The path to the future

Launching “We care & share” as a landmark for its upcoming 15th anniversary in this country, ILA Việt Nam aims for an ambitious innovative educational environment.

Ms. Trần Xuân Dzu, ILA Việt Nam general director, talked about ILA’s new strategy.

Please elaborate on the new educational program ILA is about to embark on in Việt Nam.

Our new program aims for an innovative learning environment assisted by modern technologies where students will learn not only knowledge but also soft skills which are essential for their future life and work.

In such an environment, teachers are no longer only instructors but give way to students who are now the nucleus of the classroom.

Knowledge in textbooks and classroom walls are neither adequate nor appropriate, and technologies have played an active role in supporting the learning process.

Students receive assignments, and work in groups at libraries, corridors or somewhere else, not necessarily in classrooms.

In addition to textbooks, lessons also come from films or music.

When classes meet, students are free to debate with each other or with teachers.

The new method is designed to help students feel more confident, which in fact blurs the line between knowledge learnt in class and the skills needed for the future.

That seems to be required more of a school of general education than a foreign language center.

Of course, we must first fulfill our task of teaching the English language.

Yet we try to make these skills an integral part of our programs.

It’s true that an excellent student in class may not always be successful in life.

Our new learning environment helps blur the line between learning and practical skills, which represents the new global trend.

We just want to lend a hand in this regard.

Ms. Tran Xuan Dzu, ILA Vietnam general director

As such, what will become of the teacher in your new environment?

In such an environment, teachers are no longer simply instructors of knowledge.

They themselves have to continuously absorb new technologies and knowledge so as to bring their practical experience into the classroom.

The learning environment will be expanded beyond the confinement of classroom walls to reach homes, libraries and the like, assisted by gadgets such as smart phones and tablets.

In class, students learn not only English skills but also how to use them as a tool for learning knowledge in other fields.

The teacher will relinquish his or her traditional central role to the student.

Does that also mean ILA has to invest enormously in both facilities and human resources?

That’s right.

We have invested heavily in infrastructure which is expected of a modern learning environment.

To introduce new technologies, we have to install smart boards, e-teaching plans, smart devices, tablets and software programs, wifi systems… for making virtual the learning environment or multimedia.

All resembles building a new learning foundation and a new learning ecosystem, whereby students interact and post lessons and discuss them.

It also enables students to communicate with teachers.

In such a sense, technologies will facilitate the entire learning process.

Then what about profit in your business?

It’ll be a hard problem if we consider education only a means of making profit.

We believe that investment in education requires real dedication and must first bring benefit to the community and customers.

Once customers are satisfied, they will come to us. So does profit then.

That’s really a sustainable development process.

Needless to say, we have to take into account short- and long-term goals.

We have to muster up great resources for such investment to move forward.

Anyway, as a chief executive, you must bear pressure from shareholders or board members?

Fortunately, ILA shareholders and board members share the same view.

All are in favor of the new learning program and perfect facilities.

Nobody has therefore mounted any profit pressure and all look forward to sustainable development.

In the past, we have attracted quite a few customers because of this reason.

Up to 70% of the parents who took kids to ILA were recommended by their friends or relatives.

In your opinion, what is the difference in doing business in English learning now and then?

In 2000 when ILA first set foot in Vietnam, English learning was not as diverse as it is now.

An array of question was posed when ILA brought in foreign teachers to teach English:

How could a teacher manage his class when he or she did not speak Vietnamese while the students could not speak English?

However, we have succeeded.

Foreign instructors teaching English are ubiquitous at the moment as other language centers have also done what we did.

In this regard, we feel both proud and worried.

Yet by and large, students benefit the most in this competition.

ILA’s network has expanded to 13 centers after 13 years in Việt Nam.

You target 15 more in the next two years.

Is this too ambitious?

Over the years, we have focused mainly on building a solid foundation and a workable model to introduce to the market our best products.

Every new center of ours must satisfy any of our universal standards.

We have been on the path of perfection based on which we feel more confident in setting new goals.

 ILA

In the ILA educational environment, teachers are no longer only instructors but give way to students who are now the nucleus of the classroom

Schools across the board have placed more emphasis on English learning—from those in the general education system to bilingual schools and international ones.

In such a context, how would you justify the existence of language centers such as ILA?

As far as I’m concerned, that is a natural developmental process.

English has proved to be an irresistible trend.

Some time, some day, the market will become saturated to centers that only teach English as extra-curricular activities.

However, such a situation requires extremely huge investment and time.

The market will still need language centers for a long time more.

We have to invest adequately to take the lead in raising English command in Việt Nam which is deemed the key to knowledge of Vietnamese students in this century.

Have you felt the pressure from such a competition?

Several countries have been determined to invest enormously in English teaching in universal schools.

However, results are limited.

I believe the same scenario will be likely to materialize in Việt Nam.

Schools’ introduction of intensive or international English programs has rendered the market more diverse, and students benefit the most.

That’s why we cannot feel complacent.

What we should do now is to commit enormous investment to make the best products available.

For instance, our academic management team has 35 members, each of whom is responsible for 16-20 teachers.

That is one of our unparalleled exceptions.

Will ILA be successful with the new program?

To answer this question, I want first to tell the following inspirational story about our mandate to transfer knowledge and language command in education:

The Story of two Seas, the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee.

Both seas receive water from the Jordan River.

However, the Dead Sea is so selfish that it keeps all the water within itself, thus becoming a stagnant reservoir where no life can exist.

Meanwhile, as the Sea of Galilee shares its water with neighboring rivers and water bodies, aqualife in the sea is abundant.

So are its surroundings.

Every ILA member—regardless who they are, from office workers to teachers—is imbued with such a spirit.

Of course, pioneers must take risks.

But I believe in the dedication of ILA educators and that’s the right path.

We have traveled far and wide and witnessed success stories capable of guiding students to achievements.

We want to do just the same.

More importantly, we believe that we will help students with better efficiency, and that’s the path to the future.

Source: The Saigon Times Daily

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