Teaching Science and Maths in Vietnam
I originally moved to Vietnam to pursue a dream of living in Asia and teaching English, but over the past few years, my role as a teacher has morphed from teaching English as a second language to teaching Science and Maths. I actually studied Biology at university, so when the opportunity came along to utilise my degree and teach science and maths at a Vietnamese public school, you can bet I jumped at it! This is an opportunity that many people are not aware of, so I thought I’d lay out all the details here for anyone who also has a background in science or maths that they want to make use of.
Where can you teach science and maths?
I taught science and maths through a company called EMG Education, which supply teachers for public schools in both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. As a secondary teacher at EMG, you specialise in either the science and maths program or the English program. Primary teachers teach all three subjects; science, maths and English.
To teach within the secondary science and maths program you must meet the same requirements that every other teaching English position in Vietnam asks for, with the addition of a background in science or maths. A science/math background is not required for the EMG primary program. By teaching the science and math program at EMG, you are essentially teaching kids how to speak English through specialist content. This is called content integrated language learning (CLIL) and it looks like it might be the future of language learning.
Teaching science and maths in Vietnam
I loved my time teaching science and maths in Vietnam. I felt more challenged and engaged in the lesson content than I did teaching English, which I think shone through in my teaching.
EMG follows the UK science and maths curriculum, with content similar to GCSEs. I was always so impressed by the knowledge and ability of the students – they were keeping up with the UK curriculum despite English being their second language. EMG provides full lesson plans, materials and textbooks, so there is actually little prep required outside of familiarising yourself with the materials.
I taught grade 6, the first year of secondary school. For some of my students, it was their first time learning about science, let alone studying it in English. My 100+ students showed curiosity and excitement in every class; It was beautiful to see their wonder at learning about the world through science for the first time. We studied a wide variety of topics across all three sciences, including plant biology, the elements, geology, forces and space. Most science lessons included an interactive experiment which was so fun to do together.
Maths was more challenging for me to teach as I’m pretty terrible at maths and have completely forgotten everything I studied at school. But challenges are good and by the end of the year, I had grown to love my maths classes. As with science, we studied a range of topics, some that my students already understood in Vietnamese and others that were brand new to them. Decimal numbers, fractions, prime numbers, 3D shapes and graphing are some of the topics I remember teaching.
Obviously, I taught a lower secondary grade, so the topics were fairly simple but they do get more and more complex the higher the grade you teach. Normally EMG will assess your background knowledge and place you accordingly, so if you have a masters in mathematics, you’re probably going to be asked to be a higher grade specialist math teacher.
Teaching for EMG Education
As already mentioned, I loved my time teaching science and maths. I left this position for two main reasons; personality clashes and lifestyle, not because of the teaching or work environment.
Pros of EMG Education
✅ Because you only have 4 different classes, you end up spending a lot of time with the kids each week which allowed us to build up a strong bond with your students.
✅ The content is fun and engaging to teach, and students are engaged and interested.
✅ The offices where teachers prep classes are super social which is perfect if you are new to the city.
✅ The academic coordinators who escort teachers to classes have almost native level English (a higher ability than I found at my language centre’s equivalent position). Plus they were all amazing people and I have lots of fond memories working together.
Cons of EMG Education
❌ I received little-to-no developmental support or teaching guidance during my time at EMG. This was probably just my case, as I came to EMG with a lot of teaching experience and was quickly put into their top pay bracket (so I guess they thought I was doing a good job already). It does make me wonder if teaching at public schools is better suited to more experienced teachers who don’t need as much support.
❌ You are required to stay in the office until 5pm, even if your classes finish at 3:30pm. For me, this was a lot of dead time when I could have been working on the blog (I ducked out most days, coming back to clock out at 5pm).
❌ It was challenging to take vacation time during the semester. It’s not impossible but it is discouraged, with an emphasis put on taking time off in the summer months when classes don’t need to be covered.
❌ When I worked at EMG, the science and maths department was very male-dominated, and at that, I worked with some very immature individuals.
The Lowdown on teaching at EMG
Most secondary math and science teachers have 8 lessons a week; 4 science and 4 maths. Plus two free blocks to prepare, so a total of 10 blocks. Working hours are scheduled between 8am – 5pm; most of my classes started at 7:30am in the morning and then again around 2pm. Most class sizes range from 30-35 students, always with an assistant in the room. The largest class size I heard of at EMG was 37 students.
✍ For more information on teaching English in Vietnam, check out my Complete Guide to Teaching in Vietnam.