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June 2020 - Year 22 - Issue 3

ISSN 1755-9715

The Meaning of Teacher Centeredness in The Teaching English to Young Learners Curriculum Design

Tung, Vu is a PhD student at University at Albany SUNY, the US. He has worked as a researcher in 3 years’ time and a teacher of English in more than 5 years. Email:

Huyen, Nguyen is a Graduate student at the University of Huddersfield, the UK. She graduated from and worked in University of Education and University of Technology in Vietnam as an associated lecturer. She has more than 5 years’ experience of teaching General and Academic English. Email:



This present study presents a different look of teacher centeredness in relation to curriculum design for teaching English for young learners in Vietnam, or more broadly Asian-Pacific nations. Differently, economics-related perspectives enable the study to unfold interesting stances on teachers’ roles reflecting their teaching practice and contribution. Directly, these perspectives open a wider world of how curriculum designers should consider teachers so that the enactment becomes successful. Through the supporting arguments assisted by the field of economics, despite the prominence of teacher-centeredness in the classroom contexts as a continuously challenged practice aligned with curriculum-related decisions and adaptation, teachers make a lot of efforts to enable their learners’ growth and exercise agency to generate certain learner success. More importantly, opposing views regarding the inclusion of economic stances are also discussed.



Curriculum is differently defined in different schools of thoughts. Commonly, curriculum is largely decided by the concentration to learners’ growth and (non)/academic achievement, without considering the impacts of teachers and possibilities of teachers or instructors in making the curriculum relevant to learners. When examining the utilization of curriculum by revisiting the meaning of teacher-centeredness in relation to curriculum design, we employed innovatively economically-controlled perspectives which offer the fresh insights about teachers’ contributions and positive impacts in different situations of early educational settings. In this paper, our voices are neutralized between a purely language teaching-based experience for young learners and an interdisciplinary researcher who possesses a good understanding of economics in education. There is a paucity of voices on how curriculum is understood as an alignment of education and economics provided that economists give emphasis on effectiveness and economical values. In response to it, the present paper aims at critically revisiting and redefining the curriculum for teaching English-to-young-learner (TEYL). In a culture of language teaching in Vietnam and Asian-Pacific countries, it is understood that the curriculum designs for TEYL for is connected with teacher-centeredness that teachers’ roles are exclusively “an extension of mothering rather than an intellectual enterprise” (Cameron, 2001, cited in Nguyen, 2016). Presumably, teacher-centeredness in curriculum design a primary cause of learners’ progressing slowly. As low-paid social agents, teachers of English in Vietnamese primary and middle schools are more inferior to educational goals than other subjects. Despite teachers’ endless efforts to develop themselves professionally, reviewers neglected the values of teacher-centeredness at the lower education levels in a sense that teachers really “translate their love of children into their TEYL practice in order that their classrooms are free from tension and authority” (Nguyen, 2016, p. 75).


Re-defining curriculum from economic perspectives

In light of neo-liberalism, education is generally commercialized for financial purposes which influences greatly education curriculum in terms of value-laden efficiency. Traditionally is the primary focus of enacting curriculum regarding TEYL which requires strictly qualification, experience and teaching design which teachers have no more effective choice than teacher-centeredness to help learners’ acquisition of cognitive language skills. Optimistically, teachers are effective to understand “content to teach, the sequence of ideas, the example used, the demonstrations performed, the questions asked and the students’ responses” (Schug, 2003, p. 101). Differently, economically prevalent is considering teachers’ life-enhancing preparation and resulting contribution to teaching in which they are considered as employers who better know how to manage students’ work as workers to produce desired outcomes. Therefore, these collaborations are a solid foundation to grow education sustainably. Similarly, Gigliotti and Soren (2018) argued, in order to foster sustainable growth, curriculum should not only entail non-financial goals but also encompass financial goals.

In addition to placing young learners’ cognitive aspect of language development as a priority of TEYL curriculum, curriculum designers need to consider in the economic voices which regularly visit two primary components: investments and timely manner (Akerlof & Kranton, 2002). Understandably, an investment of one dollar (financial investment) or equivalence (non-financial investments) in any decisions is expected to have a minimum return of one, a difference of which can be reinvested to yield higher profitability rates. To measure economic effects of the production, enactment and adaptation of curriculum design, we base alternatively on teacher aspects, constituting education inputs and outputs on making curriculum a success. With particular regards to teachers’ offerings, inputs of learning progress related to it involve their financial investment (e.g. self-financed education, self-financed professional development activities, self-reinvested job-related income, teacher-based costs per learners, and so on) and non-financial investment (e.g. length of teaching experience and teacher habitus: credentials, nurtured passion, motivation, willingness, effort, time, determination, and so on). As economically determined, education as businesses, if considered as profitable and advantageous in the market, have to determine accurately teacher-related outputs following curriculum use. Similarly, outputs are uniformly financial (e.g. teacher pay-rates, invested education/ professional development, teacher-based revenues/ gains per student) and non-financial (e.g. accumulated credentials, teaching skills, teachers’ impacts on learner achievement/ learning environment/ education reputation). In determination of the economic stances, Brown and Saks (1987) analyzed empirically the education quality in relation to a wide variety of aspects, but centrally from both inputs and outputs in the sense that the efficient ratios of them in order are promisingly valued at 1 or more. In reference to curriculum strategized and implemented, TEYL is positively correlated with young learner growth and academic achievement as the forefront of education attention. In parallel, teachers of English in Vietnam are overstated, of which curriculum fails to recognize objectives for teachers. We re-take that into account, reinforcing the inclusion of teacher-related inputs and outputs from the economic lens when it comes to making curriculum and, more broadly, delivering education quality as much positively as possible. Based on the re-examination of curriculum conducive to TEFL, we are inspired to heighten the awareness of those involved in independently and collaboratively addressing the roles of teacher identities and their exercise of agency in transforming continuously their open, inclusive learning environment. We appreciate their “accumulation of familial and personal experiences over time” (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992, cited in Tran et al., 2019). Therefore, regardless of how they translate their thoughts about curriculum design to assign teaching practice, curriculum design is advisedly supposed to reinforce the teachers’ capabilities to invest inputs selectively and wholeheartedly, by an assortment of educational resources and cultures.

As re-conceptualizing curriculum in response to the quantifiable goals in education, some claim that economic perspectives are not suitable when referred to the definition of curriculum, especially in the education contexts. They highlight that education, clearly articulated, is towards learner experience and engagement without the need to consider teacher-related non-financial aspects, which are then considered as so-called undermined goals for the responsibility of other separated entities. However, they appear to be forgetting teachers as necessarily fundamental inputs to informing learning experiences. In this regard, these inputs capitalize on teachers’ habitus as a product of the negotiation between their understanding of circumstances objectively and abilities to take on agency subjectively. Taking teacher-related aspects into consideration, there are opposing stances on facilitating curriculum in the facilitation of financial purposes, implying that it does not care much about learners’ intrinsic knowledge and enhanced skills. They supported that curriculum should be designed and improved in a continuous way to ensure that it can match learners’ learning inputs to develop the productivity of outputs. It is contradictory that without the great benefit-cost analysis, it seems to challenge the sustainable growth in the field of language education, especially related to TEYL where. Based on this argument, we claim that the ignorance of finance-related dimension can ruin the available resources and even cannot assist the stakeholders, who are involved in curriculum policy-making, design and enactment, in incorporating learning objectives and timely constraints into proposing even distribution of curriculum contents and assessments. Gigliotte and Sorensen (2018) consistently regarded financial consideration to be important that the effective financial investment in educational resources would lead to increased quality of education program and subsequently influence learners’ academic achievements.



Compared to English teachers of higher-levels, TEYL teachers who are unsurprisingly confronted by diverse student population received far less attention. Significantly, unlimited efforts and enormous determination are required of TEYL teachers to develop academically and professionally. Based on our thoughtful concerns about spare teacher-related consideration in curriculum, our position that “curriculum for EFL learners is economically necessary in response to teachers’ investment”. Economic involves the productivity of curriculum in precisely delineating why the certain curricula exist, what they are offering, and whom they are serving. More importantly, curriculum enacted by TEYL should assist teachers in knowing to utilize surroundings to allow students to enlarge their world understanding by taking into account different representations from a critical perspective (Rodesiler & Premont, 2018). Though there exist some opposite arguments, my definition is helpful for current and future endeavors regarding how to effectively enact curriculum plans and on what basis they can be critically evaluated for improving professional purposes.  



Akerlof, G. A., & Kranton, R. E. (2002). Identity and schooling: Some lessons for the Economics of Education. American Economic Association, 40(4), 1167-1291. Retrieved from: http:/

Bourdieu, P., and L. Wacquant. (1992). An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Cambridge: Polity.

Brown, B. W., & Saks, D. H. (1987). The microeconomics of the allocation of teachers’ time and student learning. Economics of Education Review, 6(4), 319-332.

Cameron, L. (2001). Teaching languages to young learners. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dewey, J. (1922). Education as Engineering. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 41(1), 1-5.

Gigliotti, P., & Sorensen, L. C. (2018). Educational resources and student achievement: Evidence from the Save Harmless provision in New York State. Economics of Education Review, 66, 167-182.

Nguyen, C. D. (2016). Metaphors as a window into identity: A study of teachers of English to young learners in Vietnam. System, 60, 66-78. DOI: 0.1016/j.system.2016.06.004.  

Rodesiler, L., & Premont, D. (2018). On second thought: Teaching for social justice through sports culture. English Journal, 107(6), 82-88.

Schug, M. C. (2003). Teacher-centered instruction. In J. Leming, L. Ellington, & K. Porter-Magge (Eds). Where did social studies go wrong (94-110). Thomas B. Foredham Foundation.

Tran, L. T, Tran, L. H. N, Cam, K. & L. T. T. (2019) Language and learning advisors as a valuable but under-recognised workforce in higher education: a Bourdieuian analysis of their professional development in international education. Teaching in Higher Education, 24(6), 755-771. DOI: 10.1080/13562517.2018.1499079


Please check the Methodology and Language for Primary course at Pilgrims website.

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