The Early Childhood Curriculum (2009) In Vietnam: Tensions In The First Three Years Of Implementation
In 2009 the Vietnamese Government introduced the new Early Childhood Curriculum (ECC) to replace the Reformed Early Childhood Curriculum (RECC) that was in place between 1994 and 2009. The ECC presents a new image of the child as an agentic, competent, and self-directed learner for a globalised society. Recent research on the implementation of the ECC has focused on the teachers‘ reconceptualising of traditional ways of teaching to meet new official aspirations without acknowledging teachers‘ perceptions of intrinsic valued concepts within both the RECC and the ECC. In addition, there has been limited investigation of how this implementation has been carried out in practice. This study fills these gaps by investigating how teachers are experiencing the transition from the RECC to the ECC. A mixed-method approach was used, which involved a questionnaire sent to 472 respondent teachers followed by an in-depth exploration of six case-study teachers‘ experiences in three early childhood education centres. Data was interpreted using a socio-cultural approach and informed by the principles from Social Reconstruction ideology, which views education as a cultural, political and social tool to foster changes in society (Schiro, 2008). The study revealed that the teachers held dichotomous beliefs about the valued concepts in the ECC and used conflicting approaches within their theories of practice as they implemented the new curriculum. Teachers‘ age, qualification, and working position appeared to be significantly related to their implementation of the ECC in their early childhood centre. In addition, the study found the partnership between teachers and parents was not a strong one in jointly realising the Government‘s aspirations of preparing young children for life-long learning and holistic development. Hybrid forms of teaching practice emerged, illustrating the tensions for teachers created by the incompatibilities between the ideal and the reality as the implementation of the Western educational ideology in the ECC encountered deeply embedded Vietnamese cultural concepts. This study argues that despite teachers‘ acceptance of the aspirations of the ECC, traditional cultural concepts — including an emphasis on academic education, a traditional concept of collectivism and an ingrained social hierarchy — acted to create tensions, as well as challenges, for teachers who found themselves caught between the ideals of the new curriculum and the constraints placed upon them by their traditional working culture. Additionally, professional development for teachers and administrators were found to be a significant factor that either facilitated or reduced the tensions. Implications of how to improve the implementation of the ECC are presented.