Staff from CARE Cambodia attended the official launch of the Multilingual Education National Action Plan, which highlights ethnic minority education as a priority for Cambodia.
The document, which was finalised in October, was officially launched on Tuesday 1 March in a ceremony in Kratie, declaring all children should be able to access education in their home language. The plan demonstrates the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport’s commitment to increase the amount of primary schools and preschools offering multilingual education and the number of teachers trained in the inclusive method.
CARE Cambodia has worked in multilingual education in Cambodia since 2002 in partnership with the Ministry and UNICEF. The teaching technique sees children taught in their own language which then acts as a bridge to learning the national language of Khmer. The introduction to primary schools and preschools has helped children and ethnic minority communities become more engaged in education.
Ethnic Minority Women program manager Jan Noorlander said CARE, in partnership with UNICEF, worked with the Ministry to provide expertise in the technical development of the National Action Plan.
“We congratulate the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport for making this step and planning for the next phase of multilingual education,” Mr Noorlander said. “This launch shows the success of many years of fruitful collaboration.”
“The Plan will lead the way for more ethnic minority children to access education in their mother tongue before they progress to learning Khmer. Research has shown that learning in their first language is the most effective way for a child to succeed at school. CARE is so excited to see the importance the Ministry’s Plan places on ethnic minority children’s education, and therefore their future.
“Historically, when ethnic minority children did attend school, they sat in Khmer classrooms, often unable to understand or communicate with their teacher, leading to high drop-out rates. Multilingual education has already seen changes with children and parents engaging in school, with enrolment rates doubling within the space of five years. School is no longer an alien place where a foreign language is taught from a different culture. Children from pre-school to grade three are taught in their own language, with the national language of Khmer slowly introduced. Minority languages are slowly phased out of teaching while curriculum and teaching methods remain culturally sensitive, so that children can progress to higher education in Cambodia with broader income opportunities.
Currently there are five ethnic minority languages used in multilingual education schools and preschools in Cambodia: Kreung, Tumpoon, Phnong, Kavet and Brov in five provinces.The Minister His Excellency Dr Hang Chuon Naron presided over the ceremony which launched the ground breaking plan, with representatives present celebrating the feat from UNICEF, CARE, provincial and district offices of education, community members, ethnic minority leaders and development partners.
CARE’s work on multilingual education in Cambodia has been supported by the Australian Government and many other donors.