Educating ethnic minority children in Vietnam

What is life like for ethnic minority children in Vietnam? Co-workers from IKEA Germany and Russia are about to find out by visiting Save the Children projects in Vietnam. They will share their impressions, experiences and photos with you over the next several days.

This first blog is from Luong Huong Song Thuy, who works as a project officer for Save the Children in Vietnam.

Luong Huong Song Thuy Save the Children Project Officer in Vietnam
Luong Huong Song Thuy, Save the Children project officer in Vietnam

In remote areas of Vietnam, many children from ethnic minorities didn’t like going to school. Conversant only in their local dialects and unable to speak Vietnamese—the official language used in schools—they found it difficult to understand lessons. Besides, teaching methods and learning materials are not relevant to their own language and culture. Very often, teachers had to go from house to house to persuade minority children to come to class.

In 2009, Save the Children introduced a project with financial support from the IKEA Foundation to bring a new hands-on approach to learning for more than 28,900 ethnic students in 86 primary schools in the provinces of Lao Cai, Quang Ninh and Quang Tri.

During the project, Vietnamese is taught as a second language for ethnic learners. In some schools, the project employs teaching assistants to explain lessons to students in their own language in order to help them understand the lessons more easily.

Ho Van Nghiep from Van Kieu ethnic minority is benefiting from Save the Children’s IKEA Foundation funded education project in Quang Tri province.  - by STC Nguyen Minh Duc
Ho Van Nghiep from Van Kieu ethnic minority is benefiting from Save the Children’s education project in Quang Tri province.
– by STC Nguyen Minh Duc

Ethnic primary learners, with help from their teachers, create personalised books using their own words and paintings or drawings. Because the content is relevant to their lives, the children become enthusiastic about reading. This, in turn, helps them improve their Vietnamese dramatically.

To make learning more fun, ethnic costumes, props from festivals and musical instruments are displayed in classrooms, while local history and fun facts about life in the community are used as teaching and learning aids.

The idea is to replace the current system of rote learning and mono lecturing with a more interactive class. Before the project, students found lessons boring, especially for whole-day classes. Students often fell asleep in class and they didn’t like studying. But when learning by playing, interacting and actively participating, they finish exercises quickly and effectively.

“I am really interested in lessons in the class because I have learned so much. I feel that I am more confident. I can learn how to read and write. It is useful, and I’m happy to help other people,” says Ho Van Nghiep, a 3rd grade learner of Van Kieu ethnic minority in Quang Tri province.

    Juli Riegler