Young Post hard at work in Vietnam

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 April, 2009, 12:00am

Students attending Hung Vuong University in Phu Tho, about 50km north of the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, are lucky. Most have struggled for this chance to get an education, since they come from poor family backgrounds, and are grateful for their place on their course.

Ranging in age from 19 to 25, many are studying English literature in the hopes of becoming English teachers. But, with little exposure to English and few opportunities to ever leave their homeland, this is a huge challenge.

Michael Tan, a former Hong Kong International School (HKIS) teacher, has been organising workshops at Hung Vuong University for several years, bringing HKIS teachers and students to Vietnam to work with the university students.

In November, five HKIS teachers visited the university, bringing copies of Young Post with them, which they distributed to a class of 30 students.

In the moments that followed, the room was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.

The fascinated students wildly flipped through the pages, reading the articles, taking notes and engaging in the games and activities, finding it the perfect language and interest level.

The students are preparing to take IELTS, an international English test, in June. If they achieve a high score, they might receive a scholarship to study in Australia.

Currently, their goal is to get out of Vietnam in search of a better opportunity and more exposure to English and to teaching strategies.

Following in their teacher's footsteps, a group of 20 HKIS students visited Hung Vuong University last month. They interacted with the university students and taught English lessons using more copies of Young Post.

Although many of the HKIS students found it very strange to 'teach' students five years older than themselves, all of them treasured this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

After working together for a week, the HKIS and Hung Vuong students became very close, and saying goodbye on the final day proved difficult. The HKIS students were reluctant to say their goodbyes, and some even broke down in tears.

As they arrived in Hong Kong, one of the HKIS students said: 'Right after I left Hung Vuong University, I knew it was going to be my best school trip ever.'

A 'reverse exchange' trip is currently in the works: later this year, a few of the Hung Vuong University student teachers will be invited to HKIS. They will sit in on classes, work with teachers, immerse themselves in English and experience the lives of HKIS students.

Of the 20 HKIS students that visited the university, five are already planning to return to Phu Tho during the summer holidays. After working so closely with the Hung Vuong students, the HKIS students have developed a strong passion to help the university students achieve their goals, and to make their dreams of becoming teachers come true.