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Multilingual education makes school easier for ethnic minority children

When Sev* first started school, he struggled to learn as everything was in a foreign language. He was asked to repeat Grade 1 when his school changed to the multilingual education system, allowing him to learn in his own language.

The nine-year-old said he finds the new system much easier and is enjoying Grade 1 more than the year before.

Sev is Tumpoon and lives in the remote province of Ratanak Kiri. For many years, school was only taught in the national language of Khmer in Cambodia. But CARE Cambodia and the government, together with other NGOs through the Cambodian Consortium for Out of School Children, are working to make school more accessible for students from ethnic minority communities.

"It was very difficult to learn only in Khmer. When I wrote, I got it wrong. Now I'm studying in Tumpoon, I'm happier to learn and it's much easier. It's easier to learn, speak and understand the teacher. I still want to learn Khmer, so it's easier to get a job when I finish school," he said. "I like to go to school and study. I'm still learning to write. I want to be able to read and write in both Khmer and Tumpoon," he said.

Sev lives with his grandparents on a farm and travels to school with his uncle on a motorbike. He has one younger brother who lives with his parents in a different village. Most students at his remote school also have farming families, and are the first generation to start attending school and become literate.

"The road is difficult to get to school and it is far. If my uncle cannot drive me I ride a bicycle."

His teachers are supported by CARE teacher trainers, ensuring that quality education is being delivered that is both gender and ethnic minority sensitive.

These activities were part of the Cambodian Consortium for Out of School Children and ongoing work on Multilingual Education in Cambodia. This has been funded by the Australian Government and many other private donors.

The project contributes to CARE Cambodia's Ethnic Minority Women program.

*Names are pseudonyms in accordance with CARE’s child protection policy

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