Welcome to the pagoda offering free English lessons in Hanoi

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Thanks to help from local and foreign volunteers, a Vietnamese woman has been able to spend the last ten years running free English classes at a pagoda in Hanoi for children unable to afford the high tuition at language centers.

The free class is taught by volunteers and foreign teachers every morning at 8:00 am at Phap Van Pagoda in Hoang Mai District.

Tran Thi Huong Duyen first began the “Happy Class” free English program in July 2007.   

Since then, the course has grown to 40 students divided into three classes: 5-7 year olds, 8-12 year olds, and adult students.

So far, the class has attracted around 40 students of varying ages. Photo: Tuoi Tre
So far, the class has attracted around 40 students of varying ages. Photo: Tuoi Tre

“I found out about ‘Happy Class’ by accident when I was hanging out with friends at the pagoda. After that I asked mom to let me attend the class. I think the class is really fun. I’ve made a lot of new friends and have become more confident in speaking English. I was also rewarded with some books,” said Nguyen Nhat Hung, an 11-year-old who lives near the pagoda and has regularly attended classes for the past three months.

Having taught at English language centers in the city, Duyen understands that many families are unable to afford expensive English courses, some of which can cost as much as VND10 million (US$440) per three-month program.

She decided to organize the free classes so that those who cannot afford expensive courses but are still passionate about English have an alternative.

A students indulges in the book she has just been awarded. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A students indulges in the book she has just been awarded. Photo: Tuoi Tre

However, Duyen says the charitable endeavor is not without its obstacles.

“It challenging enough to manage an English center, and it is even harder to manage a free English center,” Duyen said.

During the class, the children sit on the floor of a borrowed room in the pagoda, working around small, low tables to add new vocabulary to their notebooks.

Duyen attending to the students. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Duyen attending to the students. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Being a free course, the classes often lack resources and instead are forced to take full advantage of what little is available in order to provide lessons for the students.

Some of the responsibility falls on the volunteers, most of whom make a significant effort to provide blank paper and offer extra tutoring to the students.

In order to motivate the students and make the class livelier, the volunteers and teachers of “Happy Class” often teach through various activities and games.

Considering the dedication from all volunteers, it should not come as a surprise that the class is always filled with laughter, excitement, and happiness.

Victor is a foreign teacher from the UK. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Victor is a foreign teacher from the UK. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Moreover, those who show outstanding improvements receive rewards from the teachers.

“I am always very happy to see parents bringing their children to class and staying to help. Receiving support from many people motivates me to maintain the course,” Duyen said.

Over 90 percent of the lessons are provided by foreign teachers and English teachers from language centers who focus on vocabulary, pronunciation, and communication.

The class is always lively and fun so that students have an easier time remembering the lessons. Photo: Tuoi Tre
The class is always lively and fun so that students have an easier time remembering the lessons. Photo: Tuoi Tre

This summer, the volunteers and teachers will hold other activities for the members of the course which include sightseeing events and extracurricular activities.

Through these activities, the students will not only be able to learn in the classroom, but will also have a chance to visit various places like embassies so that they can interact with foreigners.

Duyen also revealed her plan to open two more classes at the end of the year so that more students who want to learn English will have the opportunity to do so.

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Nguồn: tuoitrenews.vn