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Teachers Forum
November, 1999

Life Skills Teaching Experience in Vietnam

(A second interview on this topic is also available.)

Interview conducted by Dr. Phan Thi Le Mai
Project Officer, HIV/AIDS project, UNICEF Vietnam

This interview was conducted with Mrs. Trinh Thuy Nga of the Cao Xanh Primary school in the suburban district of Ha long city, Quang Ninh province.

Question: What is your teaching background and experience?

Answer: I have 9 years experience in teaching of primary school, in these teaching years, I use traditional teaching methods. In which mainly teachers speak and students only listen. I see the traditional teaching methods put students in the passive position and do not stimulate creative thinking of students. Over the last three years, we have been trained and using the student-centred teaching method. Before participating in the life skills teaching project, I do not have life skills teaching experience.

Q: What your understanding of the relevance and impact of HIV in your community?

A: I think that HIV/AIDS is pandemic in Ha Long City and in my community. It is alarming. HIV infection has been found in 10 of the total 13 districts in our province. The majority of HIV infected people are young people aged from 20-29 years. However, my students only know that HIV is a disease of the century and there is no cure. They only know the way of HIV transmission. When teaching about sexual transmission of HIV, teachers feel it is hard and difficult. Teachers mainly emphasised on transmission through blood. HIV/AIDS has negative impact on the family and community. We are teaching students support and compassion for people with HIV.

Q: What is your own personal view of HIV and teaching using the life skills methods? Do you thing you changed at all as a result of the life skills training?

A: Before the training and before being able to teach using life skills and HIV/AIDS, I only knew of HIV/AIDS from radio and newspapers. After the training and using life skills in teaching, I understand more about the ways (behaviours) that put people at risk for HIV infection. The life skills teaching approach is an innovative teaching method. Before the training, I used to teach my students about only HIV/AIDS knowledge and information through lecturing. After the training, I teach HIV/AIDS through role-play, games and student worksheets. At the beginning, students did not participate actively, they felt shy; As they got used to the newness, they felt more confident, more active and participatory in the lesson and more consolidated. Students can speak out about themselves, they are encouraged to tell what makes them feel uncomfortable.

Q: What were the fears and challenges you had about learning about and using the life skills approach?

A: Using the life skills teaching approach, students understand the lesson more and easier. Teachers feel easier in teaching about drug abuse and smoking prevention. However, teachers need to prepare more for the lesson. I still feel uncomfortable in using life skills in teaching sensitive issues such as sexuality. I thing primary students are still too small to learn about sex and sexuality. We need to identify the appropriate way of talking about aspects of sexuality and relationships to primary school students as they get older.

I also feel uncomfortable in teaching life skills in school because of the lack of life skills teaching and communication in the family and community. Children can not develop life skills and change their behaviours if they only learn life skills in school. I think that only when we apply life skills approaches in family and the community as well, we can overcome this difficulty.

My colleagues and I also have difficulty in choosing the situations for discussion. Role-play method is still new to teachers. Usually time for role-play session takes longer than planned so it affects the whole lesson. Teachers need to practice the role with students before the role-play. We need assistance from the Education department for school management and teachers in improving of the life skills teaching approach. We need more training in development of life skills lessons so that we can select the situations that are relevant to our city and our community.

Q: How have you changed in your own personal perception and beliefs regarding the life skills approach, and teaching in this new way about HIV prevention?

A: The life skills approach can be applied to other social subjects, I believe the life skills approach is an effective and interesting method in teaching attitudes and behaviours. Students in primary school need to see pictures, discuss situations that are similar to their own life, and they need to play the role, then they will easier memorise knowledge, and they will internalise what they learn. We now apply the life skills approach in teaching of Health Education and Moral Education subjects. However, the pilot teaching of life skills is limited in the pilot schools and in health subjects only. This approach needs to be expanded to other subjects and applied in extra-curricular activity as well.

Q: What would you say to other teachers who may be learning something new, or particularly who might be learning about the life skills approach?

A: After attending training on the life skills approach organised by the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), I briefed 27 teachers in my schools about this experience. Now all 27 teachers are applying the life skills approach in teaching their students. We have a professional meeting every month; we also take these opportunities to discuss life skills out-reach approaches [to the community]. I would strongly suggest other teachers to learn this approach if they have the chance.

(Go to the second interview on this topic?)

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Last revised November, 1999
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