In 2002, CARE began working to expand educational access, quality, and relevance to ethnic minority students in Cambodia through the introduction of multilingual approaches. At the time, many ethnic minority students had limited — if any — access to education since they did not speak the same language as their teachers and vice versa. A new journal article published by researchers at Columbia University tracks the massive success of CARE’s efforts to bring multilingual education to Cambodia.
The article highlights CARE’s partnerships with local organisations and UNICEF to develop learning materials in local languages and training programs on multilingual teaching. CARE also worked with the local government to formalise schools and teachers’ abilities to teach in a mutlilingual format. CARE’s approach has since been formalised by the government, scaled to other geographic areas, and is reaching thousands of ethnic minority students.
Not only are more students in school, but they’re learning at the same level or higher than students in mainstream schools that don't have to learn a new language on top of the regular curriculum. The study found that the students from minority groups who had attended multilingual education schools performed better in mathematics than their peers who had only studied in one language. It also found that investing time and effort in literacy in their home language did not detract from students’ ability to succeed at Khmer literacy; indeed, those from multilingual education schools were achieving the same levels in literacy tests as their Khmer peers, despite these tests being in their second language.
CARE places a particular focus on ensuring girls have equal opportunity to access education and this multilingual approach in Cambodia is having a huge impact. This way of teaching is not only help girls from ethnic minorities to enter the mainstream school system; it is actually proving to be of particular benefit to girls in terms of achievement. The study found that in multilingual education schools, girls did significantly better than boys on reading assessments in at least one of the assessment periods.
Thanks to multilingual education, more girls are learning and they are learning in a way that ensures they will have equal opportunities in the future.
CARE’s work on multilingual education in Cambodia has been possible with the generous support of the Australian Government and many private donors.