On 27 February a Multilingual Education (MLE) workshop was held in Phnom Penh to report on Cambodia's progress in MLE and provide capacity building to Ministry of Education staff by global MLE expert, Dr Kimmo Kosonen. The new Education Minister, H.E Dr Hang Chuon Naron, attended as did other senior leaders of Education Ministry.
CARE's long term support was acknowledged by the Ministry and development partner. There is international recognition of Cambodia's leadership in MLE and the Minister endorsed the work on MLE. There was a brief discussion with Minister on the 5-year National Action Plan that includes a clear roadmap for responsible exit for CARE.
Speech by Ms.Stav Zotalis, Country Director, CARE Cambodia.
27 Feb 2014 - Intercontinental Hotel, Phnom Penh
"I would like to start by paying my respects to His Excellency Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, Her Excellency Ton Sa Im, Dr Kimmo Kosonen, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, representatives of the Development Partners, and fellow colleagues of NGOs.
Less than a week ago, on 21 February, we celebrated International Mother Tongue Day. To mark that occasion, the Honorary Chair, Dr Sheldon Sheaffer, of the Asia pacific MLE Working Group, published an article in the Bangkok Post and here in Cambodia, in the Phnom Penh Post. UNICEF, UNESCO, SIL, CARE and others are founding members of this working group that operates at a regional level to take away educational barriers for children of indigenous ethnic minorities.
‘Perhaps the greatest threat to mother languages is posed by education systems that refuse to use them as languages of instruction or even to offer them as elective subjects. Education systems often repeat common myths that portray mother languages as complicated (too many languages spoken in one classroom and too many without alphabets), expensive (requiring more and better trained mother-language teachers and mother-language materials), and ultimately harmful to the learning of the national and international languages.
A growing body of evidence and experience is proving this not to be the case.
Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines are examples of countries with new national language policies based on rigorous and comprehensive research that emphasize the importance of mother languages. These policies support mechanisms to recruit and train mother language teachers (or to train other teachers the mother language used in their schools) and to develop mother-tongue textbooks and other learning materials (including sometimes, an alphabet).’
In 2002 CARE commenced a project for indigenous children to attend formal education. CARE was building on the work of other agencies, in particular ICC.
CARE’s approach to development is to work closely with the government on pilot projects, provide capacity building of government officials at all levels so the government can take ownership for the scale up, thus ensuring sustainability. CARE also believes that innovative programs need sufficient time for implementation, reflection and adjustments. Therefore CARE has had a long term commitment to working with our impact groups such as indigenous communities, and not only on education, but also health, food security etc.
After more than a decade this program is now implemented by MoEYS in four provinces and planning is underway for the handover of the teacher training component to MoEYS, adding to the sustainability of the work. The program has received international recognition in the South East Asian region. At the Fourth International Development on Language and Education in Bangkok in November
2013, MoEYS presented the MLE program which it is now managing and HE Ton Sa Im represented Cambodia on the plenary policy development session. These are indicators of increased ownership, and with MoEYS, CARE is proud of the reputation Cambodia has in the region on the progress of implementing pragmatic MLE programs. It is my understanding that in this workshop Dr Kimmo Kosonen will provide more information on the progress of Cambodia from an international perspective.
Institutionalization of the MLE in MoEYS is essential and CARE acknowledges the important role that UNICEF in Cambodia is playing to achieve this.
CARE values partnerships, and a key partner has been the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport at national and sub-national level. It is this close relationship between international organizations, Development Partners and the Ministry that attracts the attention of governments in the region. This has resulted in visits by other governments, the most recent one by the Ministry of Education of Timor Leste.
This national workshop today is another important step in institutionalizing the achievements on MLE in Cambodia. With the Ministry and other agencies we welcome the increase of MLE in more schools, more teachers and more languages.
The journey over the last decade has been an important learning journey for all involved, including CARE. The journey goes on and CARE is committed to this journey.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Working on education for ethnic minorities can be challenging, because languages are linked to your identity. Trust in each other is very important in this process. I thank the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport for the trust they continue to place in CARE.
I would like to conclude with another quote from the article mentioned earlier. This one refers to one of the most inspirational world leaders who passed away only months ago: Nelson Mandela.
Quote: Nelson Mandela captured the importance of indigenous languages to the people who speak them when he said, "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If f you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. I wish you a fruitful workshop.