'IELTS juniors' in Vietnam: Perceptions of learners, parents and IELTS preparation course providers


Phung Dao

Mai Xuan Nhat Chi Nguyen

Huy Van Nguyen

Date Published:

22nd March 2024

This study explored the phenomenon of ‘IELTS juniors’ in Vietnam, specifically focusing on the perceptions of young adolescent learners, parents, and IELTS preparation course providers. It delved into the impact of IELTS and IELTS courses on young adolescent learners, their purpose for enrolling in ‘IELTS junior’ preparation courses, the characteristics of these courses, and IELTS-related policies implemented in Vietnam.

The participants were 198 IELTS young learners (aged 14 to 18 years old), 106 parents of these learners, and 35 IELTS preparation course providers, recruited from various provinces of Vietnam. They participated in two rounds of semi-structured individual interviews and completed a survey. The findings revealed that learners and parents reported multiple purposes for enrolling in IELTS preparation courses. They highlighted a positive impact of IELTS on young learners, including academic, emotional, social, educational, and professional dimensions. These results underscore favourable perceptions of IELTS and IELTS preparation courses. However, learners and parents noted concerns, such as access barriers and financial pressure associated with IELTS costs, and the emergence of negative emotions due to test-taking. Despite these concerns, it was evident that the impact of IELTS was dynamic, individual-specific, and context-dependent.

These findings suggest the potential for implementing measures to mitigate the unintended negative consequences while maximising the positive influences of IELTS and IELTS preparation courses on young learners’ educational and professional growth. The results also revealed that IELTS course providers determined all aspects of their courses (e.g., objectives, goals, business models, course design, teaching materials, and delivery), indicating their considerable autonomy in designing English language teaching specifically for IELTS. 

Additionally, when examining IELTS-related policies, the study documented issues, primarily pertaining to access and resources. Nevertheless, learners, parents, and IELTS course providers all shared positive perceptions of these policies, while expressing the need to establish a supportive policy mechanism to address pertinent issues. Overall, the present study contributes to current discussions about the impact and consequential validity of large-scale, high-stakes proficiency tests, with IELTS being a case in point.