two to four hours with the teachers of the various levels to help them prepare their lessons, to insure the coordination and to complete their training. So Thursday was a hard day, from 7:00 am till 7:30 pm ! I also dedicated two to three half-days per week to the paperwork (papers, reports, preparations, materials...)

Regularly, I also played "moving - delivering man" : some threads to fix a box on the motorcycle, and there I go for a distribution of materials in the classes. With the heat, transporting boxes of books is a true pleasure...

Often, there were activities on the side : invitations, French speakers club, official ceremonies, extracurricular activities, parents's meetings, etc.

These almost always took place on Sundays... At 7 o'clock in the morning.

Once a month, I had a meeting with the Service of Education of the Province.

Once by quarter, we had a national meeting, which grouped all the advisors and both Project managers for a few days.

Speeches...quickly become a custom !

Situation in the classes

Waow... I was very impressed as soon as my first visits (97 in a month). The methods are good and the teachers, for the greater part, use the most modern communicative techniques. The pupils learn well ! They are more disciplined than in Europe (and way more than in the USA !) but a little bit the other way : the biggest problems here are met in the small classes (1st , 2nd). Then, the pupils calm down and auto-discipline themselves.

Mr Trung, dynamism included...

So the pupils learn well, supported by their parents who are very demanding. Besides the "loaded" school schedules (it happens that the pupils stay in school from 7:00 am till 17:30 pm), the Vietnamese kids dedicate a lot of time to homework and to the additional courses (often two hours a day in addition of Saturdays and/or Sundays) or in other activities (music, sport...)

Of course there are exceptions (parents who work all the time and/or neglect their children), but the majority could give us many lessons !

Let's also consider the learning conditions... If the Bilingual Classes are often better provided than the others, the premises are often unsuitable for a quality education.

Most of the schools are still in pathetic condition, often wedged between boulevards and/or intrusive markets...

Ruined, too small classes; walls where one guesses an ancient coat of paint, ceilings which subside and sometimes allow water to pass through...

Blackboards which flake (or even full of holes), heat (many times 40° with 95 % of humidity while more than a third of the classes has not a ventilator), very damaged and dirty benches...

Omnipresent noise (I often can't hear what the teacher says)...

Mrs Diep defies all the obstacles to stimulate her class,
and one sees the results !

My big problems for the job ? At first, the heat. I often leave at 7:00 am from my home, on the motorcycle. Shirt and trousers are often dipped after 10 minutes in class. In itself it is already (very) annoying, but when I leave after the lesson to work in another school, I expose myself to the wind... I was dipped + wind with the motorcycle = cold ! Regular colds in a city where it's almost never below 25° C, what a joke !

Then, the quantity (of classes, teachers) : that lowers the quality.
The appointment of Vietnamese educational advisers, who should replace us bit by bit to insure the continuation of the program, has been awaited for a long time already...

Next page : my daily life in Can Tho

Page créée le 27 novembre 1998 -  Mise à jour le 13 juillet 2002

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