English language courses and exams developed by experts in Cambridge are having a positive impact on children's learning in schools in Vietnam. A recent study evaluated the impact the Power Up courses are having on learners’ motivation, progress and exam preparation. Uyen Pham from Cambridge University Press & Assessment shares her thoughts on the findings and how it can help teachers and parents to motivate children.
Trying to convince children that learning English can be enjoyable, fun, and motivating, is a constant challenge that parents and teachers face all over the world. But this doesn’t need to be the case. I worked with colleagues in Vietnam and the UK to find out more about the impact Cambridge learning and assessment materials are having on children in schools in Vietnam and the results were overwhelmingly positive.
The study focused on two schools, Ban Mai School, which is based in Hanoi, and the Vietnamese American School System in Ho Chi Minh City. The private schools were both using our Power Up courses to prepare pupils for a Cambridge English Young Learners Exam.
We asked a group of teachers, pupils aged between 6 and 11 and leaders in the schools about their attitudes to English and their experiences of integrating Cambridge materials into the classroom.
What is Power Up?
Power Up is a set of English courses for young children aged around 6 to 12 years from Cambridge University Press. The books cover six different levels from Pre-A1 to B1, focusing on developing cognitive and social competencies, with embedded assessment practice to help prepare young learners for the Cambridge English Young Learners Exams (YLE) Starters, Movers and Flyers.
Learning English is fun, say 98% of children
All of the pupils who took part in the study were highly motivated to learn English and an impressive 98% of them said they find learning English fun. It was clear that the children really enjoyed their English classes.
We also found that teachers were using English a lot in the classroom, which is encouraging. This is significant because exposure is so important when learning English.
However there are of course challenges associated with teaching English when it is not used as a first or second language, thus the very limited chance of practising it outside the classroom – particularly when the students have very basic levels of English.
We found that students were most confident about listening and vocabulary and least confident about writing, grammar and speaking. This finding is expected given the pupils’ young age and given where they are on their English learning journey.
We were also delighted to find out that amongst those students who expressed a preference, 85% of them said they liked the Power Up course, and thought it would help them to do well in their Cambridge English test.
Vietnamese children had positive attitudes towards Cambridge English exams
It’s clear that students had very positive attitudes towards learning English and enjoyed using Power Up. We’re delighted that this positive attitude also applied to exams. In fact 96% of pupils thought that exams are important and 88% said they liked the Cambridge test they took. And even though just over half of the pupils felt anxious about their test, 78% were confident that they will do well in the test.
And what did the teachers think about Power Up?
The teachers were also positive with 88% saying they enjoyed teaching English, and many felt that Power Up addressed students’ English language needs in speaking and writing skills. They also like the fact the courses integrate different subjects in science, literature, maths, enabling students to gain new knowledge, rather than just improving the English language.
Teachers also saw the benefits and convenience of having Cambridge practice test activities embedded in each unit. The design and layout of the course was also praised by teachers. As one teacher said ‘The books have a lot of colourful pictures which my students love,’ and another nicely put it: ‘The books have interesting stories and lively characters.’
We’re having a positive impact on learning
We’re delighted that we’re having a positive impact on learners and teachers in Vietnam. It’s really rewarding to know that teachers and pupils are enjoying using Power Up and students feel that the course will help them do well in their test, as well as their personal English language learning journey.
Uyen Pham is Assessment Services Lead for ASEAN Australasia Japan Korea at Cambridge University Press & Assessment.
Uyen has 17 years' experience in the area of English language learning and assessment working on providing the best solutions to language benchmarking, assessment services, English language improvement and teacher development. Uyen holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in TESOL from SEAMEO RELC Singapore and an MA in TESOL from Victoria University. Uyen is also taking the Postgraduate Advanced Certificate in Educational Studies at University of Cambridge.