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Teachers Forum
December, 1999

Life Skills Teaching Experience in Vietnam, part 2

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

This interview was conducted with Mrs. Mai Bich Nga of the Hong Hai lower secondary school located in the suburban district of Ha long city, Quang Ninh province. You can read the first interview with Mrs. Trinh Thuy Nga or other archived interviews.

Question: What is your teaching background?

Answer: I have 17 years teaching experience, in which I was teaching in primary school in the remote island district for five years, and now I am teaching the Mathematical and Civic Education subjects in the lower secondary school in Halong city. I am also a manager of the youth health club of my school. During 17 years teaching experience, I mainly used traditional teaching methods such as lecturing and teachers ask and students answer. Recently, we have started using the student-centred teaching methods with life skills. Before the pilot life skills teaching project, we were trying to teach similar things to life skills. For example, we teach students how to communicate with each other or how to make responsible decision in extra- curricular activity. However, we did not have systematic view of the life skills and we could not name these skills as life skills such as communication and self-awareness, assertion, decision making, values clarification and goal setting.

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

A: I think HIV/AIDS is increasing in Ha long city, but I do not remember exact number of HIV infection in Ha long city.

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 teaching with life skills, I felt very uncomfortable in teaching of transmission of HIV through sex. I felt shy when students asked me about sexuality or sex related issues. I feel that I did not have confidence or the ability to answer the difficult questions of students.

If I rank my confidence in teaching life skills and HIV/AIDS from 1 to 10, I would estimate that my confidence in teaching HIV/AIDS and related issues including sex before the training and teaching was at the 1 mark, and after two years of teaching, it is now at the 5 or 6 mark. I also learn life skills for myself. For example I learn a lot of skills in communication with my students, and I feel my awareness on HIV/AIDS and my awareness of risk behaviours is increasing.

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

A: Although I was very much interested in the life skills approach, I still felt uncomfortable and found it difficult to choose the relevant situation for teaching HIV/AIDS because it is still sensitive in Vietnam culture.

I have many difficulties in teaching the life skills approach. I need to prepare the lesson more carefully than usual, I need to discuss and select appropriate situations for teaching of sensitive issues with my colleagues. The school needs to pay for photocopies of the student worksheet, drawing of pictures/teaching aids etc. This requires more time and money. The classroom is small and the number of students is big. It is difficult to rearrange desks and chairs. We have to limit the games and interactive activity because this method makes students, sometimes, too excited or noisy and they will affect learning of other classes in the school.

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

A: Despite the difficulties that I have, I am strongly confident that the life skills teaching approach is a very effective approach in teaching attitude and behaviours. Apart from Life Skills teaching for HIV/AIDS prevention in the Civic Education and Biology subjects, the Life skills teaching approach can be applied to other social subjects such as Literature and History. Students are very interested in activity and actively participate - 100% of the students in classroom can participate in the lesson activity. The lessons are conducted with less pressure of only information and knowledge. At the beginning of the pilot, students were shy and hesitant, but communication skills of students has been much increasing throughout the course. Students find it easier to remember the lessons and actively practice the positive attitudes and behaviours. Teachers and students are both very happy that they do not need to write [copy down] as much in the lessons as they used to, therefore they have more time to use other methods such as role- play or learning games. Because time for a lesson is limited (40 minutes), teachers can only focus on the main aspects and facilitate interactive students' activities. Students need to read more information in the student book outside the class time.

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: Look at opportunities to scale up. After training, I reported to the school principal and School Management Board to get their support and commitment. I shared what I learned on the life skills approach with my colleagues. We discussed the lessons together. Now in my school, the Life skills approach has been taught in the Civic Education subject for all grade six, seven and eight students. More teachers in my school and also School Management Board need training on Life skills so that we could apply it. However, if we have official approval and instruction of Ministry of Education and Training on Life Skills teaching after the pilot, we could scale it up.

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Last revised December, 1999
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