Various ways of using existing textbooks

This section is divided into two parts. The aim of the first part is to address two key drawbacks that have been attributed to current textbooks: the out-dated nature of textbooks, and their irrelevant content. The second part focuses on teaching tips suggested by the participants to overcome those two drawbacks. It is noted that the term ‘current textbooks’ here refers to teaching materials currently used by the teachers in this study, as presented in Table 9.1 above.

Drawbacks of current textbooks

This sub-theme was mostly discussed by the teachers who used the required textbooks mentioned in Table 9.1. The voices of the participants who had more freedom to select teaching materials are reported in sub-section 9.2.2.

Out-dated content

The out-dated nature of current textbooks was raised by teachers who used the required teaching materials designed for secondary school levels. All four teachers in group F showed concern over the course books. Tuan emphasised that

The textbooks used here are not very good because they were written in 2006 ... . Nowadays, everything changes quickly. The textbooks arc out-dated now.

He gave a specific example of about references to outdated technology in the course books and said that he had to use more modern products for the students. His opinion was echoed by 13 teachers, all of whom later engaged in discussions of the irrelevance of specific teaching topics in the textbooks.

Irrelevant teaching content

The data shows that the teachers classified irrelevant teaching content into two major categories: cultural and linguistic content.

With a frown on her face, Hang from group F said that while some teaching content might be good for students in big cities, it was not suitable for her students who lived in a remote area. She provided an example to prove her point,

The book is not designed suitably for our local students. We have sections about tourism but I think it is so far away from reality in our place [sic].

A similar evaluation was also made by a group A participant who said she usually skipped over some parts of the course books in her lessons. In the individual interview data, Tran also reported that books imported from Europe had some content that was irrelevant for the learners at her English language centre. She gave the specific example of the topic of marriage which, in her opinion, was not a suitable one for younger Vietnamese learners.

In terms of the linguistic content, four group B participants stated that several textbooks used at their English centres were not suitable for children. Long explained, 'The textbook Family and Friends is kind of difficult because it mainly focuses on complicated grammatical structures that are hard for six-year-old learners to study.’ For instance, he explained that teachers had difficulty in teaching the rules of the simple present tense to child learners. They, however, reported that they were obliged to strictly follow these teaching materials as it was required by their institution.

In addition to the issues of out-of-date and irrelevant teaching content, Giang reflected that she did not like the current textbooks she was using owing to the differences between the teaching aims required by the department and teaching methods reflected in textbooks. She said, ‘We have to teach our students to pass final exams which focus on reading and grammar but we have to teach them how to use English, speaking and listening in the class every day.’ This result indicates the mismatch between teaching goals and pedagogy' with which teachers were confronted in ELT, an issue discussed in detail in Chapter 10.

Suggested teaching tips

In response to the above comments from the participants, the moderator asked them about the positive ways they used to deal with these issues. They responded that teachers needed to creatively adapt to the textbooks. According to them, it was important for teachers to select from such books those teaching materials suitable for their students’ levels and needs. They also presented a few criteria for selecting or designing teaching materials, on which they would base their courses. The following table provides a brief summary of how they employed their textbooks in their teaching.

Teachers’ adaptation and creativity

Table 9.2 shows that more than 60 per cent of the participants said they used adaptive strategies and 40 per cent used creative strategies with the current textbooks to overcome the drawbacks presented above. According to these participants, adaptation referred to modification and simplification of teaching materials to match their students’ needs and creativity means creating something new related to the main teaching content. Adaptation was revealed in the responses that stated they skipped some parts, replaced them with more relevant content, or added supplementary sources. The thrust of the following reflection is found consistently in the interview data:

I sometimes replace some parts and it depends on my purpose for the class. For instance, if I want my students to learn some other cultures, I will look for other relevant sources from the internet and other textbooks.


Expressing the view that there were no ideal teaching materials, nine participants proposed several creative strategies for teachers to respond to their students’ levels and learning objectives. For instance, Ngoc (group F) suggested creating sections for free talks in the use of her current textbooks. She explained that students were encouraged to invent new English words based on their linguistic use of their mother tongue so that they could understand how English has become diversified worldwide. Meanwhile, Quynh (Set Two) encouraged her students to carry out their own projects by combining various materials from the

Table 9.2 The participants' use of teaching materials



Use of reference books

Use of non-native writers

Wish to design own textbooks













internet and the library. As a teacher of English for Tourism, True (Set Two) said that asking students to role play based on real situations was one of her favourite ways to combine the theory' presented in textbooks and the practice needed for communication. All of these participants were interested in discussing the importance of diversifying their lessons as long as the basic knowledge presented in textbooks was covered. This concern to cover ‘basic knowledge’ suggests that teachers were pressured by the knowledge that they had to ensure that they prepared their students to pass required exams, as indicated in this chapter.

Teachers’ criteria for selecting and designing teaching materials

At tertiary institutions in Vietnam, teachers of English usually have the authority' to recommend to their superiors teaching materials for consideration and approval. Besides, some colleges and universities encourage teachers to design their own teaching courses and materials so as to suit their students' levels and needs. Asked about the criteria they' used for selecting relevant textbooks and for designing their own teaching materials, the participants provided various responses:

TAM: It is good for teachers first, easy to teach ... and easy for students ....

CUONG: Acceptable English, various writers ... from America, India, Kieu’s story ... even Vietnamese English.

TAI: I prefer something new, good and suitable for students.

SUONG: Teaching materials should promote interaction between students and include reading and listening for homework for students to improve vocabulary at home.

As for the teaching materials designed by teachers at tertiary' institutions, all the participants reported that they still needed to adapt these sources. For instance, all the teachers in group F said that faculty-designed books were not always ‘perfect’ and seemed to become out-of-date quickly. Four other participants who came from secondary schools and English language centres expressed their desire to design their own teaching materials. For example, Hang focused on writing tourism topics for current textbooks because her town is in an area in the North famous for its landscape. She expressed the importance of providing local students with general information of Lao Cai and interesting ways to attract tourists from all over the world. In addition, Tran (Set Two) commented that she wished to design her own teaching materials because the textbooks from Cambridge were quite ‘mechanical’, while Le (Set Two) also indicated that she was interested in designing her own teaching materials by combining the strengths of various textbooks and materials. This finding, though small, suggests the felt need to use supplementary' teaching materials to meet the learning objectives of ELT in EFL Vietnam.

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