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Learning in the right language

Can you imagine this? You’re six years old, bursting with excitement on your first morning at school. Dressed in slightly-too-big clothes you shyly enter your classroom, taking in all the new faces, sights and sounds. A kind-faced teacher claps her hands and the lesson begins. In a different language.


A daily struggle

Ghenh Lô Thi lives in the Sa Pa district of northern Viet Nam. Thi speaks Mmong, the language of her ethnic group. And although there are 53 different ethnic groups in Viet Nam, schools usually teach only in Vietnamese.

Would you be able to learn maths, science or history in another language? It’s hardly surprisingly to hear that attention levels among ethnic minority pupils are low and drop-out rates are worryingly high.

And yet the schools are there. Good schools, too. In fact, Viet Nam as a whole has drastically raised the quality of its education over the past few years. But because lessons in rural areas like Sa Pa aren’t taught in the most accessible language, much of that rich learning potential is frustratingly out of reach.


A simple solution

Thi’s school is called Lao Chai Primary. And with support from UNICEF and the Ministry of Education and Training, it now teaches bilingually. The main lessons are taught in the local mother tongue Mmong, but children also learn their country’s main language, Vietnamese. This is a great example of creating what UNICEF call ‘Child Friendly Schools’ – making education as accessible as possible for the actual kids who will learn there.


Real results

It didn’t take long for the bilingual lessons to start taking effect. Thi’s teacher, M.Chau A Tau noticed a significant change in his pupils after they starting learning in Mmong. “They are more confident, more enthusiastic and willing to speak out” he explained.

He also observed a change outside of the classroom. “As well as their skills improving at school,” he says, “I noticed the children have been able to bring their knowledge back to their homes.” Teacher Tau goes on. “They continue to communicate and share experiences with their families and their community.”

Lao Chi Primary school is a wonderful example of the changes quality learning can bring about, both in the classroom and the community. That’s why we’re so proud to support UNICEF and their incredible work with our Learning for Tomorrow initiative. You can find out more here.

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