How to Design a Teacher Professional Development Program That Works For The Local Context?
The Vietnamese government has launched the National Foreign Language 2020 Project (Project 2020) since 2008
with an ambitious aim of upgrading the language capability of its students so that by 2020 most students can use a foreign
language (especially English) confidently in their daily communication. In order to implement that goal, thousands of
language teachers have been asked to attend different teacher professional development (PD) courses to upgrade knowledge
and renew teaching methods. Although teacher PD has been proved to be an important tool in implementing educational
reforms or in imposing educational changes, and in Project 2020, much money has been invested in PD courses, the impact of
these courses has been considered modest and the language capability of students does not seem to be much improved.
This study, drawing on a case study conducted with primary English teachers who attended these courses in Vietnam,
addresses the reasons behind the limitations of these PD activities. Our argument holds that it is imperative to take into
account the different teachers’ teaching contexts and circumstance and their practical experience in planning, organizing,
management and delivery of all PD activities in order to achieve the desired outcome for these PD programs. The current PD
courses which provide teachers with modern teaching methods developed most in developed countries, seem to fail to address
these issues. Thus, many teachers, after attending the PD courses found it hard or even impossible to apply the new knowledge
and skills in their teaching practices.
Keywords - Language teaching methods, Primary school, Project 2020, Teacher professional development, Vietnam.